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The Coaching Networks Playbook

How can we use artificial intelligence to help us get better at our jobs while learning necessary new skills along the way?

The onset of AI in the workplace raises a set of important questions that deal directly with this reality: How can we use artificial intelligence to help us get better at our jobs while learning necessary new skills along the way?

Over the past decade, the Cloud has given birth to some huge companies. We’ve been fortunate to partner with a number of these visionaries, including the biggest cloud winner of them all, Salesforce (currently closing in on a $75B market cap).

However, despite the success of our industry, we’ve yet to see a B2B cloud company come close to the scale of the B2C behemoths (Alphabet/Google currently at ~$700B and Facebook at ~$500B).

Why is that? We believe it’s largely due to the fact that B2B companies have yet to harness the power of data network effects the way the B2C behemoths have. We think the first enterprise company to do so will come from a new breed of B2B companies built on Coaching Networks, which could dwarf today’s gorillas.

What are Coaching Networks?

A Coaching Network company is one that uses machine learning to guide workers toward doing their jobs more effectively while they’re doing it. The key ingredient of a Coaching Network is software that gathers data from a distributed network of workers and identifies the best techniques for getting things done.

The software acts as a real-time, on-the-job coach, guiding employees to successful outcomes, and in the process gathering new data that’s then fed back into the system. Rather than dispensing “one-size fits-all” advice, it instead offers coaching that’s uniquely tailored to each worker and the task they’re doing at any given moment.

This is how humans become the “mutation engine” in this evolving process, generating new ideas which in turn benefit everyone else.

Gordon Ritter
General Partner, Emergence

Coaching Network software gets better over time by learning the best practices that are proven effective across a variety of situations, identifying those outlier cases where a creative person finds a new, better solution, and adds those techniques to its coaching. This allows others to learn from the experience of those more creative workers. This is how humans become the “mutation engine” in this evolving process, generating new ideas which in turn benefit everyone else.

You can also listen to our General Partner Gordon Ritter explain Coaching Networks in the video below:

  1. Gather Behaviors

    Sensors passively gather details user activity and behavior: written, verbal, physical.

  2. Combine with Peers

    Machine Learning (ML) Analyzes this data to identify the best practices of workers across the network

  3. Predictive Advice

    based on ML findings, user is coached real-time with unique, individually tailored advice.

  4. Human Creativity

    Human ingenuity advances the network, where brilliant outliers improve outcomes. And the cycle continues...

Why should I build a Coaching Networks company?

To date, SaaS has primarily been focused on putting forms into the cloud. These tools have improved workflow and reporting for management, but they typically haven’t done much for the end worker. Coaching Networks flip this model on its head, focusing its value on coaching the end worker on how to do her job better. We think this is important for two reasons:

  1. We believe forms-based SaaS will commoditize over time, while Coaching Network companies will remain differentiated via data-driven insights and the proprietary network of domain-specific behaviors generating them (more below).

  2. We believe that deploying machine learning to help workers get better at their jobs will be critical as these technologies automate many tasks away. We believe this automation will concentrate the highest value tasks in human-to-human interactions.

How can I build a coaching network company?

Coaching Network companies revolve around the proprietary data generated by their user networks. To build such networks, you need:

  1. A specific domain focus

    A relevant network must be built to generate substantial data on how a given task is performed as well as the outcomes of these behaviors. The network must be highly domain-focused as data unrelated to the specific context isn't helpful.

  2. An in-line UI which drives high usage.

    This network is only useful if it’s active. Successful Coaching Network companies will develop ways of interacting with workers which drive adoption. The “also rans” will have UIs that are more intrusive/annoying than well-timed and well-positioned.

We lay out more details on building these businesses in our overview piece. Also, for more information on the value of domain focus, see the video below from our Industry Cloud Forum.

If you’re building a Coaching Network company, please feel free to reach out. We’re excited to help support the development of this next big thing in the cloud.