Our Search for Meaning

Lessons from Viktor Frankl

Our Search for Meaning

You Spend 8 Hours a Day Consuming Media

How to make it count.

You Spend 8 Hours a Day Consuming Media

Lessons from Prison

How to Create Success From Setbacks

Lessons from Prison

The Degreed team packed their bags and hit the road to Vegas for the biggest, baddest HR event: the SHRM 2015 Annual Conference and Expo. Over 15,000 attendees filled the expo halls to discover new strategies and best practices to help them accomplish their initiatives and goals. 

Degreed CEO David Blake hosted a session “Putting Learners First”, where he discussed how to empower learners. David touched on the powerful effect of embracing the random, small, ‘just because’ learning to create better, engaged learning cultures. The shift from managing learning to empowering learners begins by offering new tools, content and technologies to engage learners and track ALL kinds of learning. 

In addition to David’s speaking session, the Degreed team met with over 800 HR professionals over the course of the conference to help them solve L&D, on-boarding, training, and employee engagement issues. The biggest takeaway from SHRM? The future of making ALL learning count has never been brighter. 

Degreed Team

By tracking, measuring, and validating all the learning employees do, Degreed helps companies leverage the entire learning ecosystem. To learn more or to see a demo click here.

You may be familiar with American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, who developed the theory of self-actualization. In Maslow’s studies, he identified the hierarchy of needs which include five fundamental elements needed in order to reach the stage of self-actualization. These five elements are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. Maslow argues that an individual cannot be fulfilled in life unless all five elements are met, working from the bottom to the top.

Throughout life, we work towards acquiring these elements so that we can live a comfortable life. We immerse ourselves in various every day activities. One of the activities that plays a large role in our lives is work. Similarly, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be directly translated into our needs within our careers. Although we all have varying work schedules, we dedicate a great deal of time towards our jobs and the responsibilities they require. This is how the hierarchy of needs applies to our growth and happiness within the workplace.

 

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  1. Physiological Needs –Air, food, drink, shelter, sleep

At work, your physiological needs include the factors that make up the work environment such as a clean working space, work supplies, technology, etc. In order to carry out tasks efficiently, you first need to have the essential tools and assets readily available. A lack of physical comfort at work can result in distraction or failure to produce work that meets the expected standards.

 

  1. Safety Needs –Protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear

Making sure you feel safe from any harm, whether it is mental or physical, is a significant aspect in the quality of life at work. There are various factors that play part in ensuring safety in the workforce. These factors include a reasonable income, medical/dental insurance, accommodating benefits, and proper rules and regulations implemented by Human Resources. A lack of safety or a culture of fear can lead to work-related stress which can impose major consequences both inside and outside of work.

 

  1. Love and Belonging Needs –Friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships

One of the needs that could make or break your path to self-actualization at work is feeling support and a sense of belonging with people you work with. Teamwork, mentorship, and a sense of acceptance from co-workers largely affect how employees feel about the company. It is important for you to feel like you are a valuable asset to the team, and to feel that you are making a contribution towards end goals. Without the support from fellow co-workers, one can feel insignificant, isolated, and alone.

 

  1. Esteem Needs –Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others

Esteem needs go hand in hand with love and belongingness needs. Feeling that your work matters and is recognized by others plays a large role in how you feel about yourself. Mastering concepts and becoming an expert at what you do builds esteem. In addition, the way you present yourself at work is imperative in gaining the trust and respect from your surrounding peers. It is also essential towards your own personal growth within a company.

 

  1. Self-Actualization Needs –Realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences

Realizing your full potential by seeing your path and where it can lead you is the ultimate goal in any work experience. Learning how and where you can apply your skills and knowledge greatly impacts the future you see yourself having. Self-Actualization within your career can result in peak experiences that make you a better employee and member of society.

 

All work experiences are a significant learning experience towards the person that you want to become and where you want to succeed. Once we achieve the fifth level of Self-Actualization, our needs are met to enable us to pursue the career of your dreams. Where are you now? How can you push yourself to reach the next level?

 

Tweet us your thoughts on how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies to your career at @degreed. You just learned about psychology and personal development, track what you learned on your Degreed profile.

 

You can find Lindsey on Twitter and LinkedIn

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Let’s be honest, our best learning experiences often occur when we’re not thinking about the fact that we’re learning. When we find ourselves laughing out loud, or captivated by a story or image, our sense of being entertained usually trumps our recognition that we’re being educated.

Many quality examples of this “edutainment” are offered online, but finding them can be tricky. So we’ve done the hard work for you and scoured the web for our favorite recent blogs, podcasts and videos that excel in their ability to amuse as well as inform. Here’s our top five:

John Oliver Explains Patent Law

Unless you’re an inventor or an attorney, you probably know very little about U.S. patent law. Luckily, we have a hilarious British talk show host to explain it to us. Oliver’s opening rant against “patent trolls” is priceless, especially his commentary on a bizarre new dance patented by a feline artist. If you liked this, you’ll probably also get a kick out of Oliver’s coverage of U.S. chicken farming.

 

99% Invisible. Episode 161: Show of Force

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This podcast tells the story of a crazy idea hatched by two U.S. soldiers serving during WWII. Their plan involved the recruitment of young designers and artists into the army to create a deception unit, aka Ghost Army, which consisted of inflatable rubber tanks, fake artillery, pre-recorded battle sounds, and other illusory equipment. 99% Invisible once again delivers a story you won’t forget.

 

10 Amazing Bets that You’ll Always Win

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In this latest video from Richard Wiseman (a former magician who’s now a renowned Psychology professor) we learn the secrets behind ten tricks you can use to astonish your friends. This is just one of many videos Wiseman has produced to illustrate his research on the psychology of luck, illusion, humor, and deception. Check out Wiseman’s “59 Seconds” YouTube channel where he offers nearly 30 proven life-changing ideas in less than a minute each.

 

Misconceptions about Caffeine

As usual, Mental Floss has proven that several of my basic assumptions were wrong. Using scientific research to back up its claims, this video sets the record straight about both the positive and negative effects of caffeine. Who knew that an 8oz coffee can pack in twice the amount of caffeine as an 8oz Red Bull? You can also learn a thing or two from this Mental Floss video which discusses misconceptions about the weather. Spoiler Alert: Counting the seconds between when you see and hear thunder probably isn’t giving you the information you think it is.

 

The Key to Becoming a Creative Genius

If you’re not familiar with James Altucher, this podcast is a great place to start. The best-selling author’s quirky views on business and personal growth always challenge and inspire. If you like this podcast, be sure to check out his blog, Altucher Confidential. You can even ask Altucher any question you want on his site and if he finds it interesting he’ll devote an entire podcast to answering it!

 

You just learned about patent law, history, psychology, health, and leadership. Track it all and get credit on your Degreed profile. You can find Jedd McFatter on Twitter. Tweet us your favorite Edutainment pieces at @degreed

We know that employees are looking beyond what their Learning & Development departments have to offer. They’re choosing to learn in different ways from a much more diverse range of sources. Meanwhile, most L&D infrastructure is still geared for the same old thing – managing formal training. It’s time to meet, and embrace, the new learning ecosystem. Here’s how you can leverage it.

Start by listening to the crowd and what they’re teaching us about learning. Learning at (and for) work has changed radically. Learners are making their own choices now: People spend at least 4-5x more time on self-directed learning than on what their L&D departments build and buy. The crowd is telling us 3 major things about learning:

1. Learners want faster, easier answers. The easiest way to find an answer or learn something for their jobs is to Google it and watch or read what they find. We’re doing this because in many cases it’s efficient and all we really need.

2. Learners need more diverse options. They want to learn in many different ways–not just from courses and formal training programs. In fact, more than 70% of people have learned something for their job from an article, a video, or a book in the last 24 hours. Unfortunately, most of that learning is outside of the view of the L&D or HR process.

3. Learners want to leverage the entire learning ecosystem. Most workers told us that up to 60% of the knowledge and skills they use at work come from informal training.

In addition, 90% said they would prefer to be given credit for their own learning vs. learning at L&D or HR’s direction.

Learning ecosystem

We need to start valuing informal learning- which could be a big, under-leveraged tool for building learning culture. You can try to change everyone else’s preferences and habits or you can change how L&D works.

The difficulty is that while the way we’re all learning has evolved, the way many L&D organizations invest hasn’t really. Right now most systems are set up for command-and-control, one-to-many broadcast approach. In order to put learners first, the people and processes, the programs and content, and the tools and technology systems all need to reflect this new reality.

Say hello to the new learning ecosystem

The tools to help you leverage it are already out there, and it’s much more than just LMSs and SharePoint sites.

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The Learning Ecosystem should include a rich mix of 3 things

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What does that look like in practice?

-Look past proprietary or vendor content. Embrace alternative formats and sources.

-Do more than just build, buy, and push content. Crowdsource, curate, and assemble it. Remember that 4 of the top 10 tools for learning are consumer social networks. Empower your learners to crowdsource and assemble content too!

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-Measure more than formal training. Track, recognize, and value all kinds of learning. There’s no excuse: You should be recognizing and valuing all kinds of learning. This means measuring more than formal training.

New ways of learning demand different kinds of infrastructure. Infrastructure that empowers. New tools, content and technologies are essential for re-engaging learners and reconnecting L&D to business. By focusing on some new priorities, incorporating some new approaches, and rebalancing your investments you can leverage this new learning ecosystem to make L&D better serve your learners.

If you missed the webinar get the full recording here

To discover how we can help you empower learners and leverage the entire learning ecosystem check out get.degreed.com.

Tweet your thoughts on leveraging the new learning ecosystem to @degreed

In the 1980’s Michael Santos started trafficking cocaine, which eventually resulted in a 45 year prison sentence. Michael experienced an intense change in mentality and earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, wrote 2 books longhand, married his wife, and earned six figures on the stock market- all behind bars.  Click here to read Part I of this 2 Part Series “No Excuses:  How Michael Santos Created Success in Prison”.

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Michael Santos was released from prison in 2012 after serving 26 years. He has an extraordinary outlook on life and an insatiable desire to make himself and others better. I had the opportunity to do an interview with him, one of the first things he said was “Be the change you want to see in the world!” Michael’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. There is much to value in his advice.

Can you describe your transition from the criminal mentality to using your prison sentence to learn and grow? Was it an instant change of thought or more of a slow transition?

When I was 21 years old I saw Scarface and it really influenced me. I wanted to get into that. I eventually got arrested [for dealing cocaine] when I was 23. I knew I was facing a very long sentence—possibly life without parole. My case didn’t involve any violence, but because of the war on drugs people were getting long sentences. After I was convicted, but before I was sentenced, I read the story of Socrates. Socrates was in jail, and he had an opportunity to escape. But he didn’t take it. He chose death. That story had a profound effect on me. It made me think about what I could do to make the most of my time in prison. It was an instantaneous change after I read that story. I began to think about what steps I could take to reconcile with society.

What was it that led you to pick up that book?

In jail I started to pray and ask for guidance. I didn’t pray to get out of jail, but to get me through the journey. Those prayers led me to the book, A Treasury of Philosophy—specifically the story of Socrates.

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I was a terrible student in school and never read books growing up. But my prayers led me to read that book. I began to think, “What would law-abiding citizens expect from me?”

That’s when I came up with a three-part plan. I was going to educate myself, contribute to society, and build a support network. If I could execute that plan, I could emerge from prison with dignity.

While you were in prison you were met with setback after setback, yet you came out victorious. What advice would you give to someone who is discouraged because of setbacks in his/her life?

I would encourage them to visualize success. Figure out the best possible outcome to their life. I started to think in the cell, not about getting through the day or the week, but about success. I would think, “What is the best possible outcome for this?” The visualization was to become a law-abiding citizen. I wanted people to see me as a good person—not just someone who made bad decisions as a youth. The more clarity I got on that, the more empowered I became.

Don’t look at today’s struggle because then you are just focused on those struggles. Make a three-year, five-year, or ten-year plan. Visualize what the best possible outcome is in three, five, or ten years. Then reverse engineer where you need to be and create a plan. Create a plan for what you can accomplish in a year, a month, a week, and a day and work on that. You become empowered as an individual as you move toward what you define as a victory.

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How have you adjusted your personal growth patterns now that you have more freedom?

I’m still very disciplined. I’ve been free from the Bureau of Prisons for almost two years now. I’ve found there are so many more tools to use. I got a nice Mac Pro: no more spinning ball! I’m trying to learn social media better. When I was in prison I never even sent an email. I read about it, but I never experienced it. I have a lot to learn, and I still need to master the tools that are available.

What’s next for you?

My big project right now is a new podcast that I have developed. It’s called Earning Freedom. I produce a new episode every day. On the episodes I interview formerly incarcerated people or business leaders. I’m trying to connect with more employers and formerly incarcerated people to learn from them and tell their stories.

I have also written a few simple eBooks to help individuals who have been indicted—so they can really understand the process they will be going through. I want to help them begin a deliberate path and position themselves so they can emerge successfully without letting the prison experience be a failure.

Will you be writing another book?

Yes. I will be writing a follow up to my book Earning Freedom that will have the details of my time after I was released from prison

If you haven’t read Michael’s book, Earning Freedom, I highly recommend it. You can also read more about Michael’s story or listen to his podcast here

Click here to read Part I: No Excuses: How Michael Santos Created Success In Prison

It’s no secret that SHRM is the biggest, baddest HR event in the world, with tools, resources, and speakers that can help you and your company thrive. This year SHRM touts over 200 sessions. The huge variety of sessions can also prove overwhelming with so many options. We’ve done you a favor and created a list of the top 7 must-attend sessions of the conference. Add these to your schedule to get the most out of SHRM this year, and come thank us later at booth#3615. We’ll see you in Vegas.

1. Putting Learners First
6/28/2015 5:00pm – 5:30pm | Exhibitor Solutions Theater

2. Mega Session: Leverage Culture for Strategic Business Transformation
6/29/2015 4:00pm – 5:15 pm | Paradice Event Center South
Competencies: Communication, Global and Cultural Effectiveness, Business Acumen
Intended Audience: Senior-level

3. Global Session: Adidas NWOW (New Way of Working) – The Evolution
6/29/2015 2:oo pm – 3:15 pm | LVCC N210-212
Competencies: Leadership & Navigation, HR Expertise
Intended Audience: Midlevel

4. Global Session: How You Can Use LinkedIn Data to Hire Better, Faster
07/01/2015 10:00am – 11:15am | LVCC N257
Competencies: HR Expertise, Global and Cultural Effectiveness
Intended Audience: Midlevel

5. The SHRM Competency Model: Nine Critical Competencies for HR Success
6/30/2015 4:00pm – 5:15pm | LVCC N257
Competencies: Leadership & Navigation
Intended Audience: All Levels

6. Executive Exchange: The Inner Workings of Cirque du Soleil
6/30/2015 10:45am – 12:00 pm | LVCC N256
Competencies: HR Expertise, Communication
Intended Audience: Midlevel

7. Masters Series: How Organizations Learn, Innovate and Compete in the Knowledge Economy
6/29/2015 10:30am – 12:15pm | Paradise Event Center South
Competencies: Leadership & Navigation

 

You can catch us at booth #3615 to see how we can help you empower your learners and leverage the whole learning ecosystem. 

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Everyone knows most learning happens beyond classroom walls and outside learning management systems (LMSs). New research is finally showing just how much, and the data is startling.

Our research, conducted via two separate surveys over the last year, shows that workers spend 4x to 5x more time on self-directed learning than on what their L&D departments build and buy. They invest more than 14 hours a month, on average, learning on their own, but just two to three hours on employer-provided training.

That should matter to learning professionals because it’s the starting point for understanding not just why L&D needs to evolve – urgently – but also how. And if you watch and listen carefully, the crowd is giving us three major clues about the future of talent development. Here’s what learners really want:

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In this month’s Webinar we’re diving into how to leverage the new learning ecosystem to better serve learners. Sign up here and join us! If you’re interested in what Degreed does to leverage the new learning ecosystem click here.

Sometimes I lie in my hammock and just stare at the sky. In those moments, I often reflect on my hopes and dreams. Where will I be in a year? Five years? Ten years? Will life be better? Worse? The same? Frankly, no matter how good my life is at the time, if I were still the same person in ten years, I would consider those ten years a major failure.

We all have dreams about the future. However, it’s hard to get past the thinking stage. If we do get past the thinking stage, we usually don’t get too far before we find valid excuses to stop.

So the question is, how do we push through challenges without making excuses and giving up? If we can find out the answer to this question, nothing will stop us from going boldly in the direction of our dreams of a better life and creating success.

In 1987, Michael Santos was arrested for trafficking in cocaine and sentenced to 45 years. That’s a pretty big wrench in the gears. What Michael chose to do in his predicament will inspire you to quit making excuses and take control of your future.

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Michael wasn’t a violent criminal, but he was thrown into a prison where learning how to be a functioning member of society was almost impossible. In USP Atlanta, a maximum-security penitentiary, dehumanizing prison guards and bloody gang wars surrounded him. He had plenty of valid excuses to adapt into the prison culture, and gamble away his chances of ever reemerging into society as a productive citizen.

With his future on the line, Michael took the road less traveled. He was determined to make the best of his prison sentence and do whatever it took to atone for his crimes.

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“I want to acknowledge that I’m responsible for what I did, and for what I am, and for where I am, and I want to begin to make decisions that will improve my character and my life.”

Michael began immersing himself in literature. Finding wisdom in the words of the likes of Mandela, Shakespeare, Solzhenitsyn, Plato, Dante, Dostoyevsky, Homer, Locke, Hobbes, and Nietzsche, he came to realize that education was the key to his future.

By continuing to educate myself, I’m taking proactive steps to overcome my adversity.

As one of his first major educational leaps, he wrote a book. He finished Drugs and Money, a book that he intended to have distributed to schools, jails and other organizations for at-risk adolescents, after only being in prison for two years. With the help of his sister, he secured $20,000 to cover printing costs so the book could be distributed for free.

With an insatiable desire for learning, Michael eventually decided to get some real credentials behind his name. He enrolled in a college program, and in 1992 graduated inside of USP Atlanta. Three years later he received a Master of Arts with an emphasis on the American prison system. One of the professors he worked with even got him accepted into a PhD program through the University of Connecticut. What happened next launched him into some of the most interesting and successful years of his prison term.

Education has been my solace, and exciting and challenging escape from the monotony of confinement.

As Michael progressed through his sentence, he was transferred to many different penitentiaries. He happened to be transferred to a new prison just before he began his PhD work. The warden of the new prison denied his request to receive books from the university. Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to a new prison and was denied yet again. He was told he was a prisoner in a “federal prison, not a college.”

Accepting that his formal education track was likely over, he decided to shift gears and study law. He found a program that allowed him to study with the existing law books in the prison library. Every prison has a law library so he would no longer have to beg for permission to study.

Knowing he would need a good chunk of change to start his life after his prison term, his plan was to eventually make money charging other inmates for his help with their cases. But before Michael could finish the program, Gary, a man with a strong Russian accent, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He asked Michael to read through his case and see if he could find a way to get his sentence shortened. All Michael had to do was name his price. After Michael got a call from his sister saying $2000 had appeared in her account, he knew Gary was serious. The two developed a friendship that would prove quite lucrative.

Michael read the Wall Street Journal daily and followed stock trends on a TV inside the prison. This was right when Internet companies were going public and Michael wanted to try his hand in the market. He phoned his sister and had her make some risky investments for him. The investments paid off. He turned his $2000 into $6000. When Gary found out about all this, he made a deal with Michael. Gary would give him $100,000 to invest, but only if he took the same risks he did with the $2000. If Michael lost all the money, no big deal. But whatever gains they ended up with, they would split evenly. (Side note: If you know anyone willing to make that kind of deal, send them my way!)

At the peak of it all, they got up to $1 million in equity. Eventually, the volatility of trading through his sister from prison caught up with them. They lost $400,000 in only a couple days. Less Uncle Sam’s cut, they still ended up with a six-figure gain, but Michael realized he couldn’t handle trading stocks from prison anymore.

After stocks were off the table, Michael had to continue his education elsewhere. With the Internet taking off, he began writing articles that his family would post for him online. His writing eventually garnered some high-profile attention and he was asked to write a book about his prison experience. Inside: Life Behind Bars in America was published in 2006.

For six more years, Michael pushed the envelope from behind bars. He continued his writing, led a self-help class for inmates, and even excelled physically by running over 1000 days in a row to the tune of over 10,000 total miles. 4,000 of those miles came in a single year and 700 of them in a single month.

Throughout Michael’s sentence, he never let excuses get in the way of his dreams. When all was said and done, his prison sentence was reduced to 26 years. He walked out of prison in August 2012, and has continued to learn and share his knowledge.

Michael’s story shows us that anyone can improve his or her predicament through education. Most of us will never have the opportunity to use the excuses Michael consistently refused to use. So if we don’t become the person we hope to become, it’s our own fault. And when life does throw us curveballs and we’re tempted to make excuses—no matter how valid—just remember, there are no excuses great enough to make up for lost dreams.

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Michael tells our readers more about his transformation and gives you the techniques he used during his prison sentence to push through setbacks and challenges to reach their goals. Read our exclusive interview in Part II: Lessons from Prison: How to Create Success From Setbacks

Facts and quotes sourced from Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term by Michael G. Santos. You can see what Michael is up to now at michaelsantos.com.

The future belongs to those who can generate the best ideas. Plain and simple.

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In a highly competitive world where employment is unstable and currencies are declining, unexpected events can quickly derail our dreams and drain our bank accounts.

Because money can always run out. Ideas, on the other hand, are limitless. If we ever find that our backs are up against the wall, those of us who are able to come up with new ideas will be the ones who bounce back strong.

But there’s no reason to wait for a crisis. The ability to generate ideas will always create opportunities to build wealth and find success, by freeing us from our total reliance on others’ (often bad) ideas, and by allowing us to also help others break free. If we want to be the kind of innovators who consistently produce great ideas, we need to start today by embracing a new mindset and approach that weaves the process of idea creation into our everyday lives. The good news is that this process is often a fun and exhilarating experience.

The days of waiting around for some mythical “Aha!” moment are over. Now’s the time to reach out and switch on your own lightbulb. Here are some habits and techniques to get you started.

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Habits

● Read deeply and widely. Branch out and study subjects you’re not familiar with. Engage with all the different forms of media and always take time to reflect on the information you’re absorbing. You’ll need a lot of raw data to work with if you’re trying to generate exceptional ideas.

● Look for patterns and trends. Learn to connect the dots. Hone your ability to see the relationships between elements. Steve Jobs put it best in an interview with Wired Magazine when he said that “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something…they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

● Ask more questions. Challenge more assumptions. Be the person who asks “what if” over and over. Sometimes we’re so focused on getting answers that we forget to ask the most worthwhile questions. Best-selling author Warren Berger explains the power of innovative questioning in his book A More Beautiful Question, and lays out a system to help us develop more productive inquiries. Check out this podcast interview for a brief overview of Berger’s ideas.

● Embed yourself in an environment (or create one) that’s conducive to creative thinking. Work and spend time with others that allow you to test out your thoughts, to think out loud without judgment. Constant worry about how others will receive your ideas stifles creativity. Build a network of friends and colleagues who understand that the incubation process for birthing great ideas requires patience, encouragement, and critical feedback. Science writer Steven Johnson brilliantly describes what an idea-inducing environment looks like in this famous hand-drawn animated video: Where Do Ideas Come From?

● Write down all of your ideas! Don’t let a single one slip through the cracks. Carry a notepad everywhere you go, or use an app on your phone to record ideas whenever they arise (I’m hooked on Simplenote and Mindly). Be sure to document all of the persistent problems or needs that you encounter, because many of your best ideas will come from trying to resolve your own concerns. Also keep an idea journal, paper or digital, where you can track your ideas and practice the techniques below.

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Techniques

● Study unexpected successes. Analyze businesses that achieved against all odds; trends that popped up out of nowhere and took the world by storm; high-demand products no one predicted would sell; sports teams that proved all the critics wrong. Identify the fundamental ideas and conditions that led to these successes, and then see how they can be applied to your own ideas and environment. Here’s a list of unexpected success stories you can start analyzing right away.

● Master metaphorical thinking. Learn how to use comparisons to express ideas and solve problems. Metaphors directly link unrelated things by evoking vivid images that help us see from a different perspective. Think about some metaphors we’re all familiar with: Time is money, Domino Effect, Lame Duck. These are well-known because they do such a great job of framing something unfamiliar in a way that expands conceptual understanding and inspires creative problem-solving.

● Use singular brainstorming sessions to generate more original ideas. This means formulating ideas on your own before bringing them to a group, which will help you avoid the pitfalls that often come with group brainstorming, such as idea plagiarism and fixation, personality conflicts, and anchoring biases, among others. For more effective group sessions, try Brainwriting instead.

● Use the right brainstorming tool. With literally hundreds to choose from, finding the tool that best suits your goal is important. For instance, if your objective is to find peripheral ideas surrounding a central idea, you might consider using mind maps. If you need to come up with a lot of “outside the box” ideas as rapidly as possible, you should try a few lateral thinking techniques. If you want a basic, tried and true method that can be applied to anything, you can go old-school and implement James Webb Young’s 5-Step Technique (developed in 1939 but still remarkably effective).

Whenever I am trying to formulate ideas to improve an existing service or product, I like to use the SCAMPER tool to make sure I leave no stone unturned. When I’m looking for solutions to a hard-to-solve problem and feel stuck in narrow way of viewing the issue, I employ the Reverse Brainstorming technique.

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My advice is to start off experimenting with as many methods as you can. Eventually you’ll develop a knack for choosing the most fruitful approach.

For more brainstorming techniques, tools and tips, here are more lists and guides:

14 Brainstorming and Idea-Generating Techniques That Work (this list comes with a useful set of worksheets you can use).
James Altucher’s Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine
18 Best Idea Generation Techniques
13 Unusual Brainstorming Methods that Work
38 Tools for Getting More Ideas
How the most creative business people generate ideas
Where the World’s Most Innovative Companies Get Their Ideas
Idea Generation Techniques among Creative Professionals (list begins on pg. 5)
Ultimate Brainstorming (comes with a free workbook)
Mindtools Brainstorming Toolkits
Idea Generation Techniques booklet

 

You can catch Jedd McFatter on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

Each year, Colleges and Universities from all over the globe graduate thousands upon thousands of students who are eager to share their newly acquired knowledge and skills with the world. After years of digesting curriculum that has been outlined for them by their respective schools, graduates take what they have learned and relentlessly search for careers in which they can showcase these abilities.

While the class of 2015 may be facing the best job climate in over a decade, demand for entry-level positions in specific sought-after fields creates a great deal of competition and high levels of anxiety for those who are vying for a particular job. Many post-graduates find that they don’t have the necessary experience or hard-skills to beat the competition in landing their dream jobs. When left in the dust, these new graduates may take whatever position they can find which closely resembles their ideal career.

Of the 52% of college students who actually graduate, about 40% of them will face mal-employment, which means they are employed but not with the use of their degree. When this happens, it paves the way for a path that these individuals may not have planned for. Once on that path, many find it hard to veer off and eventually feel stuck and lost. Working in jobs that we may not enjoy or even care about can lead to feeling unmotivated and insignificant.

That fire which we carried on a first job interview dims into a flickering flame that we no longer feel compelled to reignite. The passion felt when stepping into a favorite class has faded as we enter into a somewhat monotonous routine of waking up, going to work, going home, and doing it all over again.

Further contributing to young employees losing their passion for work is that many companies may fail to inquire about the person behind the emails. The person who dedicates their time and energy 40+ hours per week is more than what they do at their desk. It can be easy for companies to overlook strong skill sets that their employees possess outside of their job requirements.

But how would they even know? Do employers care to ask? Do they value growth and developing passions beyond what’s required to complete their daily tasks? Both employers and employees have the power to put these skills and additional knowledge to use.

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Utilizing technology, we have ways to pursue passions and skills further, and communicate to our employer strong traits and skills we possess that may not come up in the minutia of day-to-day work. As individuals, we all have a way to measure and capture all we know and love to learn about, inside and outside of our formal education. We have the privilege and capability to step outside of the box and fulfill the dream jobs we strive to obtain. Options like additional online learning, passion projects, freelance work, or speaking up to your manager about what you really love to do are all available. We can advance our skills and knowledge in many ways even though we are no longer in the classroom. The beauty of innovations within technology in the past few decades is that it has provided us with endless opportunities to make something great out of nothing.

The person behind the emails has endless resources to progress and learn. Humans are made up of multiple facets – Their educational background, life experiences, work experiences, hobbies & interests, social network, etc. When all those pieces can come together in one job, it creates a recipe for true fulfillment. If, on the other hand, an individual doesn’t feel their abilities are being properly leveraged to their full potential, then they may flee to pursue outside opportunities where they can grow.

Employers, specifically direct managers, can help by valuing learning and skill development, and recognizing ways to talk about the passions and skills that employees have outside of their job titles, including what they want to learn more about.

For employees, it’s time to recognize and take control of continued growth and being more than just our job titles. Every individual is an essential asset to the world and to areas that may have not yet been discovered. This is how ideas are created. This is how entrepreneurs are born. This is how history is made. Strive to reach your full potential, speak up about your skills, and never settle for being just a person behind an email.

 

Check out degreed.com for more information on measuring and validating all your learning and skills.

You can find Lindsey on Twitter at @LindseyRuns

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