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Is Coaching Going Extinct?

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My team has been developing another type of coaching anchored in “deep learning” or “machine learning” technologies. When I was in graduate school, these were called “neural networks.” In those days, nearly 30 years ago, computers were just too slow and datasets too small to make them work well, but hardware and software have improved exponentially since then.

One type of this coaching AI uses trained algorithms in a specific area such as persuasive text. With Siri, or another chatbot interface, a person can use an AI coach as a sort of flight simulator for practicing new behaviors in a safe place and making improvements before trying the new behaviors in their real work or life.

Google’s David Peterson, Ph.D. argues that coaching is being disrupted and may soon become obsolete because AI is progressing so rapidly. While he’s right that there is this potential, it is not likely to replace the coaching relationship anytime soon, especially not at the senior executive levels. All of us, including executives, are highly social, and coaches have vastly better context, empathy and decision-making capabilities than AI will for quite a few years, if ever. It’s debatable as to whether or not AI will ever be able to replace a coach entirely.

For the foreseeable future, consider leveraging AI to improve your relationship with clients when you’re not together. More importantly, consider using AI to scale your coaching to the vast majority of people in the world who cannot afford the traditional version. The training market is 100 times the size of the coaching market because it’s impersonal and easier to scale. AI can be a new toolset that allows you to responsibly create new and more profitable business models, while reducing your touch time and allowing you to charge lower prices to more people.

Coaching AI is poised to dramatically grow the coaching industry by disrupting money people already spend with the training industry. I suspect this is likely because most trainers know that very little of training transfers to the job, whereas our coaching approaches are always grounded in helping clients achieve their goals and adapt as the engagement proceeds. Coaching AI allows a typical coach to improve the scope of impact and grow business without hurting current non-technology enabled coaching engagements.

This article was originally published on ICF Coaching World.

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