Learning Culture

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TowardsMaturity-Blog

When it comes to learning and development within your organisation, there’s two words you never want to hear: status quo. And whether your L&D specialists believe in their methodology or can support its effectiveness is immaterial. Status quo implies you are satisfied with the ways things are and have no immediate plans to implement change.

In business, unless you are moving forward, you are moving backward. It’s easy to fall into a routine, particularly if your company is financially successful and your employees appear to be growing professionally. But if you don’t have standards to measure yourself against, how can you possibly know if you’re maximising your L&D initiatives?

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The-One-World-School-House-Blog

In honor of a new school year, let’s take a quick tour of the Museum of the Obsolete. Just look at all the prehistoric remnants – typewriters, floppy discs, slide rules, three-ring binders and Palm Pilots. Oh, and here is a colorful assortment of ballpoint pens high school and college students actually used to take notes before smartphones and laptops became so popular.

Talk about profound changes. Not only are the physical tools different in the field of education, but also traditional practices and theories are being challenged and transformed. For decades, students sat in neat rows, obediently scribbling notes as teachers lectured from the front of a classroom. Passive learning – most educational professionals now agree – is the least effective way of disseminating information, particularly as attention spans grow shorter and shorter. Memorization still has its place, but the general consensus is that young people must develop critical thinking and analytical skills.

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In today’s world, convenience, in any form, is paramount. That is especially true when it comes to reading. Nothing is more convenient than purchasing and reading a book, whether paper or on a screen. Currently, half of the US is in possession of a handheld device capable of being used as an e-reader (iPad, Kindle, Nook, even apps via phones, etc.). Electronic reading continues to grow in popularity because readers enjoy the simplicity of purchasing books, lighted reading at nighttime, and the ease of traveling with a large number of digital books, without the muscle strain. As the technology improves, expect to see more and more readers turn to the world of electronic reading.

Learn more about the rise of e-readers with our infograph…

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Doug McMillon, the newly appointed chief executive of global megastore Wal-Mart, recently met with the company’s top execs, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. We’re not sure exactly what the meeting entailed, but we do know that it ended with a surprising assignment from McMillon: they were all told to read The Everything Store, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s book that depicts the rise of the company’s early days where it was run out of a garage, to its current standing as a leading global retailer.

It might seem strange, but in The Everything Store, Bezos reveals that the Wal-Mart business model was something he frequently referred to when developing a plan of attack for growing his online retailor. So McMillon’s thoughts? For a company that has seen five consecutive negative quarters of sales in the U.S., the executive team had to come up with a different strategy; why not learn from someone that successfully learned from their own company so many years ago?

In a manner of speaking, they had to look back to Amazon’s earlier days and, instead of thinking for the next (literally) big thing—i.e. expanding the company’s megastore presence—the real solution may actually be to think on a smaller scale…dial it back, so to speak. They need to look into developing convenience stores, modest-sized grocery stores and even freestanding liquor stores.

The company also readjusted its pricing schematics for its online sales. Whereas in the past, it maintained its low prices guarantee, it was decided to keep that limited to the brick and mortar stores, while the website would take on the Amazon model, with prices that fluctuate based on the market competition.

It’s a smart move on Wal-Mart’s part to make it a priority to study its competitors in the wake of slowing sales and the need to come up with a solution, and a practice we feel all business professionals should be on top of. If you want to check out The Everything Store and see why it is such a compelling read, you can find a summary of the book here.

With mobile technology on the rise, more and more people listen to audio summaries on the go. Whether you are commuting to work by train, car or any other mode of transportation, getAbstract’s mobile solution empowers you to make your commute a meaningful enjoyable experience.

Audio Summary Suggestions: Listen on the Go!

Getabstract has an app for all popular devices including:

BlackBerry iPhone
iPad Android
Amazon Kindle Sony Reader
Nook Windows Phone

If you have not experienced our audio summaries yet, here are a few simple steps that will allow you to browse and stream our audio summaries:

  • Download the getAbstract app.
  • Sign in using your account credentials.
  • Go to settings and select the Audio Only option.
  • Start browsing.
  • Select a title.
  • Click on the audio icon to start streaming.

We have three recommendations that are guaranteed to make your next commute a lot more entertaining:

1. “Überpreneurs” by Peter Andrews and Fiona Wood

Überpreneurs are heroes who work to solve the world’s greatest problems and improve the lives of millions. Among those thought leaders are Mo Ibrahim, Jeff Bezos – Founder of Amazon, Bill Gates – from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, James Oliver (“The Naked Chef”), and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus.

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Thin-Slicing: The Evolution of E-Learning Tools

E-learning tools, which took off in the 90s—to the extent that companies collectively spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the software in 1999—are in need of revamping. Companies that use these tools realized—and are continuing to realize—that, despite the amount of money they spend on the software, intended to help their employees grow by taking advantage of these self-paced tools, only 25 percent even log into the services. Not only that, they only do so on an average of 1.6 times every year.

The reason the original e-learning tools are ineffective is simple: our brains are quickly being modified due to our everyday use of the Internet. The older tools typically had modules that took, on average, 60–90 minutes to complete. Plus, they delivered linear, logical and completely self-directed content. But our brains are wired to absorb information as though it is given to use in a similar fashion to a Google search. We want information condensed and to the point. And we don’t want any extra; tell us what we’re asking for, and please don’t stray off topic.

This type of thinking, coined “thin-sliced learning” by Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian journalist, public speaker and author, is the method that needs to be applied to successful e-learning platforms. When learning is incomplete, there is room left for coaching and collaboration. By 2020, 50 percent of all workforce will be Millennials so the importance of adapting to accommodate our evolving brains is essential for the success of any business.

It can be all too easy for leaders to settle into familiar patterns and habits over the years. But if you haven’t looked up from your hectic schedule and evaluated areas where you could stand to improve, you might be stuck in a leadership rut. So even if you’re wary of personal New Year’s resolutions, consider entering 2014 with a focus on leadership resolutions that can strengthen your entire organization.

Refine Your Leadership Focus in 2014

Forbes shares four common pain points that leaders often struggle with: becoming more thoughtful, focusing on employee benefits, transforming talent recruitment and investing in continuing education. These measures not only address frequently overlooked areas, but they directly drive improvements in employee satisfaction and retention rates, which can, in turn, fuel organizational stability and long-term success. To learn more about these four leadership resolutions, read the full article here

“If what you desire is a robotic, static thinker – train them. If you’re seeking innovative, critical thinkers – develop them” (Forbes.com)

Why do corporations invest in Leadership Development Programs?

Organizations implement leadership programs to expand their employees’ competencies, skills and abilities to execute current and future business objectives. A development program should teach leaders to drive performance effectively and to help their teams excel.


Five Levels of Measurement for Evaluating a Leadership Development Program

Your corporate goal is to build a pool of talented people who can lead your workforce and who can generate business improvement, innovation and profits.

Great leaders gain a lot of their knowledge by accumulating years of experience, but good organizations accelerate their leaders’ professional growth by investing in programs that develop their skills. Of course, human resource senior managers need to know how to plan their companies’ leadership development efforts and how to measure, track and evaluate how well each programming investment meets its goals.

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Twitter can be a valuable tool for gathering up-to-the-minute collective intelligence and ideas from experts, leaders and conceptualizers. Indeed, the social media platform has changed enormously how we collect and collate information by directly connecting us to the innovators and industry leaders of our day. Our personal commentary on news, insights and trends is thereby not only reliable but immediate and efficient, too. Indeed, one of Twitter’s leading benefits—over any other social media platform currently available to us—is that it enables us, both as business people and individuals, to network with—and learn from—others.

The Top 10 Businesss Leaders to Follow on Twitter

Indeed “business leaders who truly embrace the concept of sharing and helping are worth following,” says Peter Shankman, who is globally recognized for his alternative thinking regarding marketing and social media, and features on our list of top 10 business leaders to follow on Twitter. “They’re few and far between,” he continues, “but the ones who understand that there’s tremendous benefit in sharing their knowledge, not only for the good of all mankind, but financially and revenue-wise as well, they’re the smart ones, they’re the ones worth following and retweeting.”

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A corporate environment gives life to the words ‘daily grind.’ Weekly schedules and looming deadlines can begin to take their toll on the productivity and sanity of the team, and a company meeting that drags on in endless disinterest and boredom can ruin any chances for creativity that may have previously been brewing. One-sided conversations will lead to doodling and general sleepiness, and the meeting will conclude without moving any issue forward or allowing new innovations to be voiced.

15 Creative Ideas for More Productive Meetings

However, a meeting is a real chance for the team to collaborate and create new strategies and goals, so a meeting lacking in creativity is nothing but a missed opportunity for a business.

Employees zone out during meetings for a variety of reasons, the primary reasons including:

  • “This meeting doesn’t really apply to me.”
  • “I’m not prepared, so I’ll just listen.”
  • “What is the point of this meeting?”
  • “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be getting from this.”
  • “This is wasting my time. Nothing is being decided.”
  • “Wasn’t this called a brainstorming meeting? No one is talking but our boss.”
  • “This meeting seems to be nothing but complaining.”

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In a world that is moving faster than ever, nearly 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, information is everywhere. Distractions are everywhere and often times there appear to be too few hours in the day to complete tasks like leisurely reading a book. While not all reading is done solely for enjoyment, many are tasked with reading assignments for both school and work and must find the time to dedicate to reading and comprehending such material. What happens when one gets behind on their required reading? There are many different ways to get the necessary information from a piece of literature, even in a hurry!

What Is The Fastest Way To Read A Book?

Regardless of how one feels about reading, from time to time, it simply needs to get done. Whether the purpose is to gain knowledge on a particular topic, for enjoyment, to discuss with coworkers at a networking event or perhaps to complete a school assignment, many are looking for the fastest, most effective way to read a book. Depending on how quickly a book needs to be read and comprehended, many professionals and students are turning to book summaries to provide an overview and understanding into what the books material entails in as little as ten minutes.

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Shelf life of skills limited

As a society at the forefront of science, we’ve learned how to make a loaf of bread last weeks instead of days. We learn to make physical necessities last longer, but the shelf life of our professional needs, like skills and knowledge, has diminished. While it’s debatable whether food that never molds is a good thing, there’s no denying the positive results that come from the ability to stay ahead of the curve and ensure your technical knowledge doesn’t expire.

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If you are a small business owner, it’s likely that you are sorting through piles of information about the Affordable Care Act. New rules and regulations have many of you wondering just how exactly it applies to your business.

Well, when it comes to this new law, the size of your business matters. The law is intended to help small businesses meet the health needs of their employees by providing business owners with more choices and control over health insurance spending. The Act doesn’t require small businesses to provide health insurance to employees, but it does give tax breaks to some of those businesses that do.

The credit of up to 35 percent goes to those businesses that have less than 25 full-time equivalent employees, pay an average annual wages below $50,000 and give 50 percent or more toward employee health insurance premiums. This credit goes up to 50 percent for two years starting in 2014. Nonprofits will see a tax credit of 25 percent which will increase to 35 percent at the beginning of the new year.

Small businesses that have 50 employees or less can participate in the Small Business Health Options Program also known as SHOP. This is a place where small business employers can select low cost health coverage from a number of providers.

Most large firms, those that employ 50 or more full-time employees or full-time equivalent employees, offer health insurance to their employees; but, those businesses that don’t will likely face employer responsibility requirements.

Take steps to reduce health care costs even further by making wellness a top priority at your business. Your workers are at their best when they and their work environment are healthy, which helps to increase productivity and profits.   Learn about the steps you can take to encourage a healthy lifestyle and a healthy organization in getAbstract summaries like ExecutiveHealth.com’s Leading Under Pressure: Strategies to Avoid Burnout, Increase Energy and Improve Your Well-Being, by Gabriela Cora and “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business,” by Patrick Lencioni.

Sources: www.sba.gov, www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform

“Do we really need to measure our investment in learning?” This rhetorical question was asked by Pat Crull, vice president and chief learning officer at Time Warner Cable during a recent learning and development conference.

I loved it!

Besides technical job skills training, the learning culture of a company is much about its agility, as it relates to the company’s mood and mindset around innovation and change.  I thought, “If Mrs. Crull questions the madness of trying to measure changes in mood and mindset due to strong learning habits and investments at a company, then others may question it too.  I am not alone.”

The way we learn changes rapidly.  We are dealing with:

  • Unlimited access to information
  • The challenge of ever-changing job requirements resulting in talent gaps
  • Limited time and resources (e.g. people, budget), but higher performance expectations

Today, successful people have much less, if any, time to learn their craft better, let alone to improve their acumen and soft skills. So, we often resort to learning only when needed.

Identifying “micro-learning” moments

Professionals who are highly effective (some call them “hi-potentials”), are often more pressed for time. They have higher performance goals compared to others.  Those people most notably find “other ways” of learning, such as short learning moments directly tied to a future task or a planned activity.

When a professional searches for information, connects with a person or references a tool just in time to ensure the best performance for the next activity, learning becomes a performance tool. Some call this a “micro-learning” moment, and it is a revolutionary shift in corporate and academic learning development.

Micro-learning versus traditional learning methods

Micro-learning is an alternative to traditional methods. It helps employees stay engaged. It narrows in on a single topic or concept.  The topic or concept is addressed within a limited length of time, and in a manner that’s easy to consume on flexible platforms, such as the Internet. Learning becomes easy while on-the-go.  Micro-learning helps address immediate business needs within moments.

More traditional learning activities gather information from participation and statistical measurements of success like “pass/fail.” Unfortunately, these types of learning assets are used less by top-performers and the younger generations.

This means, if we measure our traditional learning investments, it’s possible that we’re slanting the results towards those who have “time to reserve” for learning, and excluding those who are the top performers— those who leverage non-traditional methods to gain knowledge.

Some professionals leverage micro-learning more than others, especially executives who are the most valuable to an organization and the younger generation. They learn as they work.  They “learn-a-living,” suggested a panelist at the conference.

Adapt for work and learning

The lines between work and learning are thus blurring. They are overlapping or identical.  Work is learning and learning is work. This makes sense since change is accelerating everywhere. It requires us to adapt faster as we get the job done. Consider this: what is the shelf-life of a course or talent today?

We use to think about a few five-day training units per person. Today, we are thinking about five-minute performance nuggets and many of them. While we used to meet the demands of our job with the skills we had for a long time, the need for us to adapt faster is increasing.

Given this rationale, measuring business is needed to determine if an organization is learning well or not, instead of measuring learning.  An organization who’s employees–especially, those professionals who lead, in terms of performance or executive rank– are life-long, on-the-job learners and will be more agile, innovative and competitive.  By all means, go ahead and measure engagement or participation, but how do you measure the impact?

Written by Michel Koopman, getAbstract CEO of the Americas

Often we think of reading as a leisurely activity that only people who have lots of free time on their hands can afford to pursue. If you’re running a business, you’re probably not one of those people, but you still need to make time to read. Reading is a magnificent way to get out of the rut of merely running your business – and to get on track to growing your business.

Score, a nonprofit organization that helps start-ups gain momentum, recently published an article by getAbstract’s Michel Koopman explaining how reading books may result in the growth of your business. http://www.score.org/resources/reading-help-grow-your-business