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Noah Zandan

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The Era of Personal Communication Analytics is Here

Imagine you’re an MBA student. You’re 28 years old and learning the foundations of finance, marketing, operations, and people management. The goal? To become a leader at an American corporation that employs thousands of people, makes something people use every day, pays taxes to fund government improvements to everyday life, and donates a percentage of profits, time, and resources to making the world better.

Now imagine you’re the dean of that same MBA program. Your investment in the students’ success is two-fold. Of course, you want to see each and every one of them achieve their goals, but there’s more. You know that the more successful your graduates are, the more successful the program will become. The school will achieve higher rankings, attract world-class students and faculty, and inspire alumni to give back generously.

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That’s why you’re doing all in your power to set your students up for success. And you know that in these future leadership roles, the soft skills will be just as important as the hard skills.

When I got my MBA from Kellogg, the number one piece of advice from alumni was to take as many classes as possible on people management, so it wasn’t surprising that Management Communications required far and away the most points in the bidding system for seats in the most competitive classes.

Every aspiring executive knows that becoming a better communicator will help him or her become a better leader. But “getting better” is easier said than done. It requires countless hours of practice, preparation, and even more importantly, quality coaching and guidance. Want to hire a great communications coach? The best cost upwards of $5,000 to $10,000 — per day. That’s more than most MBA programs can afford to provide for their students, and much more than anyone on a student budget can afford.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Today, through communications science and machine learning, we can analyze samples of each student’s communication — text, audio, or video — and return the feedback and improvement recommendations you’d get not from just one expert communication coach, but from a panel of the best communications coaches. All for a fraction of the cost of one coaching session. What makes this possible? We are living in the era of personal communication analytics, where communication improvement is accessible to each and every one of us.  

How can we measure communication?

Three decades ago, researchers like James Pennebaker at the University of Texas and Sandy Pentland at MIT started measuring people’s behavior — from the words they use, to the changes in their health, to the things they spend money on. Their revolutionary experiments in collecting and analyzing such personal data have created waves of innovation in personal tracking, from devices like Fitbits and personal blood sugar monitors to baby socks that measure temperature.

But for me, the most dramatic impact of these innovations in behavioral tracking has been in measuring how we write and speak. The ability to capture patterns of text and speech, as simple as it sounds, has transformed our work.

siri alexa cortana.pngThis technology powers Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, and enables us to get immediate, automated assistance from our favorite B2B and B2C companies via chatbots on their websites. Communication analytics even help us measure and identify the qualities we’re looking for in our leaders.

Now, several companies around the world are working on making the same technology widely accessible, not merely to high-powered corporate leaders and learning and development programs, but also to people like you.


I cofounded one of these companies. Six years ago I decided it was time to help people in an area that not only drives our productivity at work and our relationships in and out of the office, but also affects our overall happiness and the impact we have on our world: communication.

My cofounder — a Ph.D. data scientist — and I began work in my dorm room at Northwestern. We started with a simple question: What could the world look like if everyone could effectively relay any message to any audience? Would we all be happier? More connected? More open?

It is notoriously hard to predict where new technology might take us. And the same is true for human communications today.


The ripples of the personal analytics revolution may be hard to predict, but one thing is certain: revolutions don't move backwards, and analytics is already spreading faster than we could have imagined. And that’s why we want to be there, right at the edge.

Think about the moment you realized it had been years since you’d last seen a home phone tethered to the wall, or when you looked around you at a coffee shop and realized every single person was working on a laptop — no longer tethered to a mainframe, or even a desk. These are the kinds of revolutions I’m talking about, and we’ve seen them in communications, too, as pioneers in countless industries have begun using communication analytics to improve both their businesses and their communities.

For example, researchers from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media have used communication and audio-visual processing technology to measure the extent of the gender gap in film. MIT’s media lab has used speech recognition software to identify hints of depression in people’s communication patterns. And executives across the country have begun using analytics to identify their communication strengths and weaknesses and build roadmaps to improvement.

As an entrepreneur and CEO, I’m always looking for ways to improve, so I've used the QC platform to evaluate and strengthen my own communication skills. An analysis of a 2014 SXSW talk found that while the content of my talk came across as very confident, my voice was actually making me sound uncertain. Specifically, when I was under pressure, I adopted a breathy quality that made my vocal delivery 4.8 times less effective than the average TED speaker. Armed with this data, I was able to pinpoint exactly what I needed to work on to improve my QC Score (a combination of content, delivery, and audience perception) by 43 pecent — and make sure my talk would resonate with my audience.

Noah Zandan Improvement.pngImagine if all of our leaders, or aspiring leaders, had the opportunity to get such nuanced, objective, and personalized feedback before every key communication event.

We've reached a point where every management program candidate (not to mention their professors, administrators, and future bosses) can actually understand and improve the way they communicate, without blowing their bank accounts.


What if you could copy and paste your next presentation into an app that will analyze it and return meaningful feedback?

It's at times like this that profound transformation is bound to happen — moments when a transformative, powerful technology that was once limited to a select few is finally within everyone’s reach, from high-powered executives and deep-pocketed celebrities, to cash-strapped students.

Think about it. As a leader, you’ll spend at least 80 percent of your workdays communicating. Why wouldn’t you embrace this kind of opportunity to get better at the one activity you’ll do more than anything else?

So if you're curious, get up close and personal with your communication skills today. You may just nail your next big conversation, earn the promotion you’ve had your eye on, and build up the charisma and poise you’ve always dreamed of displaying as a leader.
 



To find out how QC can use our communication analytics platform to help your leadership deliver best-in-class messaging, 
email us at info@quantifiedcommunications.com.
 

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