We're told there's an app for everything, right? Picture this in the not-too-distant future. You are feeling a sense of dread because you're meeting with your boss today to discuss why your team has failed to meet several deadlines for a new product launch. She's not happy. Actually, she's seriously unhappy and you are not sure how you'll effectively deal with her inner raging bull. Sure, you've prepped and reviewed all of the project update issues, but you are still apprehensive.
Thankfully, you can go on-line to the apps store and download the "Dealing with the tough boss" app for your smart phone. You'll have it on during your meeting and with its voice recognition system and emotional intelligence sensing capabilities, it will provide guidance for you and even suggest dialogue ("Boss—you just said I'm wasting the oxygen in your office. Can you please state specifically why you feel that way?").
The app will provide you expert guidance on how to navigate the meeting and will have allowed for you to define ahead of time what your preferred outcome is for the meeting. Sure, your smart phone will be on and will be coaching you out loud throughout the meeting but the boss will not mind because she has also downloaded an app, one called "Dealing with an unmotivated slacker."
That's right, she also wants to leave nothing to chance in this important meeting and while recently she has attended several company sponsored courses on how to be an effective manager, she's become frustrated with you lately and knows you don't respond well to her threats and accusations. And voila—the two cyber coaching apps work well and both you and the boss are pleased with the meeting's outcomes.
And you thought the future of apps belonged to angry birds, tossed paper and ninja sliced fruit. Workplace apps like the "meeting coach" examples described above are the next new frontier for smartphone technology. Some companies have already created downloadable streaming video on leadership topics and there are also "expert systems" which provide just-in-time helpful hints for leadership skills, but these are mostly passive, asynchronous data-based learning tools.
I suggest there is a whole world of possibilities out there that goes even beyond the cyber coaching example played out above. Way beyond, in fact. In that project management scenario, the individuals were still in charge of the conversation, aided by interactive technology. The next generation of workplace apps after that might have a level of sophistication that allows for the two individuals to simply bring their devices loaded with the appropriate apps to the meeting, put the devices in cradles facing each other and sit back and let the apps work through the issues whiled the meeting principals—the humans—simply observe and agree to the outcomes. Dueling Droids, if you will.
Think of the applications. Procurement departments and vendors each bring their apps to the table to negotiate a deal. May the best algorithm win. Hate to do performance appraisals, regardless of which side of the desk you sit on? Piece of cake. There will be an app for that. You and your direct report pour yourselves some coffee and sit back and let the apps hammer out the review. The result? Win-win and high-fives. The painful but necessary annual capital budgeting process? Not so painful anymore with the "Budget, Baby!" app. Sales of Maalox will plummet. And then someone will come out with a line of parenting apps to make those oh-so-special conversations with our teenagers productive and uneventful. Sales of Jack Daniels will plummet.
And of course at some point there will be Workplace App 5.0, where we will no longer even need to be present to listen to and monitor our apps. Instead, we'll send our personal avatars to meetings and other workplace activities and they will download the results to us after the fact. That frees us up to sit in our offices and do what is really important—playing the next generation of Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja.
Mike Hoban—who has never actually played Angry Birds—is a senior consultant for a global talent management consulting firm and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.