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Can This AI Platform Make You A Better Leader?

Half of executives fail within the first 18 months of being promoted or hired. Could software fix the problem?

Can This AI Platform Make You A Better Leader?
[Photo: wigglestick/iStock]

A robot might not directly take your job, but chances are that automation will force you to learn new skills. In fact, according to experts at McKinsey, as many as 375 million workers globally may need to switch fields and learn new skills soon. That’s because at least a third of tasks in about 60% of jobs can be automated.

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High-level thinking and creativity are beyond the capabilities of artificial intelligence. So how can a software platform claim to make executives and managers better at leading? After all, aren’t qualities like optimism,  empathy, and emotional intelligence rooted firmly in human behavior?

They are, but there are others that plenty of people struggle with like setting and keeping individual and organizational priorities. Enter Indiggo, a platform powered by a proprietary AI tool called “indi” that launched earlier this month.  According to Indiggo’s CEO and cofounder Janeen Gelbart, indi is a brain that has consumed all the knowledge the company has gathered in its 15 years of operation. That’s a massive data set of situational analysis, advice, and guidance for different types of leaders that Gelbart says is quite powerful and can provide a “return on leadership” much like ROI.

Gelbart says “there’s a huge chasm” between strategy and execution on many leadership teams. According to a report in Harvard Business Review, 67% of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution. One reason was that more than half (61%) of executives in a 10-year longitudinal study said they weren’t ready to face strategic challenges after landing a senior leadership role. It’s no surprise, then, that 50%–60% of executives fail within the first 18 months of being promoted or hired. “Everyone wants to solve that problem,” says Gelbart, “but keep throwing a theoretical solution at it.”

[Image: courtesy of Indiggo]
The way she sees it, even the best-laid strategies are subject to humans forgetting to continue to prioritize them after they roll out. “Most leaders and managers walk back and start doing what they were doing before,” Gelbart observes. “These are well-meaning, hard-working people,” she points out, “It’s not that they put their feet up, but they are overwhelmed.”

Pile on more strategies to tackle this or that issue and the potential for failure goes up. “Many leaders are spending too much time on tasks that don’t contribute to the organization’s most important initiatives,” she says. No surprise that one of the biggest time sucks is pointless meetings. This has a bottom line impact as well. In a 2014 study of time usage, Bain & Company found that just one meeting of mid-level managers per week could cost an organization as much as $15 million per year. Adds Gelbart, “When everything and nothing is important, leaders aren’t clearly thinking how to actually get the right stuff done.”

[Image: courtesy of Indiggo]
Indiggo’s platform aims to change this. For starters, it has a way to calculate that return on leadership that uses an algorithm to provide an estimate of how much time is wasted by a company by analyzing the size of its management team.

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Then, Gelbart explains, an organization’s mission and priorities are input by its executive leadership team which is then visible to every manager in the company. Another component walks individual managers through a type of Q&A to make sure they are clear on what their top three priorities are and how that relates to the organization’s which will indicate if that strategy ball is moving forward or not.

[Image: courtesy of Indiggo]
For the manager who is unclear, the machine bubbles up the most likely priorities. “You can still make an executive choice,” says Gelbart, ‘but it will not let you set more than three for a month.” She says more than that and “you’re scattered and you are not going to get anything done.”

It also taps into everyone’s calendar to see how they are spending their time. This allows leaders to get a visual dashboard of how they are spending their time and how that syncs (or doesn’t) with the organization’s priorities. “It is driving you to think if you want to accept the meeting now that you see other’s priorities,” Gelbart notes, as well as for upper management to see if their reports are focused on the right action items.

Although other AI tools have focused on surfacing potential time wasted in more rote processes, Gelbart says that indi can break down what percentage of time anyone is spending on working toward strategic goals such as increasing revenue, and score leaders based on how well their time is spent. “That is concrete and actionable,” she maintains.

Indiggo’s indi is available through subscriptions costing $720 per leader per year. This can add up quickly for larger companies, but Gelbart argues, “for the cost of one manager you can have 200 leaders on the platform.” And if they are indeed working solidly toward strategy (and skipping pointless meetings) the return on investment should be significant.

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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