June 13, 2024

The Future of Coaching: Technology & the Metaverse

This interview was originally published on the EsCoaching website.

We all know that technological innovations revolutionize every facet of our world at an ever-faster pace. And in the field of psychology and coaching, we are experiencing a historical moment where technology presents us with extraordinary challenges, unique opportunities and dilemmas that are worth investigating and reflecting on. For all these reasons, the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) has recently created the Global Center of Excellence Digital & AI.

And this week, EsCoaching’s Managing Director Susana F. Casla interviewed Ozlem Sarioglu, SparkUs co-founder and leader of EMCC Global’s Centre for Excellence on Digital & AI to get a glimpse of what the future of coaching tech looks like.


Susana F. Casla: Dear Ozlem, you know that it is always a pleasure to talk with you and today, in addition, I want to congratulate you on your appointment as leader of the EMCC Global’s Centre for Excellence. To begin this interview, could you kindly introduce yourself?

Ozlem S.: Thank you very much Susana! It is a real honor that you invited me to chat with you. In relation to my career, I began my professional career as a consultant at PwC like you. I switched to coaching 15 years ago where, as you well know, in Sparkus we started digitalizing coaching experiences a decade ago to increase coaching readiness and scale the benefits of coaching to larger audiences. I was selected by the International Coach Federation (ICF) as one of the six honorees of the Young Leader Award in 2019 to carry coaching into the future and became one of the official members of Forbes Coaches Council. I have been a volunteer in the Development team of EMCC Global since 2019 and have recently been appointed the Leader of EMCC Global’s newest Centre for Excellence on Digital & AI.

The Digital Coaching Landscape

Susana F. Casla: Before asking you what you do at the Center of Excellence, I would like you to help me understand the scope of what “digital technology” really means in the world of coaching and mentoring.

Ozlem S.: It is a very interesting question Susana! First of all, when it comes to the terms “Digital Coaching” or “Coaching Technologies,” everyone has a different take. That is why one of the first steps we took in EMCC’s new task force was to start defining the digital coaching landscape. So far, we have come up with various categories for Coaching Technologies, such as coach matching technologies, coach admin tools, machine coaching, etc. We are observing that different solutions carry a combination of distinctive features that fall into various categories.

Susana F. Casla: What is the challenge, in your opinion, that you anticipate in the near future in relation to these digital technologies that you have commented on?

Ozlem S.: It is obvious that we’ll be seeing even more coaching-specific technologies in the near future. Consequently, we’ll be needing more standards regarding the data processing and ethics within these technologies. And that is one of our main focuses here at the Centre for Excellence on Digital & AI. We are currently working on a structure that supports the standards and ethics of digital coaching that is inclusive but without being too restrictive.

Ethics in Digital Coaching

Susana F. Casla: Could you give me an example of what the ethics of digital coaching mean in practice?

Ozlem S.: It is safe to say that today, one of the most critical issues around coaching tech is data processing and regulating the grey areas. Currently, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) covers most aspects of data security. Moreover, confidentiality and securing data are innate in coaching ethics. For instance, when we founded SparkUs over a decade ago, GDPR did not exist, but when it was put into effect, we saw that our platform was already compliant with the necessities of GDPR, including getting consent on which data can be shared with whom, etc.

But when you bring technology into the equation, you pave the way for that data to be processed. And that is where things get tricky. EMCC Global’s Centre for Excellence on Digital & AI aims to focus on these issues.

Susana F. Casla: And how can this affect our customers?

Ozlem S.: From the buyer’s point of view, companies have much more to consider when it comes to coaching technologies. To address these issues, EMCC Global’s Centre for Excellence on Digital & AI aims to put together a buyer’s guideline for companies that want to procure coaching technologies. With these guidelines, we wish to support buyers by shedding light on which aspects to consider on the technology level when buying these services or tools.

Susana F. Casla: For instance…?

Ozlem S.: One of the main promises of coaching and mentoring is to strengthen the individual and support them in the process of solving their own issues. And if technology is used to provide the individual with quick and easy answers, that is exactly what won’t be accomplished, hindering the very aim of the process.

It might be helpful for technology to provide certain suggestions, but we also need to give space to the coachee to come up with their own solutions. If that fine line is crossed, we are not empowering the individual. This has the potential to hinder or even harm the coaching and mentoring process. In that sense, EMCC Global’s step to form the Centre for Excellence on Digital & AI is very timely.

Coaching in the Metaverse

Susana F. Casla: As the leader of this EMCC group, I need to ask you about it! I see in every corner, in every newspaper, the potential of the “metaverse”. In your expert opinion, can the metaverse provide an improved experience for coaches, mentors, and clients? Is it worth taking the leap and jumping into the metaverse?

Ozlem S.: Every advancement in technology has its opportunities and risks for businesses.

There are current technologies that use 3d gamification and virtual reality experiences in areas such as therapy, coaching, and team coaching. However, I think it’s too soon for an experience like Metaverse to be used for coaching. But the potential is definitely exciting.

Of course, if the coach uses the Metaverse only as a medium to meet and discuss with their clients, then I would say, the Metaverse would be less effective than existing tools. It won’t be worth the effort, costs, connection power etc. just to be in the Metaverse.

However, if the Metaverse becomes widely used and people feel comfortable enough to be there, it can be seen as a useful technological development that can be used to raise self awareness. The Metaverse has the potential to visualize things that are beyond tangible facts. It is much craftier than the human brain when it comes to noticing nuances and creating meaning from chaos.

So, the Metaverse offers the potential to extract not only what is in our consciousness but also what is in our subconscious and show it to us in a form that makes sense. From this point of view, a coach who is competent in the Metaverse will be able to benefit from these nuances while helping the coachee to realize and develop their potential.

The Dark Side of Coaching in the Metaverse

Susana F. Casla: And on the flip side of the coin…

Ozlem S.: …. the Metaverse has the potential negatively affect the coaching process in three main senses:

• if the parties are not familiar with Metaverse and the tools it offers,

• if the coachee is intimidated when disconnected from reality, or

• if the reality presented by Metaverse distracts the coachee from their own reality and authenticity, etc.

Susana F. Casla: I find this last dimension that you have just mentioned especially interesting. Connecting honestly and authentically with oneself is one of the greatest benefits that my clients often mention at the end of the coaching processes. In the digital environment, can this “metaverse reality” then interfere with a coaching process?

Ozlem S.: There is always a risk of not being able to see and notice the coachee’s true colors. For example, assuming the façade (interface/avatar) that the person presents is the person’s true self might prevent the coach from going deeper in analyzing the situation. This will render the coaching process superficial or cause the coach to misdiagnose the person.

At the end of the day, coaching is one of the tools people turn to for support, to improve performance or to get support in a specific area. The game-like structure and immature visuals that the Metaverse currently contains also present the risk of distracting people from the seriousness of these issues. The coachee might get detached from reality and the performance expectations they wanted to tackle in the first place.

EMCC Global’s Center of Digital and AI Excellence

Susana F. Casla: How interesting Ozlem! I am very confident that there will be readers of this interview who are excited and want to continue to explore these issues in greater depth. What are the requirements to collaborate? Who can join the working group at EMCC Global’s Center of Digital and AI Excellence?

Ozlem S.: Currently, we have coaches, mentors, and coaching tech providers on the task force. You can be an EMCC volunteer and take part in the work on a daily basis; for this, you need EMCC membership. We will also be holding discussion forums where non-members are welcome to share their input. Those who are in the digital coaching business and like to share their point of view are welcome to do so on these forums.

Susana F. Casla: We will then be aware of your steps to keep all the coaches, clients and friends who are part of the ESCOACHING community informed. Thank you very much Ozlem! As always, a great pleasure to chat with you.

Ozlem S.: Thanks to you Susana, and the entire ESCOACHING team for always being aware of trends and challenges in our profession and for promoting knowledge with such affection. Thank you!