In a new world of work where remote working is the norm and there are so many additional stresses and strains placed on employees, the companies that fully embrace a supportive and inclusive culture will be the ones that thrive. So we’re thrilled to introduce our latest partners, the innovative digital coaching platform, Untapped AI.
Their co-founder and CEO Kendal Parmar explains how Untapped AI was born, and how they work with companies to see what’s really going on beneath the surface so they can create real change and stop burnout in its tracks.
Years ago, and in the midst of bringing up five children, I went on a holiday with my neighbour Brendan and his family. One day we looked back at two of our children, sat together on their phones, talking excitedly and sharing videos.
They were both turning 16 and starting to think about university and what to do in their lives, struggling to know themselves and what future might be right for them. And yet as they scrolled their phones the big tech corporations were hoovering up information about them, turning their data into adverts for what they might buy or watch next.
Is this really it, I asked Brendan? The greatest information-gathering exercise in human history, frittered away on selling us more stuff?
What if we could take all that data, and give it back, helping us - and our children - learn more about ourselves?
The Beginnings of Untapped AI
So that’s what we built. Now running for six years, Brendan and I are at the helm of Untapped AI, a digital coaching platform powered by AI.
We work with corporates in the tech, professional and financial services spaces. We help untap their businesses and untap their people, combining emotional intelligence expertise and AI. We play the role of cultural game changers for our clients. We typically help them increase innovation, productivity, inclusion, diversity and human leadership.
We use a combination of depth coaching and AI feedback to help people learn about themselves and rapidly build emotional intelligence. We go deep with our clients, unravelling what is going on beneath the surface and helping individuals and organisations create real change.
All the data we gather on our platform is fed back to the individuals it belongs to as AI personality insights, and then (anonymously) aggregated to give organisations valuable information on what’s really going on beneath the surface for their people.
We have a core team operating both in the office and remotely in the UK and Ireland, and an international and growing group of skilled coaches (‘Accelerators’.) As we’ve grown, we’ve worked with international companies across the world including Barclays, PWC and Accenture, helping them build self-reflection into their daily working lives.
As we gather more data, our AI is becoming more nuanced. We’re getting to the stage where we can pick up early signs of burnout in our platform users and detect broader cultural issues within teams and organisations. It’s an exciting time. We’re learning that the data we gather is powerful, and can help individuals and organisations tackle sticky, complex issues like diversity and mental health. But that change comes also from the other aspect of what we give our users: Space.
Building in Self-reflection
Self-reflection to build EQ has always been at the heart of what we do and as our data has grown, we’ve begun to see the huge benefits of taking space for yourself during the working day. In a recent project, we found that self-reflecting for 10-15 minutes for 10 days resulted in an average 20% rise in productivity, and 78% of the users on our platform said that daily reflection improved their mental health. This has never been more important than during the pandemic and worldwide lockdowns, where people have had to rapidly re-imagine their working lives and re-draw boundaries previously set by the office or commute.
We live in a culture obsessed by doing, where firing off emails full of empty phrases and attending meetings ‘to be seen’ are often deemed more important than sitting and thinking – or simply being. Burnout is increasingly recognised as an acute cultural problem – now recognised by the WHO as a named illness - with long hours and decreasing motivation and productivity.
In this environment it may feel challenging to say no to the obvious and block out open time. There is a suspicion that somehow this is unproductive or a waste. But evidence suggests the opposite: That those who build in this time will reap the rewards in productivity, emotional intelligence and innovation.
To strengthen the self-reflective muscle we need to consciously exercise it, to build a habit and integrate that way of thinking into our psychological and emotional life.
Our immediate, automatic responses to events are often hardwired into our neural networks, shaped by our upbringings and experiences in the world. Gradually, as we reflect more, we can explore our old learned responses and experiment with new ones, creating new neural pathways. We can play with creative ideas, or take a beat before responding automatically in a difficult conversation. We give ourselves more choices in our lives, and in our work.
Building Reflective Practice into your Working Day
Here are some ideas taken from our experience with users and organisations for things you and your teams can do to build this into your working day:
- Create time and space. Block it out on your calendar, shut the door (whether that be an office, or your home workspace).
- Use a different space than where you work, or consider going for a walk.
- Close your emails and shut off your phone.
- Reflect on your common responses and relational patterns:
- Time and time again I find myself thinking…
- Time and time again I find myself doing…
- Time and time again I find myself feeling…
- Or let your thoughts flow, with no particular aim. This may feel uncomfortable: Stick with it! It’s in the discomfort that insights and change happen.
We’ve built a business dedicated to using tech to build connections, and to giving ownership of data back to individuals. We give our users a regular time and a platform where they can check in on themselves, their relationships, their goals. And they can do it with the feedback of AI insights, making use of the data they’ve input to learn more about themselves.
There’s such power in that moment of connection together that I saw in my kids. It is so human to share, reflect and grow - this has shaped Untapped’s mission and values. We believe that where that is combined with the empowering use of our own data – well there’s no stopping us.