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

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

To help L&D teams better engage employees, Degreed recently surveyed 512 people to understand how today’s workforce really builds their skills and fuels their careers. The findings, which are summarized in a new report titled, “How the Workforce Learns in 2016”, might make you rethink three common myths about workplace learning.

The infographic below showcases these 3 myths and the truths behind them. You can read more about them here.

3 Myths in Workplace Learning

Admittedly, I’m somewhat of a newb to the world of podcasts. Though I have been a fan of audiobooks for years, I took my time getting into podcasts. Last year when everyone was listening to Serial while they ate their cereal, I was going strong on my serial habit of sleeping in and skipping my cereal.

Six months ago I finally caved and decided to give Serial a try. I finished season 1 in a week. It wasn’t hard for me to understand why it has shattered podcast records. And I only know that fact because of an interview I listened to last week with Ira Glass… on a podcast. I’m sincerely grateful for Sarah Koenig opening the door for me to a new avenue of learning. Once I was done with Serial, I couldn’t just stop. I began exploring other podcasts. Now I consume at least 4-6 hours of podcast content per week.

After I had worked my way through the most recent episodes of the podcasts I was familiar with, I got the the point where I had to start branching out and searching for new content. As I tried other podcasts out, I realized that liking one episode of a certain podcast didn’t always mean that I would enjoy all of the other episodes.

Originally, I just browsed for new stuff by scrolling through the top picks list on the iTunes Podcasts app. But that was time consuming. After trying out the search functionality on the app, I wished I could search a little better. I decided to look for other resources that I could use to further dial in my selections. Turns out there are some pretty good websites/apps out there to help you do just that. Here are a few of the best ones I’ve found.

 

Player.fm

PodcastFeeds1

 

First up is Player.fm. In terms of topic-based searches, I probably like this one the best. For example, just look how it breaks out the general topics into much more specific areas. Searching through those areas not only yields a list of the top podcasts relevant to the topic, but also the most recent episodes from any podcast that talks about the topic. You can run this app right on your phone (Android only) for free. As an iPhone user, I just enjoy using the search features on the website. My favorite part is the “play later” functionality, which allows you to save individual episodes instead of having to subscribe to the whole podcast and then remember where the episode was.

 

NPR Podcast Directory

PodcastFeeds2

 

The NPR directory only searches and references podcasts that are produced by NPR. This American Life, which is an NPR podcast, basically invented the system by which most podcasts produce content today. So it’s safe to say they know their stuff. NPR owns a pretty good share of the podcast market. You’d be hard pressed not to find something you enjoy from an NPR podcast. The site also has recommended picks and category search functions.

 

Learn Out Loud

PodcastFeeds3

This site might not have the most elegant design, but it still has a ton of functionality. You can search through all kinds of categories and topics to find content that is interesting and new. A lot of content is free, but you can also access their premium content for a fee. And they don’t stop at podcasts, how do you feel about free audiobooks?

 

Stitcher

PodcastFeeds4

If you’re a frequent podcast listener, you’ve probably heard of Stitcher. But for those who might not know, Stitcher is a solid way to find and curate podcast content. The name Stitcher refers to the app’s ability to “stitch” together multiple shows into a customized station playlist—kinda like Pandora for podcasts. You can also try pre-set stations that are curated by Stitcher’s editors. One of the things I like is how it tracks the movement of the top podcasts. Those insights into how a podcast is trending can help you find great content that you may have overlooked otherwise.

 

Audiosear.ch

PodcastFeeds5

Audiosear.ch has some really awesome visual graphics that help you understand various metrics of current podcasts. For example, there is a frequency graph that shows you who the most mentioned people are in their podcast database. And if you are curious about how many podcasts Macauley Culkin is mentioned in, you can find that in their People Index. There is also a feature called PodLikeThat that suggests podcasts that are similar to your favorite podcasts and podcast episodes. For those who might want random podcast suggestions, there is also a Pod-A-Day email you can sign up for to get a new podcast in your inbox daily.

 

Hopefully at least one of these websites/apps will help you more easily find new podcast content that fits your taste! And don’t forget, you can track all your podcast listening on your Degreed profile!

 

 

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” ― Albert Einstein
Degreed-App5

We believe that all learning matters, and learning happens throughout the course of our lives. We’re excited to offer one more way we’re making daily learning easier and more convenient- the Degreed app.

You’ve always been able to access Degreed.com on your phone, but we wanted to give you something tailor-made to your mobile learning habits. Today, we’ve released the power of the Degreed app, here’s a preview of what it offers:

 

DegreedApp1

It’s simple. We’ve simplified Degreed to its essence so you can dive in and start learning even when you’ve only got 2 minutes to spare.

DegreedApp2

It’s convenient. You already consume a lot of content from your phone’s browser, but until now, you’ve had to jump through a few flaming hoops to get that content into Degreed. We felt your pain and have worked tirelessly to make it easy. Now just hit the “share” button in your browser, choose Degreed from the Share pop-up, and Save or Complete items.

screenshot3

It’s social. See something you want to share with a friend? Push content from Degreed into Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, SMS… whatever you want.

DegreedApp3

“People are increasingly learning informally–on the go. Everyone knows this. But what is new is the ability to leverage all of those moments of learning into something greater. To turn that into professional credit. To leverage it to learn new skills. To level up. Degreed’s mission is to make all learning matter,” explains our Co-founder & CEO, David Blake. “The Degreed app is an extension of that mission–to help make all of that mobile learning matter–in a big way, in your career and professionally with your employer.”

The iPhone app is ready today in the Apple App Store and the Android app will be on Google Play very soon (think “weeks” not “months”).

Download the app and take it for a spin, keep in mind this is Version 1. That means there will probably be some bugs hiding in there. If you come across anything wonky, send us a note at app@degreed.com.

How it all started

Not to be nostalgic about my education, but this is the type of high school I wished I’d gone to.

Earlier this month, I served as a panelist for Design Tech High School‘s Presentations of Learning, which is a 3 minute creative display by d.tech students that demonstrates reflection, growth & improvement in the practice of design thinking to the greater community (taken straight out of the pamphlet because I couldn’t have said it any better).

D.tech High School is incredibly unique in that it immerses students in technology, design thinking and project-based approaches in the classroom with personalized learning. Design thinking is especially prevalent throughout all the lessons, and all teachers go through training at the Stanford d.school before teaching a d.Lab class.

What exactly is design thinking and why is it so important?

Design thinking is a way of thinking that puts being human first. The process looks like this:

design-thinking-01

Notice that the first and fundamental step is empathy. You observe, ask questions, and conduct interviews to find out what the other person really needs. This is where your assumptions and biases are put aside and the listening ears come forward.

Then, you define the problem with a big picture perspective of what exactly the needs are that we’re trying to solve for, to ensure that we’re not climbing the ladder that’s leaning against the wrong wall.

With the constraints set, it’s time to ideate and use the imagination to come up with the craziest ideas in your wildest dreams that can solve the defined problem. This is where the students expressed they had the most trouble in – speaking up and not being embarrassed about their ideas.

Then you narrow down the ideas to a couple to prototype. This is where you get scrappy and mimic the product and experience of using the product. Common materials are cardboard, construction paper, post-its and popsicle sticks (my favorite).

Then you test your assumptions. When your assumptions are wrong, it doesn’t mean that it’s a failure. It only means that you’re one step closer to the right solutions, and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Design thinking is an ongoing process, not only in the sense that you continuously iterate but also that it doesn’t just stop at the classroom. Throughout the panel, questions were asked to encourage the students to think about how they can apply these concepts they learned from their projects in life and for the upcoming semesters.

I was amazed by the quality of the presentations, the creativity of the mediums they used and the variety of their projects ranging from animated gaming videos to organized camping trips to composition of a rap song (basically all the things that I’ve only dreamed about doing). It was incredibly high quality and almost unbelievable that there were so many young actresses, writers, comedians and musicians in the house.

An unexpected effect of learning

I was in for a bigger surprise though – the way the students described themselves before design thinking completely blew me away. Almost every one of their presentations started with “I was really shy….” and I couldn’t believe that was true when the student standing in front of me spoke with such confidence and ease.

That’s when it hit me. Design thinking doesn’t only change the way the mind thinks but it also transforms the personality. Being a part of the process led to confidence. Turns out that conducting interviews encouraged them to step out of their boundaries and speak to strangers. Working with others to define the problem facilitated collaboration and teamwork. Sharing all kinds of ideas took away the embarrassment and hesitation to voice what’s on their minds. Constantly prototyping and testing melted away the fear of failure. Having the type of environment to experience this led to more confidence.

Creating a learning environment

To sum it up, the students were encouraged to be bold. d.tech provides them with type of environment to experiment and fulfill their curiosities at their own pace. Classes also mirror this type of mindset, with minimal tests which can be retaken throughout the semester, leaving the rest of the time dedicated to learning by doing projects. Those who are at a slower pace than others get focused help on a specific topic they are having difficulties with and only move on once they understand it. Similar to pathways on Degreed where a variety of content in different formats (courses, books, videos, etc.) can be curated into a self-paced learning path to learn new skills, d.tech empowers personalized and self-directed learning.

From the transformations I saw in the students, it makes me think – what if the learning delivery method mattered just as much as the actual lesson content? What if learning was the core motivation rather than the occasional byproduct of rote memorization? What if education wasn’t only a tool to get into college and a job after graduating, but also a toolkit for life?

What would that look like? It’s some food for thought as we work together towards reinventing the future of education.

Pasted image at 2016_06_22 09_19 AM

Kelly Palmer, LinkedIn’s former Chief Learning Officer, recently joined Degreed to take on the newly created role as our own CLO. Kelly adds to a long roster of A-list hires from across the corporate learning, enterprise software and consumer edtech spectrum. We are incredibly excited to have her on the team and you should be, too. Here’s why…

Degreed is growing fast. We’ve already built a brilliant, diverse team of 120 designers, developers, engineers, product managers and customer success professionals to support our clients. And we’re just getting started. Bringing Kelly onboard is another meaningful investment in making sure Degreed’s talented team stays sharp and ready for more.

Equally important, Degreed is revolutionizing how enlightened employers build skills and fuel careers. Our customers – 100 of the world’s most sophisticated pioneering learning, talent and HR leaders (and counting) – want a partner who can provide more than a beautiful new technology. They’re also asking for guidance and support as they reengineer how they organize and operate their own teams.

Kelly, a recognized innovator and thought leader, is uniquely qualified to advise and coach other L&D leaders as they design and execute novel digital learning strategies. So she’s also here to help Degreed’s clients, companies like MasterCard, Microsoft, EMC and Xerox (and our friends in the learning and HR community at large) build the capabilities they need to adapt to the demands of today’s hyperkinetic workforce. She’s not alone, though.

Combined, Degreed’s highly skilled team has decades of experience building many of the leading brands in corporate learning, enterprise software and consumer education technology: Workday, Cornerstone OnDemand, SAP SuccessFactors, Microsoft, Skillsoft/SumTotal, Harvard Business Publishing, Bersin by Deloitte, IBM, MIT, Chegg, Pluralsight, Instructure and Lynda.com.

We’ve come together at Degreed to help you reinvent your learning experience. This is about more than just building an awesome new platform for developing and discovering workers’ skills. It’s about empowering people to enrich their lives, and enabling organizations to amplify their performance, by connecting all the world’s best education, training and lifelong learning resources. So all of those learning experiences can work better together for everyone.

Don’t take our word for it, though. If you’re interested in learning more about how Kelly and Degreed can help make all kinds of learning matter for your organization and your people, check out these resources from CLO magazine, Bigthink and Forbes. Then connect with Kelly on LinkedIn, and follow her on Twitter.

You can also track and follow everything Kelly is learning on Degreed.

The Challenge

Purch is a digital content and commerce company, servicing more than 100 million customers worldwide, making it the largest publisher in the tech vertical, according to comScore. Purch prides itself on its company culture, but did not have a strong learning culture. Like many companies, they wanted a learning culture that could improve employee engagement. More than just training employees, Purch wanted to promote employee progress and develop employees.

Purch hired Juli Weber early in 2015, with a mandate to build a learning culture, and implement a learning tool, like a Learning Management System (LMS). To better understand their learning needs, Juli conducted a Learning Needs Assessment. She sent a survey company-wide asking employees a list of questions to understand their learning habits, skill needs, and barriers to learning. The results were eye-opening.

When asked what was more effective in helping them to be successful in their professions, 73% of Purch’s employees said self-directed learning was more useful than employer directed training.

Purch-graphic-data-01 (2)

The survey also showed that this self-directed learning was happening all the time – just not through conventional L&D solutions. 24% of employees said they had learned something useful from an article, blog, or video, in the last day. Almost all employees, 92%, had learned something that month.

Purch-graphic-data-02

Even more shocking: 70% of employees were using Google to find learning first. Almost no one was going to HR for learning resources.

Purch-graphic-data-03 (2)

The Search

Based on that assessment, Juli knew that Purch needed a solution that could empower employees with the autonomy and resources to drive their own learning. The solution needed to meet learners’ needs, not just the organization’s, enabling employees to access learning resources anytime, anywhere. A solution that went beyond merely training employees and actually helped to develop them – facilitating progression to the next job.

Other requirements for the solution included:

  • A diverse set of learning content, at low cost.
  • Integration with Lynda.com, a content provider Purch had already purchased.
  • Enterprise-network integrations, like SSO and HR system synchronization.
  • Social aspects – a tool that encouraged conversations around learning.
  • Gamification – make learning fun, was a very important requirement.
  • Personal reporting for employees and managers so they could track their progress.

“We wanted to create a learning culture that is driven by organic, autonomous, value-added learning activities, sprinkled with social aspects and fun.” Juli says.

The biggest issue with implementing just an LMS is that the LMS came empty. Purch would have to start with a blank slate, and then tell employees to wait while the training department built all the content they needed. As Juli explained, “I had to build all the courses myself, but it doesn’t make sense for me to build a course when there is material out there from trusted sources. “

Why Degreed

Then Purch stumbled upon something new, Degreed. Juli joined a Degreed webinar, and was immediately interested.

A major benefit of Degreed was that it comes with the world’s largest ecosystem of learning content with 250,000 online learning courses from the top content providers, and 3 million informal learning activities from more than 1200 sources. Everything from live, virtual and eLearning courses to videos, MOOCs, bootcamps, articles, books, podcasts, webinars, and more.

Degreed offers engagement tools, like social and gamification to help motivate employees. And, Degreed offers the organization insights to all the learning that is happening – not just the required training.

The Innovation

At one point in the decision making process someone said to Juli, “you know Degreed isn’t an LMS?” Juli’s response – “yeah, that’s the point.“ The early adopters at Purch understood what Degreed was, but there were those that were more resistant to change, that didn’t get it. The learning assessment results that Juli had gathered clearly indicated that this is how people learned. A traditional approach wasn’t going to meet the needs of their employees.

 

Purch-quotes_02

Juli reviewed her options and felt like she was at a turning point. Implementing just an LMS would restrict what learning the organization could provide. She knew it would work for the here and now, but she wanted something that would be innovative and grow as the Purch grew. “I felt that if I went traditional, it would be closing a door.”

Purch-Quote-1

The Impact

Now at Purch, people are learning constantly, and employees can easily track and get recognized for all their learning – the organization now has insights into what people are learning. Degreed is the central hub for all learning in the organization. That includes the articles and videos that can be found on Google, Purch compliance training, the Lynda content the company has purchased, plus a lot more.

Now, when Juli needs to create custom training, she has a better idea of what will drive the greatest impact. “If I’m going to create learning, I only spend time creating learning that really targets the needs.”

And best of all, “Degreed is so simple.” It’s easy for Juli to maintain and “people just use it, and I don’t even need to help them, which gives me time to focus on other things like compliance training. “

And when Juli does create a curriculum, leveraging Degreed results in huge time savings. Traditionally, one hour of classroom training required eight hours of development. With Degreed Pathways, Juli can curate content from the best sources. Two hours of training takes about 2 hours of development time. Now, curriculum development now takes ⅛ of the time.

The time savings is especially important, because Juli has now been promoted to a new role that encompasses both HR and learning and training responsibilities.

The Takeaways

Here are three things you can learn from Purch’s new approach to L&D:

    1. Connect with learners by running your own Learning Needs Assessment. We’ve prepared a Learning Needs Assessment you can use- enter your email in the form below and we’ll deliver it to your inbox.
    2. Create a learning culture that is driven by organic, autonomous, value-added learning activities, sprinkled with social aspects and fun.
    3. Save time and money by curating content instead of buying and building.

Ready to get started with your own Learning Needs Assessment? Enter your email below and we’ll send you the complete case study with a Learning Needs Assessment that features 19 questions that can help you better gauge the needs of your learners.


 

Many of us work on our fitness nearly every day. Imagine trying to run a marathon after taking a jog just once every few months. It’s not going to go well. The same principle applies to learning – your brain needs to “work out” too. We should treat learning the same way we treat exercise- and make it a daily habit.

There are three parallels between learning and fitness, which were presented by Giuseppe Auricchio Executive Director of the Learning Innovation Unit at IESE Business School, during Degreed’s recent Lens event in NYC

 

1. Transformation  by digital technologies.

Both fitness and learning are being transformed by digitalization. Think wearables. Think reading through a powerpoint on your tablet ahead of a sales presentation. Both are things we likely didn’t anticipate before they were invented, and both help us reach new heights.

 

2. It takes many activities to reach that common goal.

Fitness experts say you should vary your fitness routine for maximum results. The same philosophy applies to learning. More than ever, there are a significant amount of options for how you can learn, and employees are combining them to create their own maximum results. Recent research from Degreed reported that nearly 70% learn from peers or by reading articles and blogs every week, and 53% learn from videos in any given week.
 25-things_L&D-04

3. You’re never done being healthy and fit, and you should never be done learning.

Both activities should last for a lifetime. Enough said.

When it comes to both  fitness and learning, the right tools are a critical component to creating daily, sustainable habits. Modern technology has gifted us things like beautiful dashboards that show data and growth over time, contextualized reminders (think: time to stand up!), and social tools that let you challenge or share with your friends. These are all things that make us more productive.

But if we take a step back, we can see that this is bigger than new tech, ease of use, multiple modalities. It’s about the new opportunities that all these things together present. The opportunity to grow and make ourselves better on our own. And the reality is, it’s time for corporate learning to follow suit and empower their employees to take learning into their own hands.

 

If you aren’t sure how, Degreed can help you encourage a culture of self-directed learning, with tools to discover, curate, track, measure, and reward all career and lifelong learning activities. Success for both learning and fitness are intrinsically dependent on motivation which can be difficult to sustain. But it’s important that we keep growing and moving forward, setting goals and improving ourselves as people- and those improvements will most certainly come if we can take advantage of, and create, positive daily habits.

Disney doesn’t sell theme park tickets. GoPro doesn’t sell cameras. They sell stories.

Storytelling is the underlying narrative behind every brand. The greatest brands of our time realize that the physical products and services they offer are secondary to the way that they make us feel. We follow brands whose products fit into the picturebook story of our better selves.

In 2015, GoPro flew athletes to a storytelling camp where their training, product development, and media production teams taught the athletes how to create the best possible stories through their content. On GoPro’s instagram page, each photographer tells a story about the shot they’ve taken.

Storytelling

Stories are how we connect with others and affirm who we are. We all secretly envy that friend who manages to enthrall the dinner table with their most recent epic adventures. Beyond the dinner parties, great storytelling helps develop strong business strategies, makes you a better marketer, and helps you sell yourself as you grow your career.

Nowadays, there are dozens of online courses about storytelling, and we’ve rounded out 3 of our recent favorites.

OneMonth – Storytelling for Business

Taught by Master Storyteller Kevin Allison, from the popular podcast ‘Risk!’, this is an intensive 30-day workshop that breaks down every aspect of storytelling. Take this course if you want a deep dive on storytelling from a pro. This course registration ends on May 27th (this Friday!), so you’ll need to sign up quickly. OneMonth is also giving our readers 10% off their course by clicking this link.

IDEOU – Storytelling for Influence

From the great minds at IDEO, this course gives you a flexible tool kit for storytelling from the Design Director at IDEO who led the consultancy for brand strategy and storytelling for Marriott, Mattel, and others. You’ll learn from actual case studies from IDEO in order to build your storytelling tool kit.

Udemy – Storytelling for Public Speakers: From Zero to Hero

For a lighter introduction to storytelling, this Udemy course will give you the tools to improve your public speaking. This course is taught by Alex Glod, a trainer and TEDx speaker.

There are also hundreds of free resources across the web. Sign up for a Degreed account, search for storytelling, and start learning today.

computer

It’s not a groundbreaking revelation to say that the world of corporate learning has changed. Information is everywhere: Google, YouTube, blogs, podcasts, Meetup groups, 1000+ eLearning providers, over 600 million websites with more options appearing everyday. All these options have changed how people learn, but traditional L&D tools haven’t evolved to meet those changing needs. 37% of enterprise learning applications are at least seven years old. 64% are at least four years old. [Bersin by Deloitte]. A lot has happened in the last 7 years- the very first iPad was released just 6 years ago in 2010.

If you’re running a corporate learning program, there’s a good chance you’re considering making a change. 38% of enterprise learning leaders are, according to Brandon Hall Group. Over 50% according to Adobe / Frost & Sullivan.

You may know you want to step into the world of digital learning, but without a roadmap, this can feel daunting.

Change in any company is risky. In all large organizations, the implementation of new technology moves at a snail’s pace. You might be lucky to get a new tool up and running in 8-9 months, or longer if you want a solution that integrates multiple technologies. But, there are ways to make this easier and improve success rates.

You need a strategy that will reduce risk, be seen as a positive change in the organization, and cut costs for re-education, integrations, and migrations.

Degreed is changing the way organizations approach corporate learning investments by creating a unified learner experience that extends across all of your learning systems. Degreed can integrate disparate HR and L&D systems quickly and at low cost.

By simplifying the user experience, and connecting people to the right tools and resources at the right time – any format, from any system – Degreed helps to drive meaningful increases in everyday learning activity, from any source.

Degreed can simplify the change management process for future corporate learning initiatives in six important ways:

  1. Simplify the end-user experience. Degreed is the front-end interface for all your organization’s learning. Degreed’s unified search streamlines the user experience by integrating internal systems (such as  LMSs, TMSs and document sharing and collaboration portals) and external training content solutions with the world’s largest collection of free, open and low-cost learning tools. Implementing Degreed allows you to continue to make changes on the back-end (new or upgraded LMS, new content vendors, consolidating SharePoint sites, etc.) without impacting the end user experience. 
  2. Reduce training costs. You won’t need to train users on a new LMS or other learning system because Degreed is the front-end solution that integrates with your LMS and other content providers. Degreed has a simple, intuitive UI that doesn’t require special training.
  3. Streamline the integration of disparate systems. Degreed already has integrations with most of the top content providers, streamlining the implementation hurdles of incorporating new content vendors into your organization’s learning ecosystem, while reducing the burden on your IT staff. Degreed’s ongoing monitoring of content usage can assist you in future licensing decisions.
  4. Improve user adoption. Employees view Degreed as a benefit, which facilitates user adoption. The learner is in control, with all the options at their fingertips. Improved user adoption means more consumption of content, both the external content found in Degreed and internal LMS content.
  5. Reduce implementation time. The RFP and implementation process for an LMS is lengthy, which leaves employees without an engaging learning experience for at least 18 months. Degreed can be up and running in as little as 3 months and provide that learning experience right out of the gate, giving you time to complete your LMS implementation on the backend.
  6. Provide better information for your content buying decisions. Because Degreed tracks all learning (formal and informal), the solution can provide you with data around what content, vendors, and modalities your employees are utilizing so you know where you should (and should not) make content investments. Degreed can also help find lower cost or free resources.

Takeaways:

The world of modern learning has evolved since traditional tools were designed. Degreed is built for the complex world of modern learners, and connects all the existing pieces of the learning infrastructure, including the LMS, to the informal and social learning worlds – with a single user-friendly, learner centric point of access.

Implementing Degreed will take your corporate learning into the future, and reduce the risk and cost for future changes.

For more information visit get.degreed.com

knowledge

Do you know Harry Truman’s middle name? What about the number of the last manned Apollo mission? In the scheme of things, these facts may seem irrelevant, even useless to know. After all, how would knowing the name of the president’s dog make you better off? Well, that all depends on what your definition of ‘better off’ is.

I love this piece of the Degreed manifesto: “There is no single path to expertise. And our success in solving our unique problems depends not upon uniformity, but on our diversity, because our differences and uniqueness make us powerful. Everyone deserves recognition for their expertise, no matter how they got there.”

To some it may be trivial knowledge, but if you are an expert on something as unique as 18th century fashion, you deserve recognition. Who knows when that knowledge may solve a unique problem. In previous articles, I’ve focused mainly on learning that is isn’t super unique. For example, a lot of the focus of learning today is based on the most widely marketable skills like foreign languages, communication, or computer science. However, there is another kind of learning that doesn’t get the same love and attention. It’s a type of learning that admittedly isn’t as marketable as other skills, but can still be relevant.

This other kind of learning produces what can be described as “know-it-all knowledge.” Ken Jennings is the poster child for this kind of knowledge. If you are a fan of the TV game show, Jeopardy!, you know the name Ken Jennings. In 2004, Jennings won Jeopardy! a record 74 times in a row. That takes a ridiculous amount of dedication to know-it-all knowledge.

Don’t Forget

In a TED talk given by Jennings in 2013, he described his style of learning as being “curious about everything” or “universally interested in the world around [him].” It’s almost as if he sees random facts as unique LEGO pieces that he can use to build an imaginary LEGO kingdom of knowledge in his brain. Every new subject is an opportunity to add more pieces to his masterpiece.

To keep all that information accessible, Jennings uses his memory constantly. In fact, he’s the kind of guy who longs for the days when everyone knew phone numbers by memory instead of relying on phones to keep track of them. That’s because he understands that when we stop using our brains to remember things and instead outsource our memory to digital devices, parts of our brain can literally shrink. One of the parts that is most vulnerable to this is the hippocampus.

The main function of the hippocampus in the brain is memory and spatial awareness. Studies have been done that suggest the hippocampus actually shrinks in people who use GPS in their car instead of navigating by memory. One of those studies by the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging looked at brain scans of taxi drivers and bus drivers. The taxi drivers had more gray matter (that’s a good thing) in the hippocampus than the bus drivers. The difference was that bus drivers follow the same route, while taxi drivers are constantly challenged to know every corner of a city. Substituting brain power for digital crutches can be detrimental to your mental capacities. 

Super Computers

In 1997, a computer developed by IBM named Deep Blue beat a world champion chess player at chess. Not content to stop there, IBM searched for a new challenge that would push further the limits of computer vs. human. In 2004, Ken Jennings’ domination of Jeopardy! piqued the interest of IBM. For the next seven years IBM developed a question answering (QA) computer system aimed at beating Jennings at his own game. They named the computer Watson. In 2011, Watson faced off against Jennings and another elite Jeopardy! contender. Watson defeated them both.

After his defeat, Jennings had the following thought:

What happens when computers are better at knowing and remembering stuff than we are? 

In essence, what’s the point of putting the effort into learning if we have Google on our phones? In answer to that quandary, Jennings arrived at the conclusion that humans still have two advantages over “those who can just Google something.” The advantage of volume and the advantage of time. 

Advantage of Volume

The world is incredibly complex. As Jennings says in his talk, “…the scope of human information is now doubling every 18 months or so.” That is way too much information to have to continually look up. One example he gives to illustrate the importance of learning vs Googling is how we make informed decisions on who to vote for, which is a decision that requires correct judgement in relation to all kinds of different facts and information. As proof, a 2006 National Geographic Literacy Study said that roughly 63% of young adults who vote in presidential elections—a time when it’s obviously very important to understand foreign policy— couldn’t actually find Iraq on a map. In addition, 75% had no idea Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world.

In Jennings’ own words “If you can’t do that first step, are you really going to look up the other thousand facts you need to know to make an informed decision on foreign policy? At some point you will give up and just make a less-informed decision.”

Advantage of Time

In 2004, a ten-year-old girl by the name of Tilly Smith was on vacation with her family in Thailand. While they were out enjoying the beach, Smith noticed troubling patterns in the ocean and told her parents that they needed to get off the beach. Only a month prior to their vacation, Smith learned about tsunamis in her geography class. She recognized the signs and informed her family and the lifeguard who was then able to quickly get everyone off the beach.

The advantage of time won’t always be that dramatic. Most of the time it will be something simple like a social situation. Something where you meet someone new or you’re in a job interview and a topic comes up that where you can connect with the other person. Those are the situations where asking someone to wait while you Google facts about their hometown doesn’t really work.

In your pursuit of learning, don’t shy away from learning what you may feel are seemingly useless facts about the world around you. Gather up some know-it-all knowledge. Be curious about everything. And while you’re at it, try turning your GPS off every once in awhile. Your brain will thank you.

Page 6 of 18« First...4567810...Last »
Menu