Are trainers and coaches being replaced by a 99 cent app? I knew it was only a matter of time. You can now download iPocket Coach for your Apple iPhone. This Web 2.0 tool promises to give managers "the guidance they need to manage their people - on demand." Clearly, technology is changing the field of
management training and development as fast as it is changing everything else in our lives.
I'm intrigued by this idea of making helpful advice easily accessible and timely. Much of the time, it is impractical for managers to wait for their next scheduled training session or even for their next coaching session...if they even have a leadership coach. Managers need just-in-time alternatives and more can be done to use technology to prepare managers for learning and to sustain that learning over time. However, I bristle at the notion that all they need is a list of recommended behaviors on an iPhone to get through the next difficult management situation.
The marketing video at the iPocket Coach site is a great example of the best and worst aspects of instant coaching. In the video, a manager uses the app to prepare herself for a difficult performance review conversation with one of her employees. That's fine; however, we can't tell from this short demonstration if she asked helpful questions, gave useful responses, or made this a learning opportunity for the employee. And the supervisor of the manager, who pops his head in the door to remind her that she should have the performance review and then he returns later to make sure it was done, displays a very typical but very poor example of supervision. He's the problem, not the manager who needs a little guidance on conducting a performance review.
I believe Web 2.0 tools of all types, including iPhone apps as well as wikis, blogs, Twitter, and other social media, have tremendous potential for supporting manager learning and leadership development. As with any new technology, we need entrepreneurs who are willing to experiment with new learning tools in the marketplace and then continuously improve these tools. At the same time, we need to continuously ask ourselves, "Are we oversimplifying the learning process to the point where we might be doing more harm than good?"