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Coach Otto, an MIT Sloan AI Bot, Can Help Coach Executives

Coach Otto

MIT Sloan recently took at a look at the nifty little Coach Otto, a new artificial intelligence “executive coaching bot” developed by MIT Media Lab alum Jeff Orkin and GiantOtter co-founder Dan Tomaschko, MBA ’15 to use as a stand-alone interface as well as integrate within team messaging apps like Slack.

Coach Otto was designed to help managers face “difficult conversations with underperforming employees” or “confront a challenging colleague.” Tomaschko hopes that Coach Otto is “could improve the quality and reduce the tension within in-person conversations by allowing people to practice and improve their approach before they meet.”

Orkin devoted his Ph.D. research to understanding “how we could mine data from real human beings talking to each other so we could learn the social norms and patterns of dialogue that can be used to create machines that could converse and cooperate with humans.”

He and Tomaschko built the “Coach Otto tool by recording 50 managers at 20 different companies.” Orkin explains, “AI needs some human guidance to model the complex ways human beings act.” They developed a tagging system using the transcripts that helped the AI “learn from what people were saying to one another.”

“With our approach,” says Orkin, “the system can then respond to a live person by referring back to the database of transcripts to see how people had reacted to similar scenarios in the past. You get back this living conversation that will continue to get better as more people interact with it.”

However, Otto isn’t supposed to be a complete substitute for one-on-one conversations:

The tool is not meant to replace in-person conversations between colleagues, said Tomaschko, but it could improve the quality and reduce the tension in those conversations by allowing people to practice and improve their approach before they meet.

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About the Author

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as contributing writer at MetroMBA and contributing editor at Clear Admit, he is co-founder and lead producer of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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