The signs are everywhere--software is changing the world. Smart cameras determine if Nadal's serve was out by a millimeter and enable you to see if your nanny is doing what she is supposed to or hanging out with her boyfriend. Driverless trucks will soon make deliveries faster and reduce accidents on highways. They will also upend the economics of the transportation industry and the labor implications are huge.

When the software revolution began, a scant three decades ago it started small. The first step was helping you do what you already did faster, better and cheaper. So word processors replaced typewriters and the days of correction fluid are long gone.

Then it bought the power of information to organize and create market platforms and eBay and Amazon appeared. So did Apple and iTunes.

Then it identified waste and inefficiency. Do you have more house than you need and bedrooms lying idle? AirBnB will help you monetize it. Is your car lying idle most of the time? Uber and Lyft come to your rescue and provide you an alternate source of income.

We are now going further on the limb. Can software actually make you a better person? Or help you in your quest to become one?

Headspace, with its millions of adherents, is trying to do so by encouraging you to be mindful and giving you daily doses of ways to look differently at the situations that plague you.

And now CareerLark tries to give you tools to quickly improve in areas that you choose and this improvement could well change who you are and how you are perceived. (Full disclosure--one of the co-founders is my daughter.)

Many years ago I read an article by Atul Gawande, the surgeon and author, about the importance of coaching. He wondered why world-class athletes such as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic still have coaches. Surely there was nothing that they had to learn from players who did not achieve a fraction of what they had?

He was hitting with the club coach at a facility he was visiting and mentioned this. He was also a strong tennis player and fancied his serve as the best part of his game. The coach spent some time observing him and then started tinkering. Could he move his foot fraction this way? And perhaps change the angle of the racket as it reached the small of his back preparatory to slamming the ball at his opponent?

Within a half hour Gawande had added ten miles per hour to his already powerful serve. He went on to muse about the importance of coaching in different disciplines including his own, surgery.

It turns out that virtually everyone, in any field, can benefit from skilled coaching. This is why you use a trainer when you work out. He tells you that you are holding the barbell too far in front or that your repetitions are too fast and to slow down.

The key to improvement is feedback. It needs to be fast, from someone you trust and that gives you something you can implement right away.

Now let's marry this with the concept of a 'mastermind group.' Popularized by Napoleon Hill, author of the perennial bestseller Think and Grow Rich, this is a group of persons you select who will serve as your sounding board and trusted advisor. Many disciples of Hill swear that they were able to achieve phenomenal success because of the power of their group and help they received.

There is, of course, nothing that beats the power of a live meeting either individually with members of the group or collectively.

But CareerLark is making a bet that much of the value can be captured electronically.

Let's examine how this would work.

Say you want to be more clear and unambiguous in communicating. You know that some persons in meetings you conducted were unsure what you were advocating and what you wanted them to do. You list this as your objective in CareerLark.

You then specify who you would like to get feedback from. These are persons you trust and they form your mastermind group dedicated to helping you improve.

You also specify when they should be contacted. For example, each member who attended a meeting with you could be contacted within a half hour of the end of the meeting. Or you could have CareerLark reach out to them every week. Or any of a number of customizable options.

And you are done.

CareerLark will reach out to each member of your selected group who was present at a meeting with you and ask how you did in being a clear communicator. The rating is in emojis which makes it fun and non-threatening. There is space for quick comments and suggestions for improvement such as "Speak slowly and articulate clearly. Sometimes you mumble." 

You can try it out for free at http://www.careerlark.com.

A few weeks of this and Strunk and White may use you as an example of clear exposition.

And then you move on to the next area in which you wish to improve, perhaps being encouraging to your team members.

It's a neat way to go for individuals who want to improve and for managers who would like to see their team members burnish their skills.

Will CareerLark succeed in a crowded field of start-ups?

Who knows?

But I will wager that some company with a similar idea will emerge to be the next Facebook.

Published on: May 18, 2016
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