AI will teach you people skills now

Talespin, a VR/AR/AI company is bringing soft skills training to organizations using VR and AI. Call it a Choose Your Own Virtual Reality Management Adventure, these training tools help managers and leadership develop the soft skills they need to perform in complex organizations.

Employers are in a desperate search for employees with soft skills. As we retreat more into our digital spaces we are collectively losing the ability to have conversations with one another. The result is that our relationships, collaboration, and creativity suffer in the workplace. Soft skills are all about people: how to work with, talk to, learn from, give feedback to, negotiate with, listen to, create with, people.

Enter more tech to solve the problem.

My first reaction was this: shouldn’t people learn people skills through interaction with… people? Why are we outsourcing people skills to the virtual machines? How do fake humans teach humans how to be more human?

Also this tech is an indirect threat to my own work. I teach people and organizations how to build soft skills. From relationship building to negotiation to how to have curious conversations, I help people build their soft skills. So yeah, maybe I felt a bit threatened when I first saw it.

Then I stepped back. And I looked closer. And I saw the truly wild stuff going on with this tech. From the article:

“The great thing about VR is you can do something that’s rare in nature, and give people extra repetitions,” Bailenson says. “The cool part of using computer graphics for this, virtual humans, is you can go through as the manager and have this difficult conversation—then you can relive the experience from the point of view of the employee, get to hear your voice coming out of an avatar you’ve chosen to look like you. Now that you’ve got this newly emotionally understood information from being on the receiving end of this bad news, you get to repeat it and do it again.” – Boss Acting Nicer Recently? You May Have VR to Thank

Honestly, I can think of at least five managers who could have used training like this. A lot of HR Tech companies are developing AI that will make your manager worse. Talespin is using AI and VR to make them better.

People still need to practice building soft skills outside of a VR experience, so my work isn’t going away any time soon. But it’s wild to see this type of training applied using new technology. In the future I’d love to see resesarch on how the emotional impact from virtual reality scenarios creates changes in managers for the better.

Now I’m curious about this field. I’m curious who writes the scripts, how they work with designers, how the characters are modeled. After all, it’s real human who build the fake humans who teach humans how to be more human.

I’m also curious what type of employees they hire. What skills and backgrounds make up their teams? What type of employees succeed at their company? (Update: it looks like men. More than 90% of their 40+ employees on LinkedIn are men… that’s a problem, especially when it comes to scenarios navigating inclusion in the workplace)

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I’m also stoked for all the potential types of jobs this creates. As a creative who runs in HR circles (and worked in HR), I find the industry borderline stifling for creative types. Seeing a creative HR product that aims to improve the lives of employees is a treat.

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