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Coaching & AI: A New Experience

In an article of January 2017 APECS published very interesting insights on Coaching and AI. As our work aligns with these developments and this specific market, we wanted to contribute to the ongoing reflection. Here we bring some thinking and possible answers to the questions shared with the global audience.

How do we define and present the human value of coaching?

As we have shared our thoughts on the article “What Is Coaching”, coaching, at its best, inspires new ways of thinking and new ways of approaching the challenges an individual may face. The effective coach is able to bring out the client’s unique strengths, skills and wisdom. Coaching creates accountability to make progress and fulfill goals. Coaching avoids advising or diagnosing.

Thinking about the “human value of coaching” the following points come to mind:

  • Human presence is a unique, non-replaceable, energetic kind of presence. Some people may prefer a human presence based on their situation and the questions they are navigating.
  • Humans can observe and feel things that machines can’t feel (yet?) and thus potentially a human presence could achieve more than technology. Assuming that all the components of good coaching are present and the coachee or client chooses to be open and engage in the collaboration.
  • Another important human value that contributes to good coaching is the fact that humans can share their personal experience and provide very inspirational or matching messages, which seems to be really difficult for a machine to provide today (but potentially this will become possible for a machine one day, which could be a “machine’s experience” or another human’s experience that the machine could share as a mirroring match to the coachee’s situation).

How do we work with the development of AI coaching to ensure it stays ethical?

This is the question we like most at PocketConfidant AI, because of the following points:

  • We’re building AI with the core principles of Coaching: good listening, questioning, providing no advice and no influence; an AI that is anchored in a “mindset of neutrality” and is supervised by the ethical engagement of its founders, engineers and advisory board. In order to develop that ethical aspect, or competence, with users too, we are teaching the machine to question users on the impact their decisions may have on others, so that they can step back just enough to become more aware of the consequences of their actions.
  • We’re building an AI with both men’s and women’s hands (and coding) which means that we are working on technology while ensuring that human biases won’t be present in the AI and so, deliver the right, neutral and listening type of experience.
  • Finally, our offering is built on confidentiality, anonymization and a no-sharing rule when working with clients and providing PocketConfidant’s solution to thousands of users in the same ecosystem.
Here is a short note addressing the question Can A Bot Be A Coach?

What are the other ways we could offer our skills to society?

PocketConfidant AI’s values are centered on the human, giving the individual a voice and listening skills. Additionally, as a tech company, our mission is to pioneer new technologies for human empowerment, and to be life-long learners and attentive listeners. In this way, our work and commitments are definitely leading us to create technologies built with good listening skills and objective and neutral practice – no influence, no recommendation, no advising to the individual – that, in a way removes a possible coach’s bias (emotional, economic, political etc.), which is, for us, a key contribution to the future of our society.

We join Edward D. Hess, in his HBR article about the Age of AI in believing that “The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning. Quantity is replaced by quality. And that shift will enable us to focus on the hard work of taking our cognitive and emotional skills to a much higher level.”

We also support Pierre Dussault, personal coach and technology thinker, with a public manifesto on Coaching And The Future Of Humanity, who writes about the importance of bringing coaching to the masses, and provides thoughts on how AI can help doing it, which for us is a way to offer our skills to society: “Technology has crossed the chasm toward mass acceptance, but human consciousness has not as easily done so. When it comes to resolving basic human issues such as racism, human rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, environmental issues, etc., we cannot get as wide acceptance as is the case with technologies. In order to increase the actual level of global consciousness, we need to cross the chasm as a civilization from adolescence to adulthood. Coaching can inspire people to maximize their personal and professional potential, therefore increasing the level of individual consciousness. As Einstein mentioned, the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. We all know as coaches that we can bring people to the level of thinking that will help resolve those problems. Technology is not the problem, it’s how we use them.”

You can also find more insights on the topics of AI and coaching in the article written by Pierre Dussault in the Worldwide Coaching Magazine titled “How Will AI Disrupt Coaching?” Finally, we’d like to share with you a short literature review on critical thinking that creates links between critical thinking, coaching and technology entitled “Coaching And Critical Thinking: The links“.

How do you future proof yourself as a coach?

Embrace technology that will advance your profession. As certified coaching experts, PocketConfidant AI’s team is using the presence of a Scientific Board to be constantly supervised and tested on product development. When it comes to business, we are creating and developing specific values and a common culture in our company that is built on diversity, and we are all focused on creating an AI that will be truly good for humans. As Lean Startup practitioners, we constantly seek users’ and clients’ feedback, listen to questions, doubts, fears and enthusiastic visions to make sure we take into consideration all types of reasoning and ideas. It is by being open to all feedback that we can adjust and always remain relevant.

Where will coaches fit in the corporate environments of the future?

We think coaches will still be there, but they will improve, enhance and perhaps supervise a part of their work through the use of coaching AIs. We cannot replace – and should not attempt to – human coaches; as we will need a good balance of human and AI to be truly complementary, efficient and to be able to provide qualitative 24/7 support to people; this is a key goal for technology companies like ours.

What do organizations want from coaching?

We’d be happy to share some insights but that would be an article in itself. Suffice to say we are witnessing a real shift in paradigm and mindset. When working with large, well-known corporates or universities, we often walk out of our meetings feeling inspired and enthusiastic as we hear how organizations are seeking to put humans at the center of their strategy and reshape their existing culture to be truly individual-centered, becoming collective “listening” ecosystems.

Where is the appetite for investment?

The appetite for investment is being developed step by step. Large VC companies frequently know nothing, or little, about Coaching, and during the first years of our technology development they were either not taking the time to check on our market insights, or they were just not believing in our work. Only a few unique investors, used to funding innovative startups at their early-stage, and Business Angels who were Coaching-experts themselves wanted to take the opportunity and join us on our journey. We think that in this and next year, the investment appetite will increase because more investors will start to “see the future” and understand the practice and value of coaching.

How do we stay open minded to possibilities?

This is a great fun question. Here are some thoughts:

  • Stay calm, open and be aware of your ego.
  • When you want to say “no”, ask yourself if you are really knowledgeable about what is being presented to you, or if you say no because you are about to get out of your comfort zone.
  • Learn to listen and ask questions more than provide your own (very possible narrow) thinking.
  • Be open to the other, be open to the other’s ideas that may be totally different from yours.
  • Learn to put yourself in “what if” scenarios such as: “and what if they were right?”; “what if I was doing it?”
  • Dare to try, dare to put some time and energy into digging a little bit more to make your own analysis. Just take a few more hours to go one step further. What we have witnessed is that a lot of people say no, but they don’t want to take the few more hours to “check” that will give them insights and increased understanding.
  • Dare to change your habits and train yourself to move towards the new.

What mechanisms do we use to prove our worth?

Prove your worth by seeking feedback from people you don’t know, provoke market feedback and develop your ability to be even more interested by “no” answers, than by “yes” answers. The “no” shows you how to change your strategy. The yes just confirms your current position but doesn’t add new insights. Validate your ideas and assumptions (or certainties) by asking people whether you address what they need or not. And dig…dig…dig…with patience and perseverance. Others will always bring you something new. Be a listener and an observer.

What do we need to be asking our clients?

Would you use it again? and What did you learn from it?

Join the discussion!

We would love to hear your comments and questions, so do not hesitate to contact us by email, or via Facebook, Twitter, Linked in, Medium or Quora.

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Olivier Malafronte

Founder @PocketConfidant AI, Certified Coach, Masters in Business, lived and worked in 5 countries. Passionate entrepreneur, focus on global issues with a will to contribute and improve our world. "Keep going".