Brand Insights

Unleashing the Power of AI: A Beginners guide for Business Leaders


You know that Artificial Intelligence is the future. You know that you want to introduce it into your organisation. But you’re not completely sure where to start. There are a lot of terms swirling around, and there seem to be a variety of different types and applications of AI. What you need is a beginner’s guide to help you navigate all the considerations.


This article is a useful guide to the basics of AI for anyone just starting out on their AI journey. We’ll discuss the terminologies most commonly thrown about and the nuances that exist between them. We’ll also look at the ways AI can impact a business, from revenue generation to healthcare innovation. We’ll also explore some of the key skills a business leader may want to cultivate to create an AI ready organisation.


Artificial Intelligence is conversation currently invading every board room. Budget meetings and strategy sessions are having their agendas dominated by AI. People at every level, from business leaders to front line team members are thinking about how AI will impact them. And for those who aren’t talking about it? Well, there’s a pretty good chance you’re missing a trick.

But part of the problem with the AI conversation is that it’s plagued by hype, half-truths, and myths. Push past that, and you’ll find a technical revolution in the waiting, ready to reshape industries, inspire new forms of business, and explode customer expectations right across the globe. If we can deal with elements of fear and the untruths following AI around, there are more opportunities than we could ever imagine.

AI has already landed in our lives in a way that is more pervasive than you possibly realise. From the last thing you listened to on Spotify, to your conversation with Alexa, to your neatly filtered email inbox, to the sandwich you just bought for your lunch, AI has already impacted your life. It analyses your music preferences to add new songs to your playlist. It recognises and responds to your voice. It identifies language that is and isn’t associated with spam. It tracks stock levels to ensure the right things are on the shelves at the right time.

But what does all this mean to you? What impact is it having on you and your bottom line? Let’s get into it – the definitions, the jargon, the applications, the implications, and the key skills.

Understanding AI

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think, learn and perform tasks. Things like problem solving, decision making, understanding, analysing and translating language. It’s different from traditional computer programmes because AI isn’t static. It adapts and improves its performance over time, without needing to be explicitly programmed for every task. It learns. It becomes more accurate with practice. Which is why we refer to it as “intelligence”.

Types of AI

There are a myriad of ways we can talk about AI and group the different aspects of it, but AI can broadly be organised into three main types:

  1. Narrow AI (Weak AI):

    which is designed for specific tasks and operates under a limited, pre-defined set of circumstances. AI virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, chatbots, and facial recognition systems are examples of Narrow AI (sometimes known as Weak AI).

  2. General AI (Strong AI):

    which possesses human-like cognitive abilities and can understand, learn, and adapt across a wide range of tasks, even if it’s never encountered them before. AGI hasn’t been fully realised yet, and it remains a goal for the future, but there are growing capabilities within narrow AI that look promising.

  3. Artificial Superintelligence:

    a hypothetical form of AI that would surpass human intelligence in all aspects, potentially leading to unprecedented advances or challenges. There’s considerable dispute over the possibility of this ever coming to fruition, and, as yet, is mostly a theory explored in science fiction.

Explaining AI Terms and Jargon


There is so much jargon swirling around the topic of AI that it’s easy to get confused. Here are some of the main terms you might hear in relation to AI:

  1. Generative AI

    Generative AI refers to the subset of AI that generates content – and that could be text, images or even music. It uses deep learning techniques (like Generative Adversarial Networks or GANs), to create content that can be indistinguishable from human generated content. This is often based on predictive learning. Generative AI can be useful to businesses for content creation, like video production, blog planning or product descriptions.

  2. Natural Language Processing
    NLP is the branch of AI that focuses on computers having the ability to understand text and spoken words the way human can. It can understand text or voice data, determining the meaning and context. It’s at work in speech recognition and sentiment analysis. 

  3. Large Language Models
    LLMs are a subset of NLP; systems designed to understand and generate human language. They’re more specific to creating ultra realistic human-like language by analysing and learning from large sets of data, so they can comprehend context and do things like answer questions, and write informative articles (like this one!). You’ll see LLMs at work in chatbots, virtual assistants, and tools like Chat GPT.

  4. Knowledge Graphs
    Knowledge graphs organise structured data to represent relationships between different entities. They connect different bits of information together and understand how they relate to one another. Knowledge graphs are often used for things like data discovery, upsell or cross-selling opportunities, recommendations (like your Netflix “you might like” section), or improving search engine results.

  5. Computer Vision
    Computer vision is AI that can interpret and understand visual information such as images and videos. It’s computer vision that’s behind image analysis in healthcare, self-driving cars, number plate recognition in carparks and visual search recommendations.

  6. Reinforcement Learning
    Reinforcement learning is where AI learns to make decisions by interacting with its environment. It receives feedback in the form of rewards and penalties, so it learns the optimal strategies. It’s often used in game playing.

  7. Neural Networks
    These are the building blocks of many AI systems. They are models inspired by the human brain’s structure and function. They are what deep learning is built on, and they’re integral to tasks like image and speech recognition.

  8. Sentiment Analysis
    Sentiment Analysis is all about using AI to determine the emotional tone and sentiment behind text. It’s often used to understand customer opinion, to parse reviews and to make data driven marketing and product decisions.

  9. Predictive Analytics 
    Predictive analytics uses AI within statistical algorithms to forecast future events and trends based historical data. It helps businesses make informed decisions related to inventory management, sales forecasting, and risk assessment.

AI Applications for Businesses

Now we’ve given you an overview of the most common types of AI, we’ll look the ways AI can impact businesses. There’s far more to its ability that just automating routine tasks. Used properly, AI is a strategic asset with far reaching benefits for almost every area of your business.

  1. Revenue Growth
    There are new revenue opportunities to be found through AI’s ability to analyse massive amounts of customer data and current market trends. Personalising marketing strategies and jumping on trends (or even predicting trends), enhances customer engagement and drives sales.

    Obvious examples of this include AI powered recommendation systems – like those used by Amazon or Netflix – that analyse preference via historical choices and use it to increase cross selling and upselling.
  1. Cost and Production Efficiency
    AI streamlines operations by automating repetitive tasks and optimising resource allocation. For example, predictive maintenance identifies when equipment will need to be serviced before an issue becomes critical. This reduces downtime and saves substantial maintenance costs by pre-empting problems and solving them before they arise.
  1. Improving Customer Satisfaction
    Customer expectation has shifted and as a result, the expected levels of customer service are higher than ever. AI driven chatbots and virtual assistants can provide real time support that eliminate waiting times and remove the routine queries from the queue, freeing up human customer service agents to focus on more complex issues.
  1. Connecting Disparate Systems and Knowledge
    Businesses often have data scattered across different systems and departments, in different formats, with nothing connecting them. To give meaningful insights data needs to be organised, formatted, and accessible. AI can unify your disparate data points, extract useful insights, and provide a comprehensive view of operations, leading to better decision making and strategic planning.
  1. Computer vision in retail
    Computer vision is enabling retail to remove all friction from its in-person shopping experiences. Cashier-less stores are already being trialled successfully, where customers pick their items and leave as AI tracks their selections. AI also makes inventory management easier and more efficient, tracking stock levels and detecting shelf gaps. Its insights can ensure that orders are placed at the right time and for the right amount, and shelves are kept continuously stocked.
  1. Fraud detection and prevention
    Banking has already benefitted a huge amount from AI fraud detection systems that analyse transactions and patterns of spend to identify potentially fraudulent activity. This type of AI is now widely used across financial institutions and e-commerce to protect both assets and data.
  1. Healthcare
    AI is making waves in the healthcare space, analysing patient data, test results and medical imaging to assist in early detection of disease, and personalised medication plans. It’s also being used to speed up and enhance the discovery of treatment methods and pharmaceuticals.

Key Skills for Implementing AI

Implementing AI into a business requires high performing team members with the key skills that support a digital and AI driven organisation. There are particular skills that are highly advantageous to develop and cultivate within your organisation.

  1. Data Science
    Data scientists are crucial to the growth and development of AI – they’re the people who create the algorithms designed to identify and learn patterns in the data that is fed to them. They know how to use AI to collect, clean and analyse data, giving them strategic, actionable insights.

    Added to this, skills in Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) will mean you can develop the algorithms you need to learn from data, make predictions and build language-related AI tools such as chatbots and sentiment analysers.

  2. Data Infrastructure
    Having proper Information Architecture means being able to access and democratise data to leverage it to its full ability. This means creating an infrastructure that can draw in data from many different sources and aggregate them. Recruiting someone with an understanding of data fabric and data mesh architectures as well as familiarity of big data and its storage options will be a huge asset to your team.

  3. AI Ethics and Regulation
    Many have commented that AI is moving faster than regulation is capable of keeping up with, so having experts to hand who are able to stay abreast of rapidly evolving situations, and navigate regulations like GDPR, as well as those that are still being written and decided upon will help to make sure you don’t get caught out and are well prepared with responsible AI usage.


Why AI is a Hot Topic

AI has undeniably become a hot topic in 2023, gaining widespread attention and creating a buzz across various industries. Why? Well, between rapid technological advancements, the pandemic, and the shift in consumer expectation, it has been the perfect storm for AI to develop.

Firstly, the rapid advancements in AI technology have played a significant role in raising its prominence. Over the past few years, there have been considerable breakthroughs in the field of AI, including natural language processing, computer vision, and machine learning algorithms. These advancements have made AI more accessible, reliable, and efficient, leading to its integration into various aspects of our daily lives. From virtual assistants and autonomous vehicles to personalised recommendations and medical diagnosis, AI has shown its potential to impact industries and improve human experiences.


Another factor contributing to the sudden surge in AI development is the global pandemic. The COVID crisis highlighted the urgent need for advanced technologies to address healthcare challenges, economic disruptions, and social distancing measures. AI proved its value throughout the pandemic, analysing vast amounts of data to track the virus's spread, predicting infection rates, and even assisting in the development of vaccines. The pandemic also accelerated the adoption and acceptance of AI solutions, making it a crucial tool for mitigating future crises and improving preparedness, as well as helping organisations to continue to operate remotely.

Moreover, the overflow of consumer expectation has made AI a necessity for business. The expectation overflow is the term used to describe the shift that has taken place in customers’ value judgements, or the hoops you need to jump through to please your customers. Advancements in technology have enabled larger players to offer a greater level of service and/or experience to their customers. As customers become used to this, they no longer place value in it. Instead, they come to expect it as normal practice. Think, for example, of Amazon Prime’s next day delivery. Rather than this being seen as a valuable addition by consumers a positive value judgement, the lack of it is seen as a shortcoming – a negative value judgement.

Overall, the combination of technological advancements, the impact of the pandemic, and the expectation overflow has catapulted AI to the forefront of public consciousness in 2023. As AI continues to evolve and integrate into our lives, it will be crucial to ensure responsible development, address ethical concerns, and leverage this transformative technology to address the challenges we face and create a better future.


AI is more than just a technological trend – it’s a strategic imperative for businesses looking to thrive in the digital age. Understanding the types of AI, its applications, the key skills needed for success and the reasons for its sudden prominence will help business leaders to unlock its potential to drive new streams of revenue and faster growth. Jumping on it now will give leaders the chance to shape the conversation and be ahead of the curve. But make no mistake, embracing AI is no longer an option – it will increasingly become a necessity for remaining competitive and resilient in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

If you’re looking to continue your AI journey with clarity and purpose, get in touch to find out how Northell can help.