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Managing the stress of busy lives: technology that lets you advise yourself

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Delivering effective learning is hard. First, you have to appeal to the individual, then you have to catch them at a time that they are receptive and somehow you have to package it up in a way that they do not feel like they are being lectured or having their valuable time wasted.

The power of simulations has much to offer for learning and development: an absorbing, engaging parallel universe where you forget you’re being taught and fall into the scenario itself. Someone once said that the best learning you get is the one you didn’t even realise that you were receiving — and simulations are perfect for delivering such stealth learning. 

When it comes to improving the mental, emotional and physical state of people this is even harder because it is far, far too easy for any efforts to be perceived as an intervention or simply not applicable—we all like to believe that feedback is for someone else, not us. For personal things, humans often find it hard to listen to advice, even if it is good advice. We have moments when we are aware of our faults and often fool ourselves into thinking that such awareness is half the battle already won and in too many cases it takes life-changing events for any lasting behavioural alterations to sink in.

We live in a busy world, one in which executives are always busy and frequently overstressed. It is increasingly important to find ways to manage stress and improve performance. To achieve this, something altogether different is required, something that adapts to the individual by combining sensor data with neuroscience, artificial intelligence and machine learning: a combination that can sneak adjustments into busy lives that make the best out of the moments that we are most receptive to advice. But advice or no advice, it has to come from a trusted source: you yourself.

Humans don’t like being nagged. They don’t like, or have the patience, to input lots of data or answer lots of questions and they are unlikely to see the value in anything that makes regular mistakes and delivers what is seen as poor advice delivered at the wrong moment. Without software that actively adapts to the person, the longevity of advice and wellbeing improvement applications is incredibly short.

A new, altogether more personal approach

We have developed a technology that reflects a positive you back at you: it’s like looking into mirror and seeing you, but on a good day. It’s the little mini-you that sits on your shoulder and learns how to pick the perfect time to subtly hint the little things that will help improve your life.

The system works with the sensors in your mobile device and wearable and transforms the data it gathers into a representation of how you are. Not just whether you’ve clocked up the right number of steps, but whether you’re doing the appropriate activity at the appropriate time and in the appropriate proportions. Over time, it uses its internal learning and intelligence to learn what is normal for you and then observes increased deviations from that. Its brain learns lessons that consist of temporal, spatial, environmental and social information and combines the present with the past to build an increasingly accurate impression of both your mental and physical state.

The technology is able to establish when you are most susceptible to advice, what types of advice, and prompt when it is relevant. It is about developing a holistic, highly tailored approach to improving the mind and body in a way that is appropriate to the individual.

The unique approach can be used to deliver specific corporate goals such as improved work/life balance, more social activity with colleagues during the working day or even something as simple as getting people to walk about and be a touch more active. The overall system is applying its increasing knowledge of the user to improve the way they are looking after themselves in a way that feels like they’re telling yourself, just a touch earlier than they’d normally have got around to it: good ideas that feel like they’re owned by, not delivered to, the individual.

It is you, advising yourself, at just the right moment.

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