Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No… It’s… Robo-Coach.
There’s a worrying trend in the world of executive coaching and personal development. It’s a foray into a field where other industries have ventured before and the results of their research have all of our alarm bells ringing.
Basically we’re talking I-robot here, but the danger doesn’t stem from the lack of Will Smith and his Robo-phobia. No, the danger in this brave new world is that computers simply don’t know what’s best for us.
Take Macdonalds for example. For years the struggling business has been toying with the idea of automation. Rumour has it that soon you’ll be able to walk into a Maccie D’s and little Robochef will take your order, assemble it just the way you like it and run up your bill.
Where’s the harm in that you might ask? Well, when we said running up your bill, we weren’t just talking about tallying it. Research conducted by the company proved that customer’s placing orders through machines spent 30% more than those who ordered from the guys with the funny hats, it also discovered that 20% of people who hadn’t asked for a drink decided to go for it when asked again by the machine.
Robots, it seems, have no issues with the odd bit of up-selling and people are more inclined to indulge when they think there’s no-one watching.
In the world of coaching, this is a real problem. The whole point of the exercise is to engage and discuss. Without interacting on the deepest human levels the whole process becomes an exercise in positive or negative reinforcement. Think about it, what’s the App / program / system going to do? Reason? Empathise? Argue? Listen? Machines can only react, they cannot truly interact, not yet at least.
Sure the day may come when your I-implant can tell you exactly what to do in any given circumstance, but that day is fortunately a long, long way off.
Human coaches can guide you to find your own solutions when you feel you’re getting things wrong. They are adept at reading all visible and invisible signs and they can help reveal the underlying causes of even the deepest issues. They have years of life experience to draw from and have often followed the same paths as you.
Computerised coaches are just a bunch of lines of code following a preordained script to a geeky set of rules. Human communication is so rich and complex and technology simply cannot fully emulate the inventiveness of the human mind. Or, the magic that happens when two people come together and one is in service of the other’s growth and development. Something powerful occurs that enables the other person to grow.
What would you prefer? To interact with a warm sentient human being, or a cold avatar on a flat-screen monitor?
To us, Robo-Coach is just a quack science whose only use is in up selling and confirming our worst suspicions. It’s a world of cold reading and Barnum statements where we learn nothing useful if anything at all.
Computers are good for pretty much everything but they can’t compete with a human brain, connected to a human heart. So if you’re planning on using Google to find yourself some coaching make sure you’re looking for a telephone number, not an app!