According to economist Paul Krugman, the skills gap is no longer a zombie idea, “an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.” Despite an economy and job growth being steadily on the rise, many employers actually have difficulty hiring skilled workers. Furthermore, we are constantly inundated with sobering statistics about the state of the skills gap. Among them:

It’s clear from both the statistics and a quick read through any publication that CEOs are in a state of unknowing, a state of anxiety. There is not a single CEO in the world who can tell you the skills their organization has, or the skills that their organization needs. Why? Because we lack a universal language for measuring skills within organizations.

Without this measurement, there is no way to equally calibrate what a person, let alone an entire organization, is capable of.

What CEOs Want

The market wants to, and needs to, speak a common language about skills. Degreed clients are already having those initial conversations in L&D, but we have to migrate those conversations  to the C-Suite. Doing that takes a different mindset, new tactics, and an executive-level metric. CEOs need business-qualified metrics, which L&D has rarely had at its disposal, blurring the line between a business contribution and a business expense.

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Other business units have had to shift their story as well, eg customer satisfaction. Frederick Reichheld tied it together best: “By substituting a single question for the complex black box of the typical customer satisfaction survey, companies can actually put consumer survey results to use and focus employees on the task of stimulating growth.” Mr. Reichheld shared this quote in a 2003 Harvard Business Review article that introduced Net Promoter Score.

Introducing a single question and a CEO-level metric solved the customer-service black box question. Fifteen years later, the most successful CEOs know their company’s NPS, because  NPS gives CEOs a single metric, a universal way to benchmark and judge practices for their impact.

As part of The Expertise Economy, a book about how the smartest companies use learning to engage, compete, and succeed, Kelly Palmer and and I introduced the Skills Quotient — a framework for benchmarking the skills of an organization.

About Skills Quotient

Skills Quotient is an entirely open framework: whatever taxonomy, mechanisms for measuring skills, rubric you use, you can benefit from Skills Quotient.

the skills quotient framework

Here’s how it works: For any role, identify the skills needed and the required levels. Next, capture your individual ratings for each skill. Then, divide the sum of the skills you have by the sum of the skills required, multiplied by 100 to calculate your Skills Quotient. The example below uses the 8-level framework created by the Lumina Foundation.

skills quotient by job role what are the skills you need?

There is a caveat to the equation: your skill level for any skill cannot exceed the maximum required. We do this to correctly identify the skill gap.

There are a few important things to know about Skills Quotient:

  1. It works for individuals, in whatever role you are in, even aspirational roles.
  2. You are not just one number. You have a Skills Quotient for your current role, but it can also be calculated for your next role, or dream job.
  3. Skills Quotient works for teams, organizations, and industries.

For the first time, we are able to benchmark in a meaningful way, and breakdown differences using a codified, single C-level metric.

Want to innovate with us? We are looking for more companies who are willing to join us in proving Skills Quotient and ultimately publishing uses cases for it, just as Frederick Reichheld did fifteen years ago with NPS.

Though it’s a concept brought to life in the Expertise Economy, Degreed is here to help. For existing clients, we’re introducing Skill Review, a scientifically defensible, highly-accurate way to capture skill data. Skill Review joins Degreed’s suite of skill measurement capabilities, including self assessment and Degreed Skill Certification to give you a robust set of tools to measure skills inside your organization.

As you use Skills Quotient within your organization, you are taking a complex black box and providing a single question and single executive level metric delivered in a codified way. What this unlocks in the organization is the ability to benchmark over time, and drive skills at the team level. And answer the question for the CEO, and to solve the CEO’s BIGGEST problem.

In case you didn’t notice it, there has been a monumental shift in the learning market, with analysts beginning to diagnose a new trend.

  • The Sierra Cedar 2018-2019 HR Systems Survey white paper cites Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) as “an emerging trend in the Talent Management application space.”
  • Brandon Hall is calling it “the beginning of a movement that has been set in permanent motion to transform how organizations look at learning and improving individual and organizational performance.”
  • Josh Bersin says the “potential LXP market is huge,” and is currently valued at $200-250 million and growing at 200% or more.
  • Craig Weiss, learning technology consultant, calls the category, “Learning Engagement Platform,” and calls it a stronger product [than an LMS] in an inevitably expanding niche.”
  • In its 2018 Hype Cycle for HCM Technology, Gartner states, “Learning Productivity Platforms” has just entered the innovation trigger which occurs when there is a period of rapid development and growing interest. The market has finally been validated and defined and is expected to reach mainstream adoption in the next 5-10 years.”

Though analysts can’t agree on a name for the category, they all agree that there is something new and big here.

Engagement is a Prerequisite, Not the End Goal

Analysts remain focused on the front-end portal, the employee experience, and engagement. For many in corporate learning that are utilizing legacy Learning Management Systems, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that the end goal of all learning is engagement, measured by time, activity, and satisfaction.

If your company is like most, voluntary usage of learning systems might average 4-6% in a given month — anemic by almost any standard. Increasing learning activity 9x as we’ve done at AirBnB, having 25% of employees spend 3-4 hours learning every week at HP Inc., or getting a 69 Net Promoter Score at T-Mobile would seem to be goals worth striving for. And they are. Without engagement, nothing else is possible.

We agree that something huge is going on here, but it goes deeper than the surface level experience analysts are seeing. There is plumbing and wiring hidden under the surface, and driving this experience behind the scenes is a robust skills data set that matches people to what they need to learn, driving more engagement.

We believe a new operating system  for learning is emerging that will enable companies to make talent decisions.

It’s what you do with that engagement that matters

Engagement is not enough. It doesn’t mean that outcomes are being created, or that value is being generated for the business. It’s a bit like how startups try to grow revenues without any appreciation for the value of profits. These companies  get caught up in vanity metrics because it makes them feel like they are making progress, but they are not actually building a sustainable business. In the same way, engagement indicates that you are doing something right, but it’s not the complete story.

It’s what you do with that engagement that matters. We’ve known all along that engagement matters most when it aligns to greater performance, opportunity, and achievement for all parties, like when a company is filling hard-to-fill roles and retaining employees longer; when employees are gaining skills that are valuable to their careers, and to the competitiveness of their firms.

To achieve this goal, we made a major investment in technology, data science, and machine learning. We’ve spent the last few years, creating a framework that creates data about what can people do, how well they can do it, and matches them to learning opportunities that will help them grow their career and contribute to organizational growth.

This is something that no one else is doing today and it is already starting to yield substantial value for our clients. At Unilever, active learners are 24.5% more likely to receive 4- and 5-star performance ratings, get promoted 10% faster, and are 25% more likely to be targeted for retention efforts.

The linchpin of this framework is Skills. Knowing the skills your company has is exponentially more valuable than knowing how many hours employees spent learning. It becomes meaningful to the entire organization, especially to the C-Suite, who can leverage this data for strategic initiatives like product innovation, entering new markets, and M&A, all of which require a talent pool armed with the latest and greatest skills.

It’s time to elevate learning

To that end, we’re making a series of other exciting Skills-related updates to our platform:

  • Skill Review to assess who has what skills across an entire company
  • Team Pages and Individual Development Plans to drive employee development at a grassroots level
  • Career Pathing to help people grow while aligning careers with company strategy

All these updates are intended to build upon what we’ve already achieved and continue to elevate learning — to make it more strategic to business units and to turn it into a competitive advantage. To redirect the way we talk about learning outcomes — leaving behind metrics like satisfaction and activity, and putting new a focus on internal mobility, retention, and performance. All these things come down to helping your business do a better job of developing your talent.

With rapidly changing business landscapes in virtually every industry, we believe learning is one of the greatest internal investment opportunities of our time. Learning drives the creation of skills, and skills are what drives corporate competitive advantage. It’s our mission to make learning matter and empower organizations to make skills the center of their people operations and create a path for every person to own their future while helping their company succeed in the marketplace. These recent upgrades to our platform are a step in the direction in this mission.

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We chose the mission of creating a better way to develop and communicate skills not because it was easy but because we believe everyone deserves earning and career potential, regardless of their formal credentials.

We’re pleased with our progress, but there’s clearly more to do. Which is why today, we are excited to announce we have combined forces with Pathgather.

The acquisition immediately increases our ability to deliver our industry-leading learning experience in technology and services, and more importantly, to help you build and measure the skills of both your employees and your organization.

A force to be reckoned with

Founded in 2012, Pathgather is a fast-growing and highly-respected innovator in learning experience platforms. The company, which is based in New York City, brings another 30 smart, creative and dedicated people onto our team starting today. That means we’ve now got the largest team in the industry – more than 230 people – dedicated exclusively to improving people’s learning experiences, and linking career growth to business priorities.

Together, we’re a force to be reckoned with. This acquisition brings together the two real innovators in learning experience platforms – our two organizations literally created this market. It also solidifies Degreed’s lead in the fast-growing learning experience platforms market, with a combined client base of more than 200 organizations, over 4 million licensed users, and nearly $100 million in funding.

“Pathgather has always been dedicated to our customers’ success, and this merger ensures that our users and clients will now enjoy an even better product and experience, with the same level of continued dedication,” said Eric Duffy, CEO of Pathgather. “Joining forces with Degreed plugs us into the biggest and most vibrant community of innovative learning and HR executives in the world. We’re excited to tap into Degreed’s experience, insights and resources.”

The future

This is an exciting time for Degreed; it’s been just four months since we raised $42 million in our Series C, and appointed our new CEO. More importantly, though, this is exciting news for our clients, partners, and users. Degreed has always been committed to innovation, ever since our start in 2012, and our creativity and drive have been a key attraction for many clients.

“This combination makes us the unequivocal leader in learning experience platforms,” said Chris McCarthy, CEO of Degreed. “Corporate learning budgets are shifting fast, and LXPs have emerged as the new operating system for employees’ training and development. Pathgather and Degreed defined this market. Now, together, we have the products, expertise, relationships and war chest we need to accelerate innovation, and dramatically accelerate our growth.”

With our expanded set of resources and capabilities, we are now planning to expand our functionality to further enhance both our clients’ and users’ experiences. To start, that will include:

  • Sustaining our lead with the best-in-class learner experience
  • Expanding access to more and better learning content
  • Improving administration, content management, and reporting capabilities
  • Accelerating our use of data science and machine learning
  • Continued investment in our proprietary skill rating and certification technologies

Obviously, we’re really excited about this. But we’d love to hear your feedback and ideas. So if you have any questions or thoughts to share, we’ve got a variety of ways. Read our press release, get in touch with your Degreed or Pathgather contact person, visit the Pathgather blog, or email me directly at chris@degreed.com.

The future is certain. It’s volatile and ever-changing. It will require all of us, working together to solve these challenges head-on. Degreed and Pathgather are, together, reinforcing our commitment to making skill development accessible for everyone and we’re looking forward to the future with you.

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For many learning teams, getting engagement in technology is tough. We hear things like, “not another system,” and “I don’t have time.” So how can we overcome those common challenges?

Leading by example can help.

JF

Meet Justin Finkelstein, a Senior Vice President of Data Analytics. Not only does he prefer audio so he can walk and learn at the same time, he is a power-user of Degreed.

Managing a global team and being an active father, how does he make time to learn? And not just an article here and there – he completed over 120 items in May! Justin shared a few things about his learning journey in a recent interview with Degreed.

Q: What’s your favorite way to learn or biggest take away from what you have learned in the past?
A:  My learning process looks something like this:

  1. Get inspired by somebody else and have the thought.  I can do that or I want to do that.
  2. Figure out how to model their process/rapidly
  3. Do a lot of repetitions
  4. Decide if it is a topic that I am still passionate about or if it was just a good idea.

An example: I wanted to get comfortable speaking in front of people and I was a new dad.  Since I was a new dad and had very little time, I did not want to invest the time in going a traditional route (Toastmasters, etc.). Somebody suggested I just make a lot of videos.  Although not exactly the same as speaking in front of people, this would allow me to do a lot of repetitions without having to depend on scheduling, etc.  I went home and created 80 videos in 12 hours which quickly got me over the fear of speaking.

Q: What’s the most useful skill you’ve ever learned?

A: Committed to a win/win world.  Not a skill as much as an operating principle.  If somebody loses in an interaction then everybody loses in the end.

Q: Favorite expert and why?

A: Tough to pick one so I won’t. 🙂

Q: How have your learning habits changed since you started using Degreed?

A: I learn best in micro doses. The problem in the past is that I would go through so many daily micro doses that it was hard to remember what I had learned.

With Degreed, I can learn my natural way and piece the learnings together to produce results.  Plus, I now have easier access to find out who has interests that are similar to mine and to also learn how they are learning.

Q: So what are you learning about right now?

A: “Modeling of Experts – how can we take somebody from novice to expert rapidly and in an enjoyable, collaborative way?  I am obsessed with that moment when somebody gets passionate about a topic and realizes that they have to be great.

His current interests include – making education enjoyable for his 8 and 5 year old, developing Alexa Skills, eating clean and becoming a martial artist.

Ready to start your learning journey? Create your Degreed account today!

 

Digital technology is transforming just about everything, and fast. Yet just 33% of organizations say their top-level managers understand and support digital initiatives. If you’re not working on transforming your L&D and HR function for the digital age, too, then maybe you should.

The reality is, the world is changing constantly. And according to major startup investor Paul Graham, it creates not just threats, but also huge opportunities – if you recognize the signals in time and adapt appropriately.

McK quote Digital CLO

The threats that come with being a chief learning officer (CLO), or working for one, are real. Reality is getting more virtual. Intelligence is getting more artificial. Data is getting bigger. It will take a new breed of chief learning officer that can adequately adjust to meet the needs of today’s workforce. Say hello to the Digital CLO.

The formula for success as a Digital CLO in learning and development (L&D) – which is essentially the algorithm for developing capabilities and driving business performance – is well-known:
Alignment + Efficiency + Effectiveness = Outcomes

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Most CLOs struggle to get or stay aligned. Almost 60% of the workforce’s skill sets don’t match changes in their companies’ strategies, goals, markets or business models.

Many CLOs also have a hard time being efficient. As much as 70 cents out of every dollar invested in L&D is wasted on irrelevant, redundant, low quality or unused training.

Most importantly, too many CLOs aren’t actually effective where it counts. Nearly three quarters of CEOs say that a lack of critical expertise is a threat to their businesses’ growth.

Some CLOs, however, are adapting and evolving – even thriving – in the face of all this digital disruption. To find out what the 3 things are that successful CLO’s do differently, join Intel and Degreed for the Digital CLO “playbook” webinar on January 31st. Register for the event here.

When we talk about the value of learning, it’s commonly linked to increasing the capabilities of the larger organization to drive performance, productivity and business outcomes.

But as the workforce becomes more saturated and diverse, employees are finding out that their ability to get new and improved jobs aka employability, is based on their skills. And to keep up, worker capabilities need to be improving all the time. Rightfully so, workers are demanding opportunities to learn and gain new skills.

The smartest CLO’s realize that if they don’t enable continuous growth in-house, and offer a variety of learning experiences and opportunities, employees will leave.

culture

At the Degreed LENS event in November, learning analyst Josh Bersin shared that career development and learning are almost 2x more important than compensation and benefits to employees. “When high performers leave your company, it’s usually because they felt they could find a better opportunity, more growth, more development by going to work for another company. It wasn’t for more money; it’s rarely for more money,” said Bersin.

And for those specifically interested in reaching millennials, lack of growth opportunities is the number one reason they will leave your company.

millennials

Though a key factor to employee satisfaction, only 18% of the people Degreed surveyed said they would recommend their employer’s learning and development opportunities to a colleague. This is a big missed opportunity and an important issue.  Building a meaningful learning experience has become more than job productivity –  it’s your brand, your ability to attract people, your ability to retain them.

At the LENS event, Bersin revealed there are 20 different things that contribute to an employee’s sense of mission, purpose and engagement with your company– almost half of them relate to learning.

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“Learning owns probably 30 or 40 percent of the employment brand in your company. The issue of how we learn and how we share information in companies is very essential to the employee experience at organizations,” shared Bersin.

People are a big expense – up to 70% of operating costs in many organizations. Investing in them through learning, keeping the workforce engaged is more vital than ever, and treating L&D as a core part of your brand’s success is essential to making that happen. Take the first steps to making learning part of your brand at Degreed.com.

The average person leaves university or college in their early 20’s and retires in their mid 60’s. For those of you like me that aren’t math wizards, that’s about 45 years where most of your learning happens in a professional setting, i.e. while you’re on the job.  And most of that on-the-job learning happens outside of training classes, in the job-related information you consume and tasks you complete each day.

That’s a huge amount of informal learning over the course of a career. While the lack of formality and classroom hours sound great, there’s a problem. Typically, the valuable time you’re spending growing your skill sets isn’t being captured.

Think about it. Almost every day you are reading articles, watching videos, searching online to find an answer. But where are you tracking that time spent or what knowledge you gained? My guess is it’s not being recorded anywhere.

At the organizational level, very little data, if any, is captured on what employees are learning in the course of doing their jobs. Regularly, measurement ends when the course or training program is over, and the details that were captured are minimal – typically only a record that you’ve “completed” the learning.

“This lack of data represents an enormous missed opportunity to increase an organization’s human capital, by tailoring learning resources and initiatives to the specific topics people don’t understand well enough,” said Lev Kaye, Founder and CEO of CredSpark.

Worse, this lack of data on informal learning carries a huge risk for the business.  Organizations can operate impaired, or even close down as a result of bad decisions or investments stemming from knowledge gaps.  In certain industries, if an employee doesn’t understand a critical technology or a regulation, there may be legal, financial, and market implications.  “It’s not just that people don’t know–it’s that they don’t know they don’t know,” added Kaye.

It’s crucial that both the employee and the employer knows which skills, strengths and weaknesses are present in the organization.

The solution is to start assessing and capturing metrics around informal learning.

reporting

“Informal learning by definition demands informal assessment that’s nothing like formal tests for certification, licensure, or hiring,” commented Kaye.  “Rather, informal learning assessment means short, highly-targeted knowledge checks that are used first and foremost to engage people then quickly check their knowledge of these topics.”

It’s important to note that when talking about informal learning, assessments are not meant to be an evaluative tool but another method of engagement to reinforce the learning that’s taking place. These knowledge checks are of highest value to the individual, not her manager or business, because the best learning and growth is driven by individual initiative.

The findings from assessments will provide the learner specific opportunities where they can increase their skill sets, and improved insights into the learning happening and identifiable skill gaps for the organization.

To begin gathering informal learning data and using it to reduce the risk of critical knowledge gaps, visit get.degreed.com.

 

Technology is transforming almost every aspect of our lives, from how we get groceries, to how we get around our cities, to how we get answers to everyday questions. People who are in the business of providing information–like L&D training organizations–probably feel this disruption more than others.

Learners are now empowered to find answers on their own, without the help of L&D. According to 2016 Degreed research, almost 85% of workers said they learn weekly by searching online, and nearly 70% learn from peers or by reading articles and blogs. Think about much things have changes, how far we have come, even in just the last 10 years!

It might surprise you that 45 percent of companies report that digital disruption is not being taken seriously by senior management and only 38% of learning and development professionals think they’re ready to meet the needs of tomorrow’s learners. What’s holding everyone up?

It’s important to begin by understanding digital disruption. When talking about the changes in technology, the term is commonly interpreted to mean the impact technology has on the way we conduct ourselves and our businesses everyday.

SCC00WCQ3I

iScoop takes it a step further, defining digital transformation as,“the profound transformation of business activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way.”

The key here is the word “opportunity” and the ability for organizations to fully leverage the possibilities that new technology brings: quicker delivery, more personalized information, more content. To learn more about the current state of digital disruption and how it might affect  businesses  the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation surveyed 941 business leaders around the world in 12 industries.

The study showed 43 percent of leaders fail to see the risks associated with not taking a more modern digital approach, and don’t have strategies in place to address the issue. When this mindset is applied to the learning functions in our companies, it stunts the growth of both employees and the organization . As mentioned above, learners rely heavily on themselves and easy sources of information; and without guidance or facilitation on the systems and sources from which they are getting the content, they are choosing sources outside the purview of L&D systems, such as Google or YouTube.

Author and business leader Daniel Newman is well known for his take on digital transformation. He offers this analysis: “Digital disruptors and tech innovators are emerging in different industry sectors, threatening to overthrow conventional business models faster than ever. The implications are clear—you either embrace digital transformation or stagnate and perish.”

Bersin by Deloitte quantifies digital tools for the learning space, adding, “HR leaders and learning must adapt to a world where employees demand continuous learning opportunities through innovative platforms tailored to their individual schedules.”

The most successful CLOs know embracing digital disruption in today’s always-on economy takes more than just investing in the newest technology. “What separates the disruptors from the disrupted is how you put those new tools to work,” adds Todd Tauber, VP of Product Marketing at Degreed.

For CLOs and learning leaders, overcoming digital disruption includes a strategy that shares responsibility with L&D, managers and employees. This new strategy also includes an investment in tools and systems that empower: continuous growth, informal and self-driven learning, curation, collaboration, and behavioral data.

Embracing digital learning solutions that mirror the way the workforce already gets their information is no longer a luxury, it’s a marker of success. Our diverse talent market and competitive business landscape makes “learning an essential tool for engaging employees, attracting and retaining top talent, and developing long-term leadership for the company.”

It’s time to embrace digital with a learning solution that curates and tracks all learning experiences. Find out more about what this could look like at your organization at get.degreed.com

Many learning leaders are re-thinking their strategy and want to incorporate more digital components to what they are doing with learning.  This means thinking beyond traditional models of classroom training, e-learning, and the limited functionality of an LMS. The reality is that people have information available at their fingertips and there is an abundance of tools to choose from.

The key is relevance, context and helping your learners effectively navigate the explosion of content. As you are thinking about creating your digital learning strategy and incorporating digital learning assets and tools into what you offer your employees, it’s imperative you consider and are able to answer the following three questions:

  1. What is our digital learning strategy?

A digital learning strategy means that you are going to incorporate digital learning assets (videos, online learning, courses, blogs, articles, books) into how you help people learn. But, it’s really more than that – it’s actually thinking about learning differently.  There is so much content for learning available to people now, and the rate of change is so fast, that we can’t be bound by old models of learning to satisfy how quickly people need to keep up on the required skills today.

digital-strategy-1

In the old model, a central learning group would get requirements for what people needed to learn (say Java programming), design and develop the “training,” and then set up classrooms, register people, and have them leave their job to attend a class.  That process takes time (sometimes a lot of time) and by the time all that happens, your company has moved on and now needs Python programming skills instead.

Instead, embrace a digital learning strategy. Now you can use the over-abundance of available content to your advantage.  You can help direct people to digital assets that you have developed, or that already exist, and give them on-demand access.  Having a variety of digital asset types also takes into account all the different ways people like to learn – I personally love to read books or listen to podcasts, but others may like to take a multi-week online course.  A digital learning strategy is your plan for how you want to conveniently offer all these digital learning assets to your employees.

  1. Why do we need a digital learning strategy?

One of the reasons it’s so valuable to have a digital learning strategy is that you can provide learning to all your employees – not just the chosen few.

When a digital learning strategy is deployed, it is instantly a global, scalable benefit for all of your people.  So if you have employees around the globe, or across the country, a digital strategy can help show all employees you are investing in them and in their skill development – all the time – which is key to employee engagement, especially millennials. Workers will have all types of learning assets at their fingertips whenever they need them.  So instead of asking the learning department to develop a particular type of learning, people can access thousands of learning assets that can help them right away.

Many companies spend the majority of their budgets on leaders and managers or high-performing employees and leave the rest of their employees to fend for themselves.  But how can “the rest” succeed without support and guidance, too? Having a digital strategy can help you reach all of your employees and help you have a competitive advantage in terms of retaining people. Employees want to build their skills and want you to invest in them, so if they feel your company will do that and others won’t, that gives you an edge.

  1. Which digital content should we include?

Here’s where a little analysis as well as iteration comes into play. At my last company when we were trying to decide which content to include in our digital strategy, we had just begun creating the learning organization, so we didn’t have any of our own content yet. In order to get learning to people quickly, we partnered with a few leading content providers that have libraries of digital content (examples include Plural Sight, BigThink, SkillSoft, Lynda.com, Safari Books, and Harvard Publishing, although there are hundreds out there).

Strategy_Degreed_2016_Learning_Landscape

We chose three content partners and tracked the usage of providers content to see what our employees were needing and using.  We also included some of the free content out there (such as Ted Talks and YouTube videos).  That worked well for creating our first digital strategy, but over time, we dropped some providers and partners and added some of our own company-specific digital content into the mix as we learned what was working best for our employees.

Unfortunately, many online learning strategies start with buying technology – generally an LMS – and then people build the digital strategy around the technology.  To be really successful, though, you need to create your strategy first and then see what technology will support what you really want it to do. New technology is making new things possible.  The key is just to make sure you know what problems you are trying to solve and then you can make the magic happen.

 

 

bb_TrumanAs sad as it is, being snubbed is part of life. But we can’t let that derail us from doing our best work. What if Dicaprio would have given up after one of his many Oscar snubs? Recognition is nice, but it shouldn’t be the reason you do something. You should do things because you love to do them, because it brings you joy. Otherwise, you’ll inevitably find yourself snubbed one day, and have nothing to measure your success on. Success shouldn’t be measured on awards anyway.

Rosalind Franklin was a scientist who got snubbed in the 50’s—pretty significantly might I add—and not many people know about her as a result. So I’d like to tell you a little bit about her story and what we can learn from it.

A Future in Science

Rosalind Franklin was always a bright girl. She excelled in science, math and language from a young age. Her parents were also pretty well off so she never had to worry about finances. She was always able to pursue a good education, and she was determined to excel. In the words of her mother, “Rosalind knew exactly where she was going, and at sixteen, she took science for her subject.”

Rosalind Franklin

In college, Franklin majored in physical chemistry. By the time she finished her undergraduate studies in 1942, World War II was still raging on so she decided to focus her PhD work in an area that would be helpful to the war efforts. She spent the next four years studying coal and carbons. In her research on the subject, she identified micro structures within coal and learned how to utilize that knowledge to more accurately predict the performance of different coals. Her findings were considerable.

After the war ended, Franklin began learning x-ray crystallography, which is the process of taking x-ray photos of crystallized structures. Some of her first work using that method yielded discoveries that would form the basis of carbon fibers.

Later on, Franklin was given a research scholarship at King’s College to improve their crystallography efforts in the study of DNA. Maurice Wilkins, her colleague, was already working with crystallography, but he arrogantly assumed that Franklin was just his assistant. The rift in their relationship would ultimately lead to Franklin’s greatest snub.

 

The Mystery of DNA

Franklin wasn’t just any crystallographer, she was exceptional at it—one of the best in the business. She was able to get some of the highest resolution photos that had ever been taken of crystallized DNA.

In fact, it was because of her images that the well-known duo of James Watson and Francis Crick were able to definitively prove their answer to the DNA mystery. They had theorized that DNA was a double helix, but were missing the piece of the puzzle that would confirm their theory. Wilkins, who knew Watson and Crick, leaked Franklin’s images to the duo. In addition to the images, Watson and Crick also benefitted from some of Franklin’s unpublished research. With those pieces of the puzzle in place, they finally had the evidence they needed. Their published announcement of their discovery gave no direct mention of Franklin or her images.

 

Precision and Patience

It is believed that Franklin probably understood the implications of her photos and that she had her own theories about the double helical shape of DNA. From her research, she photographed two forms of DNA, wet and dry.

Franklin was careful and precise as a scientist. Though she had evidence of a helical structure from her images of wet DNA, She didn’t want to publish her theory until she had worked out the math for dry DNA. She wasn’t going to rush things and risk missing a vital piece of information. She wanted to be absolutely sure. She was diligent and cautious by nature. By 1953, she was finally able to conclude that both forms were double helices. However, that’s exactly when Watson and Crick’s announcement was published.

After her work in DNA, Franklin made substantial discoveries as she shifted her studies to viruses. She published 19 papers on viruses and helped lay the foundation of structural virology. Franklin would have likely made more strides in science, but she died from ovarian cancer only a few years later at the age of 37.

Franklin’s contribution to the mysteries of DNA was only made public in later years. However, that wasn’t until after Watson, Crick and Wilkins has been awarded the Nobel Prize for their work in DNA in 1962—with no mention of Franklin’s contribution.

Though Rosalind Franklin had her share of snubs and controversy, she loved what she did. Her belief was that by doing her best, she “would come nearer to success, and that [her] definition of success (the improvement of the lot of mankind, present and future) is worth attaining.” So she always did her best, even after she was denied the recognition she deserved.

And so should we.

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