A while ago I wrote a blog ("What ChatGPT Tells Us about Human Soup") that was relatively upbeat about the future of coaching - that is, relatively downbeat about how much of business coaching could be done by AI.
Since then I have spent more time using it, pretending to be a business owner with the kind of problems I help them address (scalability, systemisation, delegation, structure and so on). It is safe to say that my views are evolving (although not, presumably, as fast as AI is evolving).
Note: I have been using Chat-GPT 3.5, which is not the latest version and may not represent what other AI systems can now do.
The quality of the answers really depends on the quality of the questions, and a willingness to develop a conversation. Typically the first answer will be 10-12 short paragraphs, factually correct but too much information to be useful in a coaching sense to the questioner. You can drill down by picking up on one of the items and saying, perhaps, "I have already done that" or "I don't understand that" and the machine will respond accordingly (but again, with a large splurge of information).
You can limit the flow of information by saying, perhaps, "I feel overwhelmed by all these answers and don't know which to do first". This will elicit something that looks like empathy ("Understood. Let's narrow it down to....") and a more limited answer, perhaps with a homily about focus or prioritisation ("Dealing with these issues can be overwhelming, but remember, you don't have to fix everything at once...").
What I have been unable to do is to prompt any sort of questioning ("listening"?) to help with the supposed problem. Asking it "How do you know this is addressing my real problem?" or even "Why don't you ask me some questions to help me find out my real problem?" just produces the usual 10-12 bullet points of possible causes but this time couched as questions. A response to any one of these results in....10-12 short paragaraphs about possible causes/actions.
A coach given a problem statement would generally ask the client to expand on it, or give an example, or ask a question to check their understanding, rather than reeling off 12 possible causes. Often the real problem or cause is hidden and questioning helps the client gain insight.
Neither is there any sense of a sustained conversation, or referring back or identifying themes (different outcrops of the same issue), although the software does have a history of all the "chats".
However, the speed and comprehensiveness of the answers remains impressive, and these bits that I am suggesting are missing from a coaching perspective should be relatively easy to programme (or perhaps teach) in some sort of front-end application (such as this one). Emotion and mood-sensing algorithms are already in use and will only get more capable.
I thnk that within perhaps two years it will be possible to access an AI business coaching service that is indistiguishable from a human coach (apart, perhaps, from its abilty to use Zoom Whiteboards properly and the absence of a loud tie).
Shortly after that, any small business will be able to have the equivalent of the world's best business coach as a virtual but permanent part of the management team, rather then doled out in coaching sessions.
What will be left for coaches? No doubt there will be a long tail of people who want to deal with a human, supported perhaps by some sort of Campaign for Real Business Advisors (CaRBA©) or preservation societies. There will also be a short-lived opportunity to provide coaching input to the development of the aforementioned front-end applications.
After that...? Well, as someone once wrote, probably about a coaching industry:
"Round the decay of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away."
If you'd like to get some advice from a human business coach while we still exist then you might want to attend one of these events.