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Will Artificial Intelligence Change the Way We Tutor on Critical Conversations?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Leaders get things done through others. Critical conversations with collaborators or partners to give feedback, negotiate, motivate, and solve conflicts are the core of their daily activities. Those moments are the ones when the difference between a leader and a boss is made.

Focusing on critical conversations is a key element for trainers and coaches to make a durable and sustainable impact on leaders. Tutoring on critical conversation is a tough job, because:

  • Mastering critical conversations is an achievement that demands a lot of practice.
  • Coaching on how to properly manage a critical conversation is very often not enough to shift the leader from habits (comfort zone) to smart behaviors (game-changer zone) that positively affect team performance.
  • Role playing, one of the most-used tools to practice critical conversations, is a truly effective techniques-transfer method that lets participants mirror one another, but it is often underutilized due to time and cost restraints.
  • Online training tools, such as learning games, are simply not smart enough to be reliable when a sustainable behavioral change is required (for instance, in delivering an after-class or post-coaching follow-up phase).
  • Measuring the impact of training and coaching on leadership soft communication behaviors is a very complex task; as a corporate trainer or executive coach, you struggle every day to provide evidence of your learning impact on leaders when it comes to critical conversations.

More and more leaders are realizing the importance of mastering critical conversation skills and asking for more comprehensive development programs on it, as well as smart metrics to achieve and track results in conversational team leading.

On the other side, the rise of technologies based in artificial intelligence (AI) is having a strong impact on the training and coaching industry. It’s boosting the development of some interesting applications—especially in the field of smart simulations, which can play a critical and disrupting role in a well-designed training follow-up strategy.

How AI Is Changing the Scenario of Online Simulations for Training Purposes: 4 Main Characteristics to Consider

AI is a buzzword that we recently hear much too often, but most of the time it is not clear how it can be an effective support to training and coaching. Well, consider the following situations where, leveraging AI, corporate trainers and executive coaches maximize the impact of their activities:

  • assigning practical simulated conversation after class or coaching sessions where AI learns how the learners play and adapts the behavior of the simulation to challenge and train them most on their weak points (aka, “adaptive learning”)
  • replacing puppets or avatars and one-shot video lessons with real-time, interactive video driven by AI to provide the same authentic and immersive emotional experience of a face-to-face session
  • tweaking the verbal and nonverbal approach of a simulated sparring partner according to the development of the conversation and making it unpredictable and enriching, trial after trial
  • delivering accurate metrics that measure the quality of the leader’s conversational approach while providing hints on where and how to improve.

If well implemented, AI algorithms can overcome many of the historical limitations of online training solutions and empower effective features in conversational simulations.

How AI Applied to Conversational Simulations Can Boost Trainers and Coaches

Some in the learning industry may think that the rise of conversational simulations will diminish the need for professional training and coaching—as if AI, on its own, can fill all gaps leaders may have in mastering this important set of skills.


That is not the case, of course. Technology, as always, is just a piece of the recipe and does not make any real difference if it is not well integrated into a comprehensive program, designed and led by a professional.

So, how can AI applied to soft-skill training help training professionals who want to leverage online technology to boost the effectiveness of their role?

Join the innovation: Consider subscribing to an online library of critical conversation simulations and use them in live sessions (such as classroom or one-to-one coaching); research shows that class engagement grows two digits with interactive simulations.

Start by measuring: Most AI-driven conversational simulations offer the possibility to assess the skills of participants before you start training or coaching; this will help you adapt your agenda and will serve as a benchmark to show your impact.


Rebalance your schedule: By reducing the number of live sessions and adding more follow-up online practice, you will have more time for remote coaching driven by specific metrics showing where and when to help. Sponsors and learners will benefit from after-class, low-cost, high-end practicing sessions.

Sustain the change: By proactively providing change-oriented metrics, training professionals enforce their role as change agent mentors who are crucial to drive a true behavioral change in leaders.

Demonstrate your impact: Much too often, the training and coaching industry is still relying on vanity or appreciation metrics in a world where tangible results are more and more in demand by clients and sponsors; be among the first to leverage the wave of AI.

Want to learn more? Don’t miss the ATD webcast, “Tutoring on Critical Conversations Using AI-Based Immersive Simulations.”

About the Author

As an enthusiastic technology endorser, Andrea is a serial entrepreneur who has founded several companies specialized in interactive e-learning content development and distribution. He is a strong endorser of the “human factor,” which he believes to be the added-value key element of any business negotiating process. Andrea is the mind behind the revolutionary Lifelike Interaction approach, a cognitive model and set of algorithms able to create a new training method designed to train behavior—and therefore boost performance.

As CEO and founder of Lifelike SA, a Swiss high-tech company leader in the area of learning simulators focused on user performance improvement, Andrea now leads a disruptive revolution. He is among the few world pioneers to bring artificial intelligence and interactive video into the field of behavioral learning and training.

In 2017, Andrea co-authored a paper published in the Journal of Medical Education. That same year, Lifelike was awarded the Gold and Silver medals at the Reimagine Education Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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