Crystal – Intelligent Assistant for Better Emails

In my last post I alluded to the promise of intelligent assistants in the enterprise. I was envisioning a world in which natural language understanding combines algorithms and other technologies to give office workers the perfect personal assistant. Our assistants will be omnipresent with data, reminders, insights, and coaching tips to ramp up our effectiveness and propel our careers to the next level.

Crystal KnowsJust this week I stumbled upon an application that might be added to the future enterprise assistant’s repertoire. While listening to a podcast from Note to Self, I heard about an application called Crystal. Crystal is designed to help you write more effective emails by coaching you to tailor your email message for your intended recipient.

How does Crystal work? Based on the Note to Self broadcast, Crystal tries to build a profile of the recipient by searching for samples of their writing in their LinkedIn profile, tweets, and other publically available social media content. Crystal then applies an algorithm to this content to determine the intended recipient’s most likely personality style, based on the DISC personality model.

Using the DISC profile, the Crystal algorithm derives a plausible model of the recipient’s preferred communication style. It’s then able to coach you in drafting an effective email message. According to the Crystal website, the coaching solution is meant to help you communicate with empathy.

The demo on the Crystal website shows suggestions for emailing with Mark Cuban, who apparently prefers short and direct communications. As you write the email, Crystal actually recommends rephrasings that will help you get your point across more effectively to your audience. When emailing Cuban, Crystal suggests replacing longer sentences such as “I am afraid I won’t be able to make it this Friday,” with a shorter, more to the point sentence along the lines of “I won’t be able to make it this Friday.”

If you’re inclined to hem and haw about a possible new date for the meeting, Crystal coaches you to suggest a specific date for Mark to accept or decline, such as “Can we reschedule for next Tuesday?” By the time you’re finished writing your message, you feel confident that you have a good shot at connecting with Mark on his level and in the way he prefers.

I’ve had training on DISC personality styles, including how best to communicate with people depending on their particular personality profile. I’ve found it almost impossible to keep all this in mind when the time comes to actually talk or email people. My guess is that I slip back automatically into the communication style that I prefer.

If Crystal can truly help us improve the effectiveness of our communications, it’ll be a great addition to the enterprise productivity toolset of our future personal intelligent “enterprise” assistant. The Note to Self podcast brought up the topic of privacy concerns, as well as the worry that leveraging personality insights to tailor communications could lead to manipulation. These are valid concerns that need to be addressed. But Crystal provides a glimpse into the powerful assistance that intelligent software could soon provide those of us forced to navigate the slippery slopes within the enterprise.

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