Tech Insights: An App That Can Coach Us Through Workplace Encounters

I have always hoped that technology would make us smarter.

In many ways, it already has in that our smartphone puts all the facts of the world at our fingertips. I revel in “knowing” the capital of Turkmenistan is Ashgabat without having to memorize it.

However, what humans really need is not better memory, but better judgment. Can technology help with that?

An App that can give you good advice

Emergenetics is a thinking and behavior assessment tool. I’m going to trust that my readers have seen some products in this area so that I don’t need to describe it beyond saying that it’s a different, more scientific approach to what Myers-Briggs tries to do.

The technical validity of the assessment is crucial; but that isn’t what I want to get into here.

What really makes the difference is the smartphone. Since the Emergenetics smartphone app has both you and your colleagues profile on file, it can, just before you walk into a meeting, give some advice on how to deal with them.

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My favorite piece of the app’s advice was “Start by saying something nice.” A people-savvy manager would think that self-evident, and since the app knows their personality profile, it wouldn’t suggest it to them.

Like a “coach” in your pocket

However there are all too many fact-focused professionals who launch into their analysis almost before saying” hello.” The app makes those people (and really any employee) smarter about that.

A more nuanced piece of advice may be that the person you are talking to will prefer additional time to process a disagreement so it is likely best to be quiet until they have something to contribute. If you are going into a meeting with an analytically minded person, the app might recommend you start by laying out the facts you both agree on.

A smart app — one that knows something about you and your colleagues — is like a little coach you can carry around in your pocket, ready to give that one word of advice just when you need it. This is the sort of tool that will make humans wiser.

What is interesting?

  • Assessment tools have long had the ability to suggest how to adjust your behavior to deal with people who have different profiles. The advice is of limited usefulness unless it can be delivered in real-time on a smartphone.

What is really important?

  • For technology to help us make better judgments, it needs to be able to help us wherever we are and at a moment’s notice. With smartphones and the power of modern computing, that is very much becoming possible. It’s all very well to work faster and be better informed, but if we can make people smarter, even just a bit smarter, then that’s a really big win.

David Creelman is CEO of Creelman Research. Based mainly in Toronto and partly in Kuala Lumpur, he’s best known for his research on the latest issues in human resources.

He works with think tanks such as Talent Tech Labs (New York), Works Institute (Tokyo), Workforce Institute (Boston) and CRF (London). He’s collaborated with leading academics such as Henry Mintzberg (leadership development), Ed Lawler (“Built to Change”) and John Boudreau (future of work).

His books include The CMO of People: Manage employees like customers with an immersive predictable experience that drives productivity and performance with GrandRound’s CHRO Peter Navin; and Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau (USC) and Ravin Jesuthasan (Willis Towers Watson).

You can connect to Mr. Creelman on LinkedIn