Posted: Wed 23rd Aug 2023
Earlier this month, Google launched its new AI and machine learning (ML) New Fundamentals courses to help start-ups and small business founders potentially save around 100 hours a year.
More than 100 small business leaders attended the launch event at the firm's UK HQ in King's Cross, learning about the business benefits of AI and – crucially – how they could use it to streamline their business processes.
It sounds futuristic, but just to be clear, AI still can't be plugged in using a Matrix-like interface to the back of your head! AI can simply help businesses to find a simpler route to solutions that work, according to specific criteria.
Tools like Google Bard and ChatGPT are now mainstream, saving people time every day. They use a mix of generative AI and predictive AI to generate content and ideas, or predict what's next by crunching the data.
So, what can your small business do with AI?
Here are my key takeaways from Google's launch event.
Summarise and make notes
You know when you read a report and you have some intelligent thoughts about it, but you can't find the time to get them down?
Well, now you can ask Google Bard to produce a general summary of that report. Or, if you want it to look for specific references, you can ask it to summarise according to your own criteria.
The best tools for this right now are Google Bard, ChatGPT and Scholarcy. Of course, you do read the report in full at some point, but this way you've made a head start.
Explain complicated things
Blockchain. 'Shorting' the stock market. String theory. You know roughly what these terms and phrases mean, but you can't be too specific.
If you just Googled them, you might still be confused. However, if you ask Google Bard to explain things, you can specify an approach that works for you – such as explaining it to you as if you were five, or just by using analogies, or by including images.
The tool can adapt to your style. Probably still won't help for the string theory though.
To be or not to be, that is the question... Well, look, I'm not suggesting you allow AI to make massively important decisions, but you can ask it to outline pros and cons or even create a quiz. Then it's over to you to make a human decision.
Turn your bullet points into a narrative, plan, blog or email
It's hard to overcome personal barriers and attitudes to tasks sometimes, particularly if they involve a bit of thinking. One incredible thing you could use AI for is to take a very specific set of notes into a customer-facing email or blog.
I actually asked Google Bard to write this blog. It was reasonably convincing. For example, Bard was keen for me to say the following:
AI is a powerful tool that can help small businesses improve their efficiency, productivity, and customer service.
There are many different ways to use AI in a small business.
There are a number of resources available to help small businesses get started with AI.
It's quite, er, generic. But Bard also said this:
"The sessions were led by Google experts, who shared their knowledge and experience with the audience. The sessions were interactive, and participants had the opportunity to ask questions and share their own experiences.
"The event was a great success, and participants left with a better understanding of AI and how it can benefit their businesses."
Nice. I mean, was Bard there? Eeek.
Use your data to create a machine-learning project to understand trends
This was an incredible lesson. If you have a lot of data about sales, for example, AI could help you to work out things like customer buying trends. What do the customers that spend the most buy? What attracted your high-worth consumers and how can you use this data to attract more?
In short, input your non-confidential data and ask AI to help you improve margins or increase the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. As an example, you could ask it to tell you how you're going to double your sales.
Get investment, grants or awards
Writing 1,000 words about the way you approach a project to win an award is time-consuming. So time-consuming, in fact, that many busy founders just don't have the time to do it.
AI could support you with condensing your notes and building the structure of an award entry. It could also help you apply for funding or grants, if you use the right script to structure entries correctly.
This has the potential to democratise funding and awards, allowing busy founders who wouldn't otherwise have the time to take a crack at it – or neurodiverse entrepreneurs.
Over to Bard for the final words...
If you're a small business owner who is interested in learning more about AI, I encourage you to check out Google's New Fundamentals AI training. It's a great way to learn about the basics of AI and how to apply it to your business.