Digital technology has become the gateway to smarter work, learning and play. For Learning and Development and HR leaders, it has fundamentally changed not only our roles and organizations; but our goals and how we accomplish them, as well.

Our roles have expanded. We’re still responsible for education and development, but now add  compliance, performance, restructuring, change management, and culture to the list. All of this is accompanied by technology; but is it really helping us keep up? How can we really utilize technology to enact change and engagement within our organizations?

During the Degreed Lens event in New York, learning analyst Josh Bersin shared 5 things all HR and learning leaders need to know.

Structure needs to account for cross-functional connection.

According to Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends 2016 report, 92 percent of survey participants rate redesigning their organization as a critical priority. This tells us that the number one thing on people’s minds in medium to large organizations is structure. Our org charts are no longer reflective of how work is done. Thanks to technology we operate cross-functionally, with specific people that have the expertise needed to inform specific projects. When a project is complete, we move on to the next network of people for the next deliverable.

Not all digital helps productivity.

Today’s worker has hundreds of thousands of apps and websites at their disposal, many of them making promises of improving time management and streamlining work and life. But they’re doing just the opposite; enticing us to lose focus every second. Deloitte reported that U.S workers check their cell phones, in aggregate, eight billion times a day. The productivity lost is almost unfathomable. By carefully curating what technologies you choose to use with your L&D initiatives, you can engage employees by utilizing the apps and websites they learn from organically.

If employees don’t have opportunities to grow, they will leave.

What’s the biggest predictor of economic growth for an individual? According to Economist Thomas Piketty, it’s skills; the more quality and in-demand skills you have as an individual, the better. For L&D leaders, this means we need to provide diverse, meaningful opportunities for every employee to learn and fuel their career, or they’re going to find it elsewhere.

Learning is key to individual and business growth.

Learning is important for employee growth and engagement, and it’s also critical to the success of your business. At the Degreed Lens Event in New York City, Josh Bersin said, “you want people to have enough skills to move to new assignments, to move away from business areas that are shrinking. You don’t want to have a business area that’s going out of business where no one wants to quit or switch. That just makes it even more impossible to transform your organization. So we have to build infrastructure and tools and reward systems and culture programs that facilitate development.” Mobilizing upward growth within your company is key.

Learners need the right mix of formal and informal learning.

The percentage of money spent on traditional formal training is dropping every year.

According to Bersin’s Corporate Learning FactBook, from 2009- 2015, investment in instructor-led training dropped from 77 percent to only 32 percent.  While formal training is never going to disappear, it’s not enough to create a true learning culture. We’re learning every day in a variety of ways, on and offline. As an L&D professional, you need a way to bring the best of that content to your organization through curation.

The right learning architecture will create an ecosystem in which learners know where and how to find content.  Most course catalogs contain thousands of pieces of content, so curating becomes crucial. Bersin explains, “you know what happens when you give people ten choices? They don’t pick anything. When you give them a hundred choices, they just shut down the browser completely and don’t even look anymore. But if you give them three choices, they’ll pick one.”

While technology has fundamentally and permanently changed our roles, We can embrace the change by using technology to empower our employees to learn in better, more engaging ways that will benefit their careers and our organizations as a whole.

Want to be live at the next Degreed Lens event happening in November in San Francisco? Request an invitation here.

By now, you’re no stranger to the concept that employees want learning to be on their time, on their device, and personalized to their individual position and needs. Delivering a customizable and fluid experience requires unique tools, and the list shouldn’t be limited to your intranet.

Content on the intranet is often disorganized, scattered, and out of date. Yet we see many companies directing their employees to their intranet to find learning content. Typically, companies use intranets to manage corporate news, information and general resources, and you might notice those types of information are usually a one-way dissemination as opposed to interactive.

Learning shouldn’t be a one-way conversation or delivered in one modality or style. A manual, laborious process is only going to drive your learners away, which is bad for engagement and therefore your organization and the bottom line.

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In case you aren’t convinced already, here are 8 more reasons why your intranet shouldn’t be the only place for learning.

  1. Intranets do not personalize and curate learning. These are both key tenants to meeting the needs of the modern learner.
  2. Intranets to do not create high rates of employee engagement around learning resources because there is not much in the way of associating groups, pathways, goals, competencies, collaboration, profile or transcript ownership/portability, etc.
  3. Managing learning resources (i.e. adding, updating, and removing learning resources from multiple sources) on an intranet can be a very manual, time consuming process.
  4. Intranets are hard pressed to provide any type of insights and analytics around how your employees are utilizing, benefiting from, and engaging with the learning provided by your organization.
  5. Intranet solutions typically don’t provide learning content, they just allow you to manually upload and manage content.
  6. Social and collaborative learning communities are not typically found in general intranet solutions.
  7. Intranets do not usually integrate with 3rd party content vendors, LMS systems, etc. nor manage those resources dynamically.
  8. Intranets are not built to include sophisticated searching algorithms to make learning easy to find.

Learning is happening all the time, across many different mediums. To be as effective as possible, organizations need to be good curators of engaging content. Your goal should to be to make learning as easy as possible; don’t make it harder by making them use tools that make success nearly impossible or even worse, drive them away from wanting to learn at all.

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.

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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.

Who doesn’t love a good music playlist? It’s your favorite tunes delivered on demand.

But what makes working out to your favorite playlist so inspiring and endorfin-inducing? It’s that you likely have songs and music styles matched to your workout of the day (or WOD for all you crossfit junkies). Unless it’s your thing, Norah Jones isn’t going to be featured in the middle of your Body Pump playlist. No, you’d rather have high energy, pulse-pounding beats.

But there’s high probability that there will be a difference in your playlist and mine, and that’s called the ability to personalize. Learning playlists follow the same mentality.

Playlists are popular because they are personalized and yours, and that is the core of good curation. Curation for learners is about access to the right information in the right moment of time. The word “right” in relationship to both information and time are a key statement. It means everything about the content has been assessed for quality and context.

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Just think about your own habits – when exploring a new concept, you’ve probably asked a peer and then done a google search. At the beginning, you want the basics, the how to’s, the 101’s. But as you get more educated on the subject, you’ll need more in-depth information; perhaps a detailed white paper or a full course.

And taking it a step further, maybe you’ve come to know you’re a visual learner so you would prefer to consume the information in video format. That is a key difference between curation and playlists. With curation, you can customize and personalize based on your individual needs and style, versus a long list of content (sometimes aggregated for you by an outsider based on keywords) about a topic – aka the concept behind the simple playlist.

According to Degreed resident curation expert Caroline Soares, “Great curators are the librarians of our time – they filter for criteria, audiences, learning goals, objectives, structure, utility and know what to curate and what not to curate for their end users. Ultimately the goal is to focus the learner’s attention on what’s most relevant, timely – guiding learners with a spotlight to ‘read this first.’ ”

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Degreed does this through pathways which are organized learning experiences in any modality you choose around any topic or theme. Unlike playlists, with pathways, you can reach the learner on numerous levels through the creation of multiple lessons and sections within one pathway.

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Degreed empowers every user to curate their own, unique learning experience by allowing them to build personal pathways. Instead of waiting for a defined training offering or learning agenda from employers, curation empowers learners to quickly find relevant, contextual answers on their own. Much more than a consolidated list of resources or content, curation simplifies the experience, giving learners the ability to search, find, assemble and filter the best quality resources into a relevant learning experience.

 

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I have two great weaknesses: gas stations and bookstores.

You know that feeling you get when you turn in your final assignment for the semester and you walk outside and suddenly all the plans you made for summer vacation are unobstructed from the roadblocks of stress and you feel like you have the whole world at your disposal? That’s how I feel when I walk into a gas station or a bookstore. While I won’t discuss it in this post, just know that I have a special place in my heart for taquitos and sugary beverages, both of which are plentiful in the American gas station. That place in my heart my be an actual hole caused by the crap I’ve consumed from said gas stations, but it’s still there, and it’s still special.

But bookstores? Those places are magical. Literally anything you want to know is within arm’s reach. There are thousands of things you have no idea you want to know about within arm’s reach, and I think that’s what gets me. There’s so much potential knowledge, so many stories I’ve never heard.

I remember when the book fair would come to my school as a kid. They would give you that colorful paper brochure so you could order your books. I’ll tell you what, I could have negotiated my way out of North Korea with a pair of Kim Jong Il’s sneakers the way I convinced my mom to add JUST ONE MORE book to my order. Even today I have to give myself a pep talk when I walk into a Barnes & Noble, otherwise I leave with a stack of books and an empty bank account. Books are great, but not sans food and shelter.

I’m not sure I could quantify the knowledge I have gained from reading. It’s like trying to quantify infinity: there is no way to know where it begins or where it ends. So instead of doing that, I’d just like to talk a little bit about how much there is to gain from reading. I submit the following as evidence that we all can and should read more.

 

The Cool Kids Are Doing It

A few years back I read Tony Hsieh’s (pronounced shay) book, Delivering Happiness. Hsieh is the brilliant mind behind the culture-driven Internet store, Zappos. In the book, he goes into detail about why Zappos is so unique and successful. Hint, it’s all about the culture. If you don’t know what that means, just Google “Zappos offices” and scroll through the images. Zappos people are pretty cool. And Hsieh’s book was interesting from beginning to end.

Like many companies, Zappos has developed core values that guide how the company runs. One of the coolest (in my opinion) is Core Value #5: Pursue Growth and Learning. Hsieh is a major proponent of reading as a means of growing as a human. His belief is that if a person is not learning and growing on her own, she won’t be as productive as she can be as an employee. So to foster this idea and help his employees along, Hseih has a dedicated Zappos library.

Zappos Lobby Library

Zappos Lobby Library

Team members can rent books for free and are encouraged to read often. You can see the books in their library here.

 

Readers Are Winners

Abraham Lincoln successfully led the country through its darkest days during the Civil War. So it’s safe to say that he needed to be pretty knowledgable to accomplish that. In his early years, Lincoln was entirely self educated. He had only been to school for what only amounted to less than a year total by the time he was 21. However, because of his desire to learn, he was able to stay highly educated. Lincoln learned a lot from reading on his own. He loved books. In fact, his best friend once said, “I never saw Abe after he was 12, that he didn’t have a book in his hand or in his pocket.”

Image via Britannica

Image via Britannica

That love of reading followed him all through his life. In an article published in the New York Times in 1887, a man told a story about his friend who experienced Lincoln’s love of reading firsthand. The friend had the opportunity to meet Lincoln in the lobby of his hotel one morning. As he approached Lincoln, the man noticed that he was reading Homer’s Illiad. After the two got to talking, Lincoln said, “You know a man might as well be out of the world as not read Homer’s Illiad.”

For context, this was during the time of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The man was quite impressed that Lincoln, in the middle of a very crucial time of his life, still found the time to read for personal enjoyment and growth. Lincoln won the presidency two years later.

 

Reading With Your Ears

I’ve shared a few examples about “why” you should read, but now I’d like to address the “how.” Finding spare time is a major issue for most of us. It’s hard to find the time to eat breakfast before work, let alone the time to read a few chapters of a book. A few years back I thought I was doomed to live my life without books because I could never find the time to sit down and read. But that’s when my father taught me the ancient art of reading with your ears.

All of a sudden, the time that I usually wasted listening to sub-par morning radio stations could be used to expand my knowledge base. My very first audiobook was Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell got my brain making all kinds of connections, going a million miles a minute. I was reading a book a week just by listening every time I got in the car.

What I learned from that experience is that we can make time for things we value. After I got a few audiobooks under my belt, my desire to read only grew. I began making time to read physical books in between the time I spent reading audiobooks. My priorities had shifted, and I grew immensely as a result.

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And the thing is, reading doesn’t even have to be done with an audiobook. You can listen to TED talks or podcasts and still get the same brain-powering results. It all just depends on how dedicated you are to learning. With summer just around the corner, I’m beyond excited to get back outside with my hammock and a cold beverage and dive into some good books. Plus, you know what that means: more visits to gas stations and bookstores.

What books are on your summer reading list? What books should I put on mine? You can leave a comment or hit me with a tweet. And don’t forget, you can track all your reading on Degreed! Podcasts and all!

“Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.” – John Wooden

What is Degreed?

Degreed helps you quickly and easily discover, share, and track ALL kinds of learning resources — from courses to videos to articles and more.

How Does Degreed Work?

Content: Degreed connects you to the world’s largest collection of professional learning content both from inside and outside your organization  — over 250,000 courses and more than 3 million articles and videos from 1,300 sources. All in one place.

Tools: Degreed empowers you to learn every day with powerful tools including a daily learning playlist, learning pathways, unified search and sharing. You can also follow people to see what they’re learning and join groups to learn with and from colleagues around the world.

Insights: Degreed tracks ALL the learning you do — the courses you take, the books and articles you read, even the videos you watch. Then you can view, share and get recognized for your progress with your own personalized profile and dashboard.

All yours: Best of all, the record of everything you’ve done to skill up is yours. You own it. You control who sees what. And, the record can go with you, for life.

What’s in it for you

  • Find what you need to learn and build your career. Fast.
  • Get access to premium courses, TED Talks, articles, videos, MOOCs, and more. All in one place.
  • Learn what you need to do your job. When, where and how you want.
  • Learn anywhere, anytime from any device.
  • Get recognized for ALL the learning you do.
  • Rate, recommend and share learning with others.

How to Get Started With Degreed

1. Go to degreed.com

You can log in from work or from home. From any device. The first thing you’ll want to do is to select the topics you want to learn about. Then the system will start suggesting learning content tailored to your needs.

2. Check Out the Learning Feed.

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The first thing you see when you login is your learning feed, suggestions based on your learning interests. You can customize the suggestions you receive by adding categories to your profile, enrolling in pathways, following others, and joining groups.

3. Want to learn more? Search the library.search-mar2017Simply use the search field at the top of every page. Select “External Resources” to see the world of resources from across the web. Degreed has cataloged over 250,000 online learning courses and 3 million informal learning activities from more than 1300 sources.

4. Mark an item complete.Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 1.56.13 PMGet credit for the learning you do by marking an item complete once you’ve finished it.

5. Share great stuff.Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 1.56.28 PMFind something great and want to share? It’s easy to recommend content to others on your team or across your company. Simply click the recommend icon, search for the people or groups with whom you want to share, add a comment and send.

6. Get credit for everything you learn. Use the browser extensions to build your profile.

The easiest way to track all your learning is to use the Degreed Button, which allows you to get credit for your learning from anywhere — at the click of a button, without even visiting the Degreed site. To add either the Degreed Button to your browser, select “Profile,” “Settings,” then the “Degreed Button.”

Degreed Button

7. Leverage the mobile app. 

Degreed is mobile enabled for any device. You can also download the mobile app. When you read an article or listen to a podcast from your phone, select to “share” the item with Degreed then you can mark the item complete, save it for later, or recommend it to others.mobile experience8. Update your email settings. 

To get emails for Today’s Learning, recommendations, followers, and more make sure you update your email settings in Degreed. Select “Profile,” “Settings,” then the “Email.”

“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” -Ernest Hemingway

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Choosing the right word is never easy. Whether you’re writing a blog post or arguing conversing with a loved one, the words you select can make or break you. They can accurately express your ideas, or they can muddle things up. And in this age of social media and other digital communication, many of our words are permanently recorded for all the world to misunderstand interpret. Yet most of us continue to pluck the first that come to mind.

With so much riding on the particular words we speak and write, it’s a good idea to reflect every now and then on their importance, their power, their quirks; to behold the myriad ways they are currently being used in society. Sometimes we need to put on our Hemingway glasses and look at words as if we’re seeing them for the first time.

Here’s an eclectic array of content from around the web that will get you thinking about words in a new way .

George Orwell and the Politics of the English Language – If you haven’t read this classic piece, now’s the time. Here are the rules about word usage that Orwell recommends:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

What is a word? – If you’re feeling brave, see what the philosophers have to say about words.

Recent Articles

What do Donald Trump and the Pope Have in Common? – Clue: they both like “big” words.

These Words Would Knock Your State Out Of the National Spelling Bee – Here’s a state-by-state rundown of the words people googled for spell check the most during the last year (Arkansas, should we be worried?). For more insight into regional word usage, check out this State-by-State Map of the most unique descriptive words used by online daters.

Musicians with the Most Diverse Vocabularies – Spoiler Alert: The winner by far is Eminem.

How do you speak American? Mostly, just make up words – If you’re a fan of made-up words, you’ll also love this fascinating book by Lizzie Skurnick.

What it’s like to write speeches for a rude, rambling and disgraced politician – Recent review of a book that some think will become a classic on political communication.

Think of “Mullet” as a 1980s Word? It’s Not. – My favorite slang for “mullet”? Kentucky waterfall.

Words jump-start vision, psychologist’s study shows. Even during the first electrical twitches of perception, words are already shaping our vision.

Twitters Knack for New Words – Much praise here for Twitter’s neological invention.

Why Is There So Much Hate for the Word “Moist”? – Finally scientists weigh in on this strange case of “moist” aversion.

Sherbet vs Sherbert – A lot of commenters have weighed in on this debate. What do you think?

Greek crisis: A reader’s guide to puns and portmanteaus

Oxford English Dictionary’s New Words – Well it’s about time that “shizzle” and “koozie” were given official status.

Reference Guides

We’re all familiar with the Oxford Dictionaries, Cambridge Dictionaries, and Dictionary.com. But sometimes we need a different set of references to guides our word searches. Here are some you should check out.

Urban Dictionary – Crowdsourced online dictionary of slang words.

Pseudo Dictionary – More crowdsourced terms.

Dictionary of American Regional English – The full panoply of American regional words, phrases, and pronunciations.

Online Etymology Dictionary – Best place to discover the origins of English words.

Metaphor Map of English – Shows the metaphorical links between different areas of meaning, and allows us to track metaphorical ways of thinking and expressing ourselves over more than a millennium.

Visual Thesaurus – Offers a floating constellation of related words. Visuwords has a similar. interface.
Acronym Finder – Find out what any acronym, abbreviation, or initialism stands for.
Eggcorn Database – Searchable database of words and phrases that came about from the mishearing or misinterpretation of other words.

All-Vowel Words – The title says it all.

All-Consonant Words – Ditto.

Blogs for Word Nerds

About Words – Best feature: weekly list of possible new words that lets users vote on them.

The Word Detective – Words and language in a humorous vein.

One Letter Words blog – Strange and unusual references from a word genius.

Word Spy – The word lover’s guide to new words.

Literal Minded – Commentary on words by a guy who takes things too literally.

Fritinancy – Names, brands, writing and language from a professional wordworker.

Pain in the English – Discusses all the gray areas of the English language.

Cruciverb.com – The ultimate crossword database. A true word lover’s heaven.

NY Times Wordplay blog – Crossword blog of the New York Times.

Podcasts

The Allusionist – Etymological adventures with Helen Zaltzman in a fortnightly podcast ( My favorite).

A Way With Words – This NPR classic examines language through the lens of history, culture and family.

Lexicon Valley – Podcast about language pet peeves, syntax, etymology and neurolinguistics.

Lists

34 Interjections You Should Be Using

79 Common Mispronunciations

107 Regional Slang Words

83 Old Slang Phrases We Should Bring Back

11 Terms for Self-proclaimed Smartypants

Top 10 Words with Bizarre Meanings

39 incorrectly used words that can make you look bad

25 Maps that Explain the English Language

A List of Words about Words

Compendium of Lost Words

Wiki list of English portmanteaux

Most searched for words on Google

Most searched for words by NY Times readers

Palindrome List

 

You just learned about english, grammar, and pop culture. Get points for this article on Degreed. Catch Jedd McFatter tweeting the most powerful words possible at @ATYPICAL.

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.

Startup Stock Photos

Looking for a free online course? You are in luck! There are thousands of courses available online for free. These courses come in many different formats (MOOCs, self-paced, more formal, less formal, etc.) and are available from many different providers. Here are 42 places to find free courses online.

AcademicEarth

AcademicEarth is a collection of open online courses from 13 top universities including Harvard, Oxford, and Yale.

ALISON

ALISON focuses on the job skills market, with more than 600 free, certified courses in a variety of fields, from business process management to carpentry studies.

Aquent Gymnasium

Aquent offers free courses to help working professionals upgrade their digital skills.

Canvas Network

Canvas Network offers MOOCs from a variety of institutions. Learn everything from world history to how to take great photos with your phone.

CourseSites

Blackboard’s CourseSites is also a MOOC provider.

Coursera

One of the top MOOC providers, Coursera has hundreds of free courses available from many of the top colleges and universities around the world.

CreativeLive

CreativeLive has both paid and free courses in areas including photo, video, art, and design.

Degreed’s Learning Pathways

Degreed has created a variety of curated learning pathways based on videos, articles, and other resources around the web. Start on one today to boost your knowledge and skills related to marketing, network security and design, and even creativity.

edX

Another top MOOC provider, edX hosts courses from Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, and other top institutions.

Eliademy

Eliademy is a small, but growing, online course marketplace. Most of the courses are paid, but some are free.

FutureLearn

FutureLearn is the U.K.’s top MOOC provider, with courses from the British Council, Queen’s University, the British Museum, and more.

Harvard Extension School

Harvard Extension School has joined the Open Learning Initiative by opening online noncredit courses to the public.

iTunes U

iTunes U is an iPhone and iPad app that gives learners access to courses from many institutions. It promotes itself as “the world’s largest digital catalog of free education content.”

iversity

iversity is a European MOOC platform offering courses in both English and German.

Janux

Janux is an online course platform from the University of Oklahoma. The courses are available to UO students for credit and to everyone else for free.

JHSPHOpen

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has made the materials from over 100 of its courses available online.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy now includes learning pathways in addition to its huge collection of video lectures.

Microsoft Virtual Academy

Microsoft offers free training courses in cloud development, mobile development, visual studio, and much more.

MIT OpenCourseWare

This site hosts a large collection of course materials from MIT courses.

MongoDB University

MongoDB offers free training for its products.

MRUniversity

Marginal Revolution University is a free online learning platform for economics topics.

NovoED

NovoED is a social online learning platform from Stanford. Most of the courses focus on business skills and are available free.

Open2Study

Open2Study is an Australian course provider with accredited as well as free open courses.

Open Culture

Open Culture has a large collection of cultural and educational media, including books, audio books, ebooks, language lessons, MOOCs, and other free online courses.

Open Education Consortium

The Open Education Consortium houses one of the largest collections of free online courses from around the world.

Open Education Database

The Open Education Database is an aggregator where you can search more than 10,000 free online courses.

Open Education Europa

Open Education Europa aggregates both free and paid courses from providers in Europe.

openHPI

openHPI offers tech courses from the Hasso Plattner Institute, most of which are available in English.

OpenLearn

The Open University offers extracts from several of its courses for free.

OpenLearning

OpenLearning is a platform that allows teachers to create and deliver courses, ranging from business and economics to lifestyle topics. Most of the courses are currently free.

Open Learning Initiative

The Open Learning Initiative from Carnegie Mellon University “offers online courses to anyone who wants to learn or teach.” There are currently 21 free courses available for learners, mostly in STEM and languages.

Open Yale

Yale has put many of its course materials online in a self-paced, free format.

P2PU

The goal of P2PU is to create networked learning communities on the web. Anyone can teach and take courses, which are divided into separate “schools,” including social innovation, math, and webcraft.

Qualt

Qualt is a mobile-first, mobile-only MOOC provider offering job skills courses from leadership to project management.

Saylor Academy

Saylor Academy offers a range of free courses and learning pathways, some of which can be translated into college credit at partner universities.

Stanford Online

Stanford Online lists all of the open courses, including MOOCs and self-paced courses, offered by the university.

Tufts OpenCourseWare

This site publishes Tufts course materials for anyone to use.

Udacity

Although Udacity’s full course experience is paid, most of the course materials are still available for free.

Udemy

Udemy is a huge online course marketplace. Many of the courses are paid, but there are still a good number available at no cost.

University of Notre Dame OpenCourseWare

Notre Dame has made many of its course materials open and available.

Utah State OpenCourseWare

Utah State has also put its course materials online.

Wikiversity

Wikiversity is a large collection of open educational resource, including courses, which are divided into different “Schools.”

Please help us improve this list! Tell us in the comments about your favorite places to find free online courses.

Degreed has a feature that allows groups and companies to create their own custom pathways of content.  These pathways allow you to combine any number of resources from anywhere around the web, be it courses, books, articles, or videos.  This content can also be from any number of different providers, giving ultimate flexibility in curating the best content to fit the needs of the learners.

Pathways can be used in a number of ways, including:

  • Helping employees prepare for a certification
  • Onboarding new employees
  • Outlining a path to promotion
  • Creating a step-by-step guide to learn a new skill
  • And many others!

Here’s our full guide to creating and utilizing pathways:

What is a pathway and why would you want to create one?

A pathway is a collection of learning content that can be used for sharing knowledge on a particular topic, like onboarding a new employee, or teaching someone a new skill. A pathway can include a combination of content from any source, including your organization’s proprietary content, (like courses from your LMS), eLearning courses from partners, online videos, articles, podcasts, events, or books.  If you have the pathway authoring permission, you can create a pathway and share it with your organization.

 To author a pathway:

1. Navigate to your profile, then select “Pathways”. On your Profile, Pathway page, you’ll see a list of pathways you are authoring or collaborating on. To create a new Pathway, select the first tile labeled “Create New Pathway.”

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2. Enter a Pathway name, description, and categories that describe what someone will learn about from the pathway. The Pathway name and description will help a user find your pathway in a search.

3.You can add an image to the pathway that will be displayed on the pathway tile.

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4. Edit Pathway: If you need to go back and edit the pathway, navigate to your Profile, select the “Pathway” tab, select the menu for the pathway, then select “Edit”.  Pathways you are authoring will be presented at the top of this page, while Pathways you are enrolled in will appear at the bottom of this page.

 

 

DegreedPathway35. Add Collaborators – If you would like other members of your organization to help you build the pathway, select the gear icon next to the pathway name, then select  “Add Collaborators,” then enter a name. A pathway can have as many collaborators as you like.

Collaborators will see the pathway in their pathway authoring list and will be able to edit the pathway with the same privileges as the original author. Any member of your organization can be added as a collaborator, regardless of permissions.

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6. Use search to add content to your Pathway. When you’re ready to start adding learning material to your pathway, select the “Search” option to search for content in Degreed. If the pathway is being made for the organization, you can search your organization’s internal catalog for content or you can select to search external resources.  You can search by book, course, article, or video. You can combine content from external online sources with proprietary content from your intranet. Enter a search term, and hit enter to get a list of content. Use the “Filter” option to filter by type of content, or to switch between the internal or external catalog.

Once you’ve found the content you’re looking for, drag and drop the content to your “bin”, or select the “Add to Bin” button.

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7. Add content while authoring. You can also add new content by clicking on the “Add to Bin” button. Then select whether the content you are adding is an article, video, book, course, or event. You’ll be prompted to enter the URL for the item and the additional details.

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8.  Add Content via the Degreed Extension or Bookmarklet. You can add content directly to your pathway from the Degreed Extension or Bookmarklet while browsing the internet or your internal intranet.

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9. Add content to your pathway from anywhere in Degreed you find content. Select the down arrow, then select “Add to Pathway.”

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10. Build the Pathway. Once you’ve collected content for the pathway in your bin, you can begin building your pathway. Select the option for  “Build” to begin building your pathway. Then drag and drop learning content from the bin to the pathway.

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11. Add Lessons and Sections. You can divide up your pathway into lessons and sections. You can edit the title and description of each lesson and section so learners know what to expect in each segment. To add a lesson or section, click on the “Add Lesson” or “Add Section” options at the bottom of the authoring page.

 

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Tip: When users are working on a pathway, sections appear in the left navigation of the pathway, while lessons appear in the right panel. We recommend using sections when the user is switching sub-topics in the pathway.

12. Publish to your organization. When your pathway is complete, don’t forget to publish the pathway to your organization by changing the visibility. Select the “Private to you” link to launch the publish dialog.

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13.Pathway Visibility –  The pathway will only be visible to you, in draft mode, until you select to publish the pathway to the organization. Only users with the “Author Pathways” permission are able to publish a pathway to the organization.

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When you modify the pathway visibility, you are presented with the following options:

 

  • My Profile (private): The pathway is completely private to you. Only you will see this pathway on your Profile Pathway tab.
  • My Profile (visible): The pathway is visible to anyone that can view your profile. For example, if your profile is set to “private to the org”, members of your organization can see this pathway on your profile. If your profile is public, any Degreed user can view this pathway on your profile.
  • Search results for specific groups: This pathway will be added to your organization’s internal catalog, but only searchable by the groups you specify.
  • Search results for anyone at Degreed: This pathway will be added to your organization’s internal catalog, but searchable by anyone in the organization. You can specify groups that can find this pathway using a group filter.

pathwayvisibility

If published to anyone at your organization, your pathway will appear in your organization’s internal catalog of pathways, and visible to other members of your organization.

If published to a specific group, only members of that group will be able to find the pathway in the pathway gallery.

Pathways are a great way to use a collection of learning content for sharing knowledge on a particular topic, like onboarding a new employee, or teaching someone a new skill. Head on over to Degreed to start your own pathway.

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