Establishing a Habit of Learning

In 5 Steps

Establishing a Habit of Learning

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

to Empower Your Learners

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

The Best Career Advice

From 6 Self-Made Billionaires

The Best Career Advice

Before you read any further, indulge me for a moment. Tuck your phone away (unless you happen to be reading this on your phone). If you’re reading this on your computer, close the other 10 tabs you have open. Shut down your email. Now, take a few deep breaths. Are you with me?

Ok. Remember this feeling. Let’s begin.

At Degreed, we often talk about how learning happens all the time. I certainly believe that to be true. Given our infinite access to information these days, there is no shortage of opportunities to be learning something at any moment of the day. However, with the daily grind of our jobs, family activities, and continuous digital connection, it can be tough to pinpoint those exact moments in our lives where true learning happens.

Linda Stone refers to a behavior called continuous partial attention. Perhaps you steal a few minutes in your day to peruse Facebook where you come across a Nifty video on how to remove permanent marker from your skin. Or maybe you’re in Flipboard and you come across This Cheat Sheet Full of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube Shortcut Keys. Our lives are full of these serendipitous nuggets of learning.

The problem is, when we rely solely upon serendipity, we lose focus of our true personal learning objectives. Not that serendipity is bad, but relying upon it as your only method of learning can serve as a hindrance to retention.

These constant distractions and competing priorities in our lives have powered a movement around mindfulness in the workplace. The benefits of mindfulness, as it relates to productivity, are well documented. It’s time that we pause and consider the benefits of being a mindful learner.

Taking time to learn is often thought of as an indulgence. Instead, consider learning as a necessity in order to acquire knowledge to complete a task, solve a problem, or generate new ideas. To gain these benefits requires a more mindful approach to the time we invest to learn.

When I refer to being a mindful learner, I’m referring to creating the conditions by which our mind can focus on the present learning opportunity. Mindful learning is about creating conditions by which your mind can focus on deep learning and comprehension.

Here are 4 ways you can begin creating optimal conditions to learn:

  1. Setup your physical space. Figure out where you learn best. Ideally, some place where you can remove yourself from as many distractions as possible. Turn off your phone or anything else that might steal your attention. If you are going to be using your mobile device as your learning tool, consider turning off  notifications. If you’re going to read a book, set it out so that it’s staring at you when you’re ready.
  2. Plan your learning time. Schedule it on your calendar and honor the time. Don’t ignore it, don’t let someone else schedule over top of it. Remember, this time is an investment in you. Invest a little time in yourself now, in order to grow later. If you think you can’t commit 30 minutes or an hour, start with 10 minutes. Split this time between spending 5 minutes reading on a subject that interests you or watching a video. Use the other 5 minutes to capture what you learned. Speaking of capturing what you learned…
  3. Reflect on your experience. This part is important. Jot your learnings down in a notebook or write post about it on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you’re using a Kindle, use the Notes function to highlight and capture your thoughts. Do something that will cause you to take a moment to reflect on the time you just invested to learn.
  4. Take a cue from Google’s “20% Time.” If you’re a in a leadership position at your company, you have the ability to set the tone for what behaviors take place. Google is well known for giving their employees time to work on side projects they believe could benefit Google. This, in part, is successful because they actively promote the effort, give people the time, and have given people the permission to do it. You should do the same for allocating time and space for people to learn. Perhaps consider a “Study Hall” campaign where the entire company blocks a day to learn. Encourage people who are interested in similar topics to Meetup and share their learnings.

So, now that you’ve spent  a few minutes learning about how to be a more mindful learner, what are your takeaways? While you’re thinking of it, jot them down. Tell someone else about what you learned. If you took the steps I recommended at the start, congratulations! Remember how it felt to give yourself permission to focus. Remember to give yourself that same permission the next time you invest the time to be a more mindful learner.

 

 

To start, a glimpse into my family’s daily learning ritual. 

My family has a daily learning ritual that started when my kids were very young. I was in a graduate program, so everyday, I would come home from school and tell my kids what I had learned that day. They soon anticipated this conversation and started asking me, “What did you learn at school today?”

I progressed through the program, graduated and got a job. As I sat down at the dinner table after my first day of work, my 4 year old daughter asked, “What did you learn at school today, Dad?” I told her that I didn’t go to school anymore – I now go to work. She responded, “Oh … so … what did you learn at work today?”

Her question caught me off-guard. I thought to myself, “Well, it was work, so I worked … I’m not really learning anymore, I’m producing.” But then I realized I’d learned more at my first day of work than any single day in school. I ended up sharing what I learned about being a new employee, about company culture, about my new coworkers, and about the job I would be doing.

Every day at dinner since then, my children have asked “Dad, what did you learn at work today?”

I love two things about this ritual:

  1. I pay more attention to my learning because because I know I’ll be asked about it at dinner
  2. I am able to share some good lessons with my children

Using Degreed to Supercharge your Learning

Degreed helps you record your answer to the question: “What did you learn?”

You can add a learning note when you complete an item on the site:

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Or when you complete through the Degreed browser button:

 

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When your peers add takeaways, you can see what others are learning.

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So, why take note of what you learned?

Takeaways help you learn more

Real learning is driven by questions. Reviewing is a powerful concept in learning, as is personal application. Thinking about what you learn(ed) provides space for both.

Takeaways support retention

It’s sad to me how many times I think about what I learned after I read an article and I come up blank. I have to scan the article again, extract a meaningful quote or theme. Write down something I’m going to do differently or research more. And when I see that article again in the future, I have a wonderful summary of an important insight.

Takeaways improve collaboration

When I see articles and videos with a takeaway from someone I know, it fuels my learning. I have a chance to see a trusted review of what I’m about to learn. Sometimes that is enough, and I choose to move on. Other times it makes me want to learn more, so I dig in. This isn’t just about a summary. It’s getting to the essence of learning.

So, what did you learn? Click the button below to add this article to Degreed!

What are you curious about right now? What frame of reference are you currently using to interpret the world?

To understand what I’m asking, think about what you would notice in an outdoor plaza on a busy summer day.

Would you notice the art installments? What about the strip of grass that is dead because everyone cuts across it? Would you notice the names and logos of the stores or the types of businesses that are operating?

What about the people? Would you notice the homeless person on the corner? The books that people are reading? Or would your focus be trained on the clothes that people are wearing?

At any given moment, the things you are curious about frame the way you see everything.If you’re starting a business, you would probably notice the businesses. If you are an aspiring artist, you would notice the art. If you love to skateboard, you would notice which rails don’t have knots on them.

For the lifelong learner, every day presents itself with an infinite amount of opportunities. Way too many, in fact, to focus on more than even a few at at time. This presents somewhat of a quandary.

Though a common mantra for success is “Don’t quit,” that may not always be the best advice. For years I felt bad about quitting, even if I hated something. I thought quitting was the easy way out, and that if I quit, I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. I once spent two years too long in a job that I hated, and I became quite apathetic to progression in general because of that. It took awhile to get back on my feet, but from that, I learned that quitting is often necessary for progression.

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Rotating Curiosity

My curiosities and interests are constantly changing. The things I train my focus on today are not the same things that I trained my focus on a year ago. I like to call this phenomenon, rotating curiosity.

My curiosities rotate every six months or so, which makes things difficult as I make education and career decisions. One minute I feel like I’ve found my dream major or job, then six months later it no longer holds my interest. At that point I try to wring out every last drop of curiosity I have left, because I feel like something is wrong with me. How do I go from all-in to all-out in such a short time?

Though rotating curiosity has caused me some struggle in life, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have learned so many different things because of it. Honestly, I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to have at least a mild case of rotating curiosity. In fact, the winningest player on Jeopardy! encourages it.

During one of my many phases of curiosity back in 2013, I decided I was going to learn more about the human condition and talk to a stranger every day for a year (if I were in a plaza then, my focus would have been trained on the homeless person). I used an app called Lift (now coach.me) to log my daily interactions and to help establish the habit.

While I was using the app, a girl named Karen Cheng was also using it to help her learn to dance. She made a pretty rad video about it. Fast forward a few years, I came across another Karen Cheng video that reminded me of her original dance video. I wanted to interview her about how she she taught herself to dance to see if I could glean some insights for a blog post about self-taught learning. However, after I talked with her for a few minutes, it became very apparent that Karen also lives with rotating curiosity. Karen is no longer as interested in dance. She now runs a consulting company where she creates viral videos. Her client list is pretty impressive.

So here are the six most vital things I learned in my interview with Karen about self-taught learning, curiosity, finding success and knowing when to quit.

 

Feed your hunger

It was a long time before Karen actually jumped in and decided to learn to dance. She says, “I wanted to learn how to dance for a long time, but I just didn’t think I would ever be able to get that good. But I always had a nagging feeling.”

Karen refers to this nagging feeling on her website as a hunger. “If I didn’t have this raw hunger, there’s no way I would’ve had the discipline to practice every day.” Once Karen finally decided to feed that hunger, it grew into an obsession so strong that dancing became her life. Her doubts could no longer control her.

 

If you don’t love it, quit

Since Karen is no longer obsessed with dance, I was curious what her thoughts were on pushing through something once the newness of learning has worn off. Her response was straightforward and powerful, “Here’s what I do: I just quit, and I learn something else. It’s worn off for dancing, and now I’m doing video editing.”

It makes sense. Why waste time pursuing something if you don’t enjoy it anymore? Lots of professional athletes use that logic to decide when they retire. There are so many other things out there you could be learning that bring you more joy.

When I pushed further and asked how long Karen thought she would be curious about video editing, her response was, “Everything is temporary. I think it will hold my interest for awhile. It’s like 20 arts combined into one. Getting better at editing, and copywriting, and camera and lighting and marketing . . . It will take me longer to get tired of this than others.”

Karen also shed some light on career possibilities for those of us who suffer from rotating curiosity. “Every job, after 6–9 months, I get tired of it. So am I doomed? For my life? Getting jobs every year? That’s not feasible. Then I started my own business consulting, and I run my own agency now. What’s great about it is that I don’t have a job that I show up to everyday. I have clients that change day by day and month by month. It’s always new projects. And I can change the nature of what I’m offering. I have finally—after many years—figured out a way to find a career that works for this novelty seeking personality type.”

 

Track your progress

Karen tracked her progress extensively. As she learned to dance, she recorded herself on video so she could watch the video over and over to identify where she still needed to improve. She also kept an intense dance journal so she knew how long she had practiced and what she still needed to work on.

Though Karen no longer tracks her dancing, she still keeps track of everything she does. “I have a lot of spreadsheets. I like to see progress. By tracking it, you can understand how you’re progressing. I track how much time I’m putting into projects.”

he even tracks things like her sugar consumption. “I was hopelessly addicted to sugar, and I didn’t want to give it up because I want to still enjoy my life. But I wanted to have less of it. And I don’t do well with hard rules like, ‘you can only have X on Y days.’”

So Karen began tracking her sugar consumption, “I had to take a picture of every dessert that I ate, and I put it in a Photo 365 calendar. . . . What gets measured gets improved.” If she saw that she had eaten seven desserts in seven days, she knew to slow it down on the eighth day. And after three months, she kicked her habit!

“That has been really effective. So effective that now I feel like I’m no longer addicted to sugar. I’ve actually just recently stopped using the calendar. I don’t need it anymore. But it was such a useful tool for the three months when I was using it.”

 

Coach yourself

When Karen was learning to dance, she learned to effectively coach herself. That got me curious about how she was able to be an effective coach. It seems like a difficult challenge. For example, I have no idea how to dance, and I couldn’t tell you what I need to do to get better. I just don’t have that understanding of the mechanics of dance. I don’t have the skills to coach myself on those things.

I asked Karen about that. At first, Karen wasn’t the best coach. She just learned to imitate dancers from videos on YouTube. She began looking at every part of the body individually, comparing small pieces of her dances to people like Michael Jackson.

Then she began to notice how physiological differences in male and female dancers made certain moves look better or worse. Eventually, she took a ballet class because she wanted to create her own style, a more elegant style of popping and robot dancing. That is a decision that took her two years to realize. Coaching yourself takes time, but if you’re dedicated, it will pay off.

 

Learn from the best

Karen did everything she could think of to learn how to dance. She went to classes, talked to teachers she really liked, asked for private lessons, watched YouTube videos and practiced everywhere. When I asked her what her favorite way to learn something new is, she said, “I usually find the best person that I can find and ask them to teach me. . . . The fastest way to get good at anything is to find someone who’s really really good at it and learn from them” (Check out how Degreed’s Ryan Baylis is putting this philosophy to work).

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Don’t get caught up in career ladders

The last thing I asked Karen was, “What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from your experiences? I’ll let her take it from here.

“The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned is not to worry about career ladders. There’s an old-school analogy that we buy into, which is that you pick a major and then you go on that ladder, and you climb that career ladder, and you try to get up as high as possible. That is what makes the idea of switching careers so daunting. You look at the next ladder over and think about starting at the bottom of that ladder. I have changed careers four times now.”

“What I’ve discovered is that you don’t start from the bottom at all. Instead of thinking of it as a career ladder, think of it as a jetpack of skills. You go around and you collect a bunch of skills, and put them in your jetpack. As you learn more skills your jetpack gets stronger, and when you change careers you bring to it a lot of skills that you learned from your previous one. Like I’m in film now and I had a previous career as a designer, that definitely comes in handy. I previously had a career as a project manager, that really helps with coordinating film crews. I previously had a career as a CEO of a tech startup, now I know a lot of tech startups that are my clients. Each of my past careers help in a very significant way with my current one. In a way, if I’d have gone to film school, I wouldn’t have all these advantages.”

The skills gap is a vicious circle: people can’t obtain quality jobs, and companies are struggling to find qualified talent. This goes against the basic principles of economics; if more jobs are opening up (and they are), hiring rates should be increasing as candidates fill the positions. But as the data shows, hiring rates are staying relatively flat.

The Skills Gap

The disparity we’re experiencing is called the skills gap. What does a skills gap mean for organizations and job seekers? How can we create balance in qualified talent and available jobs? And most importantly, how can you work to solve your skills gap internally?

The reality is, there are two skill gaps happening. The first is what Jonathan Munk, General Manager at Degreed, refers to as “the Actual Skills Gap.” By his definition, this is the gap between the needed skills and skills that are present. Both employers and students feel the pain: 82% of employers say it’s difficult to fill positions, while 83% of students have no job lined up after graduation, and 62% of students report that the job search is ‘frustrating’ or ‘very frustrating’.

Actual skills gap data

Alongside the Actual Skills Gap, a second gap exists that is less discussed but just as damaging, called the Perceived Skills Gap. This is the difference between what skills employees think they have, versus the skills the hiring managers think they have. Typically, workers think they are twice as qualified as the hiring manager believes. A job seekers overconfidence, paired with what may be a pessimistic view from hiring managers further perpetuates the cycle.

So how can we close the skills gap internally? In a recent Chief Learning Officer webinar, Munk presented 3 suggestions for improvement:

1) Benchmarking

The reality is, we can’t manage what we aren’t measuring. Degreed recently did a survey of thousands of HR and L&D professionals, and while 87% agreed it’s important to measure skills, less than 15% do so formally. We need a way to tie learning activities to skill development, to track and measure progress, and benchmark skills in order to get an accurate snapshot of progress over time.

2) Empower development

Making time for learning can be difficult, not just because employees are already spread thin, but many organizations aren’t set up to deliver learning in a worker’s moment of need. The learning experience has become fragmented with the explosion of content and digital systems. In turn, employees are turning to Google for the easy answer which is outside the purview of L&D. Learning must be consumable, centralized, accessible, relevant and available in a variety of modalities. This will empower employees to develop the skills they need to move up within an organization.

3) Take responsibility

For development to be successful, everyone has to take responsibility. L&D’s role is to provide easy access to tools and systems, managers are responsible for providing motivation and incentives, and employees need to make time for growth and create daily habits of developing their skills.

James Beesen on skills development forming a competitive advantage

There is power in devoting time to internally solving the skills gap. Benefits include a more skilled and competitive workforce, and employees with longer tenure. Successful CLOs realize that their employees are a competitive advantage, and they deserve the same (if not higher) investment than what we put into our products.

For more on the skills gap, download the recording of “Growing from Within: Evaluating and Cultivating Current Employees.”

We’re overwhelmed, we’re tired, we’re spread thin as U.S. employees. None of this is news to you. There is an absurd amount of distraction yet the need to expand our skill sets and grow professionally has never been more important as both the workforce and skills gap grow. And it’s not a small shortage of skills. A McKinsey Global Institute report predicts a potential global shortage of 38 to 40 million high-skilled workers in 2020.

With the new changes happening in the world, including the rise of digital and the way organizations are redesigning themselves to keep up, there comes the addition of L&D and HR responsibilities. This means our roles are more expansive and important than they’ve ever been!

Learning is not just providing training and education anymore. In many ways, we are also responsible for employee engagement, for change management, for culture, for employee longevity. You may also lead the career models and internal career mobility of people in your company.

This is a daunting reality- like we weren’t busy before! But there is  an easy win. The first place to start? Ourselves.

At Degreed’s Lens event in New York, Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte Consulting boldly stated, “Today, if you want to be world-class in L&D, you have to have people with a whole range of skills.” We have to build our own skills in L&D, train people and redevelop ourselves to meet the needs of today’s workforce. This means understanding topics like curation, taxonomies, information architecture, design thinking and content management.

Here are 3 recommendations Degreed has to help you and your staff embrace and shifts in L&D:

1)             Help your team or your people make time to add to their personal skill sets. This adds value for the new or expanding roles in L&D.

2)             Embrace things like curation and design thinking so you can better succeed in getting people access to the information they need to do their jobs.

3)             Embrace tools (yes, like Degreed) that allow you manage your learning and career, and continually improve.

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The importance of staying relevant, of up-skilling ourselves is probably best summed up in this quote from AT&T Chairman, Randall Stephenson. “There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop. People who do not spend five to 10 hours a week in online learning will obsolete themselves with the technology.”

 

Today, learning content is everywhere. Degreed counts nearly 1,400 providers of live and online courses, videos, books, articles, blogs, podcasts, and more. Finding, curating, and personalizing the absolute best content from any source, in any format, has become a core responsibility for today’s L&D professional.

Degreed curates learning in 5 ways:  

  1. L&D and subject expert led curation (push learning)
  2. Machine curation (automated learning recommendations)
  3. Social curation (peer-to-peer collaboration)
  4. Personal curation (pull learning)
  5. Curation services (curation-as-a-service)

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L&D-led and SME-led curation

There is a lot of great content out there from a variety of sources. L&D no longer needs to build all learning content from scratch. With the rapid pace our industries are moving, it’s nearly impossible to keep up on every topic. Degreed’s Pathways give your L&D professionals and subject-experts a simple, yet powerful toolkit to search, structure and share existing learning resources (in any format, from any system, inside or outside your organization). Anyone with authoring rights can curate, collaborate and publish high-quality, blended learning experiences on any topic or skill – all in just minutes or hours, not days or weeks.

A Pathway is a collection of learning content that can be used for sharing knowledge on any topic. A pathway can include a combination of content from any source, including your organization’s proprietary content, (like courses from your LMS, content from Sharepoint sites, or internal wikis), eLearning courses from partners, online videos, articles, podcasts, events, books, or more.

A basic informal pathway can be built in as little as 20 minutes. Pathways on advanced competencies take an average of 8-12 hours for a learning strategist to design, develop, and polish, which is a huge time saving when compared to the days and weeks it takes to build a custom course from scratch.

Any user with the pathway authoring permission can create and share pathways with the rest of the organization, and add subject matter experts as collaborators. Building a pathway doesn’t require any special expertise or training. It’s done in Degreed with a simple drag and drop interface. Users can leverage the Degreed Button browser integration to add content to a pathway, without even visiting the Degreed site.

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To learn more about pathway authoring, visit: pathway authoring.

Machine Curation Personalized for Each User

Bersin by Deloitte reported that 88 percent of learning professionals believe employees don’t have or make time to engage with corporate learning. But our data suggests that people will invest time in learning if they get credit or if it leads to professional growth (Degreed). Degreed offers system generated recommendations, personalized for each employee, giving employees the learning they need for career growth, but don’t have time to search for on their own.

  • Personalized Dashboard – The first thing a user sees when they log into Degreed or launch the mobile app are personalized recommendations, called Today’s Learning. Five items of personalized learning, delivered each day. The engine pulls from a variety of sources including, recommended items, popular items in the user’s network, experts the user is following, pathways the user is enrolled in, items the user has saved for later.
  • Personalized Browse – When searching for content, the user is first given default options similar to the Netflix browse experience, based on the user’s specific interests. Helping users find the content they wouldn’t normally find on their own.
  • Personalized Search – Search results are personalized for each user based on the groups they are a member of.
  • Organizations can influence the personalization engine by auto enrolling individuals in groups and pathways, and add learning categories to a user’s profile based on role, responsibilities, or skills required. The user can further personalize their experience in Degreed by joining groups with like minded learners, enrolling in pathways that interest them, and adding interests and career aspirations to their profile.

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To learn more about how Degreed platform creates a personalized experience for each user see: Why Personalization is the Best Way to Re-Engage the Corporate Learner

Social Curation

Formal classroom training is still an important part of how people learn, but these types of formal learning experiences happen on average once every 3-4 months. Informal, self-serve, and peer learning connect the dots in-between. 70% of people we surveyed learn from peers or by reading articles and blogs every week (Degreed).

Social collaboration is one of the best ways to engage corporate learners, and help employees stay on top of industry trends. Degreed gives you a complete set of intuitive tools to crowd-source and amplify all the learning and development already happening across (and beyond) your organization. Everyone – L&D professionals, line managers and individual employees – can easily add ratings, takeaways and comments to any content; share, recommend and discuss resources with individuals or their teams; and find, follow and collaborate with experts or groups. Users can see popular items in the groups they have joined, and across the organization.

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Personal Curation

Degreed empowers every user to curate their own, unique learning experience by building personal Pathways. Everyone with a Degreed account can easily discover, mix and match their own collections of their favorite learning and development content on-the-fly. This empowers the learner to drive their own learning and professional development on any topic they choose to learn. Degreed empowers learners to solve their own problems – browsing and searching to find relevant content to find quick answers. Once learners find what they need, they can save it for later or add it to a personal Pathway (even when they’re not on Degreed) using the Degreed Button browser integration or the Degreed mobile app.

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Content Services

And with Degreed, you never have to build a pathway from scratch. Degreed provides a large library of predefined pathways covering today’s hottest topics and competencies, and allows users to easily clone and customize these pathways. Degreed also provides a team of curation experts that specialize in analyzing and assisting with your content needs.

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Ready to get curating? Visit get.degreed.com

 

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As a rising generation of learners progress within their careers, they increasingly look beyond formal education to develop, sharpen and learn new skills. There are more online and informal learning resources than ever before (podcasts, MOOCs, books, boot camps, YouTube, conferences). All of this knowledge we’re acquiring through these different mediums combines to create our lifelong educations, each as unique as our fingerprint.

But despite the fact that learning is happening in every way and everywhere, keeping track of it all, measuring it and making it count is not happening for the most part. And it should.

Measuring the Education Combo

Learning doesn’t (and shouldn’t) end at college, but learning in 2016 and beyond isn’t just about new-age resources. It’s about combining both formal and informal education to create your unique expertise. This means college and online learning and real world experience and whatever comes next–the key word here is ‘and.’ We should be learning, progressing and stretching our knowledge all the time. But how are we making all of that count?

Many are taking advantage of the vast amount of learning content online. The problem isn’t the availability of learning resources. The problem lies in the need for a standard way to validate, measure and showcase everything we know to make all that learning count.

We are learning over the course of our entire lives–not just four, eight or 10 years of higher education. Yet the credential that sends the ultimate signal of learning (a degree) represents only the years you learned at a university. We need a standardized way to measure and verify all of our knowledge that goes way beyond formal education and embraces all types of learning and experience. Without that standard way to measure and express our lifelong learning to the world we face these kinds of situations:

  • You’re employed in a field you didn’t study in college. How can you signal your expertise in a different field?
  • How can you communicate how much more knowledge you’ve gained when you’re not pursuing or you’ve finished your formal education?
  • How can we show a skill set earned through self-directed online learning in addition to a skill set learned in the halls of higher education?
  • How can you know what skills you should master next to progress in your field?

These are problems we’re working to solve to create a world where everyone is empowered to continue learning and everyone has a standardized way to showcase what they know and can do. We believe the future of learning looks like this: continuous, lifelong progression, with each individual utilizing a standardized way to communicate all of their expertise to the world.

It means you have a collection of personal bests, lifetime learning and what you’re working on today to showcase.

Make Your Learning Count

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We’re headed in the right direction. Increasingly, companies aren’t relying on a college degree to tell them if you’re qualified, and many want to teach you, gauge your knowledge themselves and help you to gain training and new skills. For most hiring managers, what really matters are the skills and potential a person has, not where they were gained. But the key to unlocking empowered lifelong learning for everyone is making it all count with standardized measurement. To provide the world with a way to make sense of all the learning that’s happening–no matter the source. Without this, individuals and companies lose the ability to make the best decisions for the future.

What can you do today to make all your learning count? You can start by tracking everything you’re learning and creating diverse goals around what you want to learn. Explore the different options and make it a personal requirement to start adding what you learn to that collection so that you can signal to the world how you’re gaining new knowledge and what you can do. You can do this on Degreed, where we’ve created a universal way for everyone to measure all learning and pursue skills and knowledge from all avenues.

As we move toward solving the biggest problems we’ve ever encountered, we need experts to rise up and bring their personal bests to the table–to roll up their sleeves and put skills to work. We won’t get there by leaning on degrees as the sole credential for knowledge gained. We will get there by exploring, improving, producing and collecting all of our knowledge. By measuring it and bringing it together to form our expertise.

An extended version of this post originally appeared on GettingSmart, check it out here.

Every organization should promote equality, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. Today, this statement is obvious, uncontroversial, and broadly accepted. Workplace diversity is the right thing to do, and it’s linked to increased productivity and profits for the company. The fact that this evidence hasn’t eradicated workplace discrimination points to an issue that runs deeper within our company cultures.

Overt discrimination is rare these days. Most people don’t see themselves as prejudice. We assume that if discrimination is happening, it’s intentional and ‘it’s someone else, not me, doing it’. Yet there is a mountain of data to show discrimination in hiring is still widespread. Like all tough problems, this one is complicated.

Most discrimination these days is a subtle form of unintentional discrimination, known as implicit bias, or implicit social cognition. The unconscious and automatic judgments and decisions we make without realizing we are making them. And there’s the in-group bias which causes us to unconsciously prefer working with people who are similar to us. These unconscious impulses are shortcuts that helped our primal ancestors survive, but cause us to make errors in judgement today.

We like to believe that we make rational decisions, but 90% of our behavior is generated outside of consciousness. “Logic is often the last step in the process. The conscious intellectual brain steps in to produce a rational backstory to justify impulses generated in the murky corners of the unconscious mind.” -Janet Crawford, Neuroscience business expert

When you’re making decisions in hiring, and you get this gut feeling that this person just isn’t right, your conscious brain will step-in with a justification, picking apart the person’s qualifications or competencies or making one of these common justifications:

● She just isn’t ready for this role.
● He wasn’t the right fit for our company culture.
● She didn’t have the right attitude for the team.
● We want to make sure we hire the best person for the job, no matter what.
● This candidate isn’t bad, but we have another candidate that is perfect for the job in every way.

But how do you correct behavior and attitudes that people aren’t even aware of?

Step 1
Admitting that we are guilty of implicit bias is step one. None of us are immune. Including those among us who believe we would never discriminate. Our brains are hard wired for cognitive biases. We can’t get rid of our biases, but being aware can help us identify when these biases may be affecting our decisions. Most organizations’ anti-discrimination efforts focus on the obvious and intentional forms of discrimination, because implicit bias is harder to identify, harder to prove, and less clearly defined in anti-discrimination laws. Failure to take action against implicit bias means your organization is likely guilty of the practice.

Step 2
Training and education for dealing with implicit bias. Use this training as an opportunity to promote a culture that embraces all types of diversity: gender, ethnicity, experience, education, and others as being a company strength.

Step 3
Include a system for checks and balances such as anonymous job applications and a diverse hiring panel. An example of how this can foster equality can be found in institutions who use a double-blind method to review scientific research. The number of women who get published at these institutions increases significantly when a double-blind method is used to review papers.

Step 4
Review the metrics for your organization and offer continued training and education for improvement. If your company demographics match the demographics of the local population, chances are you’ve been successful in lowering the impact that implicit biases can have on hiring decisions.

Diversity in Action
Companies that find it vital to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace often make it a part of their core beliefs. One of Degreed’s core principles is equality. We seek equality—gender, ethnic, and otherwise—in our teams, practices and process. Our company has a goal that every team is 50/50 gender balanced and that every office reflect the diversity of the market where it operates. For more on our principles and what it’s like to work at Degreed check out our careers page.

Over the weekend the hashtag #FirstSevenJobs started trending as well known celebrities and experts tweeted out their first seven jobs. The posts showed us a few things; first, every path is different, and no background looks the same. Second, developing expertise usually takes years of work before any ‘big break’ appears.

#FirstSevenJobs is yet another reminder that there is no single path to expertise. We’ve talked about this before, but it’s pretty comforting to see how the path to accomplishment really shook out for a few people we admire. It’s important to recognize that these stories aren’t just anomalies in the world of success and accomplishment, so we’re providing a few more famous examples as proof.

 

1. Stan Lee: Creator of the Marvel universe
obituary writer
press release writer
sandwich delivery boy
office boy for a trouser manufacture
usher at Rivoli Theater
newspaper salesman
assistant at Timely Comics (which would evolve into Marvel Comics by the 1960’s)

2. Martha Stewart
babysitter
model
stockbroker
caterer
cookbook author
newspaper columnist

3. Harland Sanders
horse carriage painter
farmhand
conductor for the streetcar company
teamster in the Army
blacksmith’s helper
ash pan cleaner for the Northern Alabama Railroad
fireman (steam engine stoker)
laborer for Norfold Western Railway
lawyer
laborer for Pennsylvania Railroad
life insurance salesman
ferry boat company owner
Secretary for the Chamber of Commerce in Columbus
started an acetylene lamp company
tire salesman
service station manager
Kentucky colonel
motel and restaurant Owner
assistant cafeteria manager
Kentucky Colonel
franchiser

4. Jan Koum: Founder of WhatsApp
cleaner at a grocery store
self taught engineer
security tester at Ernst & Young
infrastructure engineer
advertising system inspector at Yahoo
advertising platform team at Yahoo
WhatsApp founder

5. Julia Child
copywriter
local publication writer
advertister
typist for US information Agency in Washington DC
research assistant in the Secret Intelligence Division
researcher (developing shark repellent)
handled highly classified information for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services)
Chief of the OSS Registry
Cooking student

#FirstSevenJobs teaches us to be willing to work to get where we want to go, that it’s normal to forge a unique path to expertise, and it’s never too late to learn. What were your #FirstSevenJobs? Share them with us on Twitter @degreed and check out The Degreed Manifesto video below, which shows expertise in action:

If you don’t think your organization is creative enough to implement design thinking, think again.

Design thinking isn’t about how good you are at design tools such as Photoshop, but rather it’s about using human elements when figuring out how to create products that addresses the real needs of people.

Tim-Brown-quote_v1

Using the design thinking process, everyone is a designer and design is everywhere – the way you plan out your day, the way you arrange furniture in your room, the way you match clothes. In the corporate setting, it’s important to find out and integrate the end users’ needs from the beginning, so that you don’t end up spending all your time solving the wrong problem.

As Degreed’s Project Manager Ryan Seamons pointed out on the Design Thinking webinar with Chief Learning Officer, it’s important to realize that design thinking isn’t something you tack at the end of a project, but rather, it’s a mindset. It’s the process of constantly trying to understand the user and the problem at hand.

This diagram shows you a simple framework for approaching a problem using Design Thinking:

Design-Thinking-Graphic

As you can see, this framework is applicable to many types of organizations. Earlier this month, I wrote about how a design thinking program at a local high school positively impacted the students’ confidence and creativity. Here are the 4 actionable steps you can take to implement design thinking and bring its benefits to your organization:

1. Focus on the problem to solve

Companies fail to effectively solve their problems or meet their goals because they don’t correctly identify the person or problem.

Tips for identifying the problem:

  • Listen. Put yourself in other people’s shoes or problem and think from their perspectives what the problem is
  • Ask questions. What is the problem? Who is it for?
  • Have un-siloed conversations. Engage with not only one but multiple people; sit in that area and aim to understand what their life is actually like
  • Stay unbiased. Don’t impose what you think the problem is or the solution. Be open-minded and you might find something else you weren’t expecting

2. Get design thinking skills on your team

In past, ideation phase of the design thinking process were typically saved for Project Managers or Engineers, but that doesn’t mean it can only be used by that department or function. Since design thinking is the mindset of asking questions, understanding and testing, everyone has the ability to do this. Don’t worry if you don’t have the budget for a new role.

Tips for getting design thinking skills:

  • Practice the mindset. Start implementing the process in your role whenever you can. For example, if you oversee onboarding, think about ways you can test a new approach or understand the new employee mentality by getting  feedback via survey
  • Foster interests in design thinking. If you have someone on your team who wants to take initiative and expand their skillset, make sure to nurture that interest, whether it is encouraging experimentation or reimbursing them for design thinking classes

3. Have more debriefs (or start having them)

This is the part that people have the most trouble with: it’s important to understand that design thinking isn’t a one time thing, but rather it is a process of iterating on previous experiments so that the product can improve and become better. However, learnings can’t be implemented if there is no feedback process.

Tips for creating a learning culture:

  • Be open about what went wrong. Set an example that it’s okay to talk about what tests failed and use that to determine what can be better next time.
  • View failure as learnings. If one approach did not work, it narrows down the list of possible approaches and gets you closer to the approach that will work.

4. Embrace the feedback loop

The goal of design thinking isn’t perfection, but to get the best answer possible. The best answer likely won’t be the first answer; thus, there needs to be a constant loop of getting feedback and testing new assumptions.

Tips for implementing loop:

  • Test and iterate as much as possible. Find new ways and angles to test your assumptions, you might come across something you would’ve never thought of otherwise.
  • Have feedback sessions often. When you embrace feedback, not only does it create a safe space to innovate but also by talking about it, it prevents the same mistakes made again.

Design thinking can help leaders like you to identify and solve meaningful problems for your organization. Like anything new, the process is like a muscle that you need to build and use. With a design thinking mindset, you can spend time effectively on solving the right problems and building things that will impact your organization’s success – and you can start now.

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