For many of our ancestors, the invention of the horseless carriage meant the end of the buggy whip industry. Motorola disrupted the telephone market with mobile, and they were later disrupted by Nokia, then Apple and Samsung. My teenage boys have never even heard of Motorola, as its mobile business was dismantled nearly a decade ago. Many coaches today are wondering: With all the advancements of artificial intelligence (AI), are coaches headed toward a similar extinction?
As an organizational psychologist, I’m convinced the science is clear that the relationship in coaching engagements is crucial to influence clients to change attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. A critical problem with traditional coaching is that clients often forget to practice in between sessions or don’t seek coaching support outside of a session. While several new forms of coaching AI can augment the coach-client relationship, they’re not a replacement, substitute or threat to the coach.
When coaching AI is positioned as an extension of the developmental relationship, it improves the odds that clients achieve their goals. In part, it does this because it can give just-in-time support, and when clients journal about their attempts at practicing behaviors in safe, simulated AI situations, or in real life, the coach has an elegant view into those journal entries. This view becomes a sleek tool to nudge, praise or support clients both in between coaching sessions and in better planning for video or in-person sessions.
Coaching AI Overview
AI that complements traditional coaching broadly fall into two categories: Rule-based AI and machine learning AI.
Rule-based AI emulates what a coach would do by following the same sort of implicit rules that are made explicit. For example, one type of coaching AI is written by an expert coach and then calibrated like an assessment instrument. The client is able to schedule when they want mobile push notifications that are “just right” for their current proficiency level and not too hard or too easy.
Similarly, there are other rule-based AI systems that provide tailored suggestions to supporters and stakeholders as to the specific actions they can take to support a client’s development. Since 2014, my team and I have seen measurable improvements in clients’ self-and-360 assessment results when traditional coaching has been complemented by this “e-Coaching.”