Learning Culture

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

You’re at the airport, checking Twitter updates on your phone while you’re waiting for your departure. Suddenly, you realize that you’re drowning in a pool of information. News from a blaring TV hits you, your e-reader is in your carry-on, you just checked your phone’s news app, and you bought a business magazine, just in case you get bored on your flight.

Does this sound familiar? It’s called information overload, and in today’s saturated landscape, it can happen to anyone. To stay afloat, you need to learn to be selective in what media you choose to consume.

To discover how to tackle information overload, read getAbstract, Inc.’s CEO Michel Koopman’s thoughts on the issue at Upstart Business Journal http://upstart.bizjournals.com/resources/executive-forum/2012/11/29/getabstract-ceo-koopman-on-media-sources.html

 

Numerous approaches to sales exist. However, many of the most successful salespeople are “Challengers.” These individuals teach their clients, and they earn the right to challenge their prospects in a respectful way during the sales process. Challengers tailor their value propositions and understand their clients’ needs to create a positive impact. Challengers also take control of the sales cycle by driving each step forward without fear and with client buy-in. You will become a Challenger only if you are purpose-driven and if you focus on building trust with your client.

In a recent article for Under30CEO, Michel Koopman, getAbstract Inc. CEO, wrote about the Challenger sales personality and several other key attributes that great sales representative need to succeed. To find out more, click here: http://under30ceo.com/how-to-become-a-great-sales-representative/

German philosopher and theologian Johann Gottfried von Herder said, “Without inspiration, the best powers of the mind remain dormant; there is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.” getAbstract, Inc.’s CEO, Michel Koopman, wrote an article for Strategy Magazine about using compressed knowledge to spark inspiration. Visit Strategy Magazine to read more.

In some instances, strategically cutting corners is how to learn in today’s work environment. getAbstract Inc.’s CEO Michel Koopman explains in CLO Magazine some of these appropriate times to “hack work” and why companies must understand, accept and leverage this mentality.

http://www.getabstract.com/www/images/marketing/en/when-employees-hack-learning-and-why-thats-a-good-thing.pdf

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With the cost of formal education rising, informal learning can outperform traditional learning and reignite organizational development. getAbstract, Inc. CEO Michel Koopman discusses this in an article published by CLO Magazine: http://clomedia.com/articles/view/leverage-the-fruits-and-ease-of-informal-learning/2

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getAbstract, Inc. CEO, Michel Koopman recently published an article on HowToLearn.com, a website that helps k-12, college and adult learners as well as the trainers, tutors and teachers that facilitate the learning. He shared the value in considering multiple approaches throughout your learning journey by integrating all three modes of development, including: formal training, coaching and informal learning.

Click here to read the full article.

Turning Information Overload Into Knowledge

Overwhelmed by the data deluge? Michel Koopman, CEO of getAbstract, offers some simple strategies for transforming a waterfall of information into knowledge that you can actually use.

Click here to read full article.

Industry Intro

Social networking within organizations has risen so quickly it has now become standard practice. It is so prevalent that it also facilitates and encourages social learning, which is a necessity in order to remain competitive and profitable.

Here are some of my definitions of terms I will be using. Social media are tools for social interaction (a relationship between two or more people) using available and scalable communication systems.  Social networking is the use of social media to share information with other users, or to locate people with related interests. Social learning is the process in which one observes the actions and lessons of others and adjusts their own behavior as a result; this in turn drives collective transformation. Social media promotes social learning by leveraging technology to help employees find and share information and communicate in original ways.

The course of acceptance of social networking in the workplace has been comparable to the embracement of email, instant messaging and even the Internet itself. At their birth, some people did not see the significance and others believed them to just be productivity killers. However, social networks, along with the Internet and email, are permanent communication methods proven to be dynamic collaboration and information sharing tools for companies. 

Below are some interesting stats that illustrate the rising significance of social networks:

  • Radio acquired 50 million users after 38 years, which took TV 13 years, the Internet 4 years, the iPod 3 years, and less than one year for Facebook to add over 200 million users.
  • Recently, Facebook had more than 500 million users and growing.
  • LinkedIn has 60 million users, of whom about half are international.
  • Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn users.
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.
  • The number of Twitter users has reached 75 million.

Social networking is here to stay and increasingly relevant for large corporations as well, an observation backed by bold remarks from some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. Jeff Bezos, CEO at Amazon, stated “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” This is the power of social networking! 

Getting Over Your Fear

Most companies strive for their employees to learn on all levels, but some remain hesitant to implement social networking due to fears around things like brand protection, leakage of data, lack of control over corporate content, negative commentary, decreased productivity and more.  

To many people, the term social automatically means leisure. This is not always the case. Work in itself is social in nature, but not leisure; employees learn from engagement with their co-workers, and this occurs beyond the training classroom, seminars and workshops. Some argue that no other type of learning is as effective as social learning because it has a greater lasting impact on most individuals than that of formal learning initiatives. So, if social networking were referred to as networking leveraging technology, more business leaders would immediately see the value.

Your workforce is changing rapidly. The increase of social web usage can partly be attributed to Generation Y’s strong presence in the workplace. However, employers need to realize that although these Millennials (Gen Y) bring the highest level of technological sophistication and expectations to the workplace, even those other generations (The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and Generation X) expect social media to be available.  Looking ahead to 2020, Generation Z will use social media as a second nature. So, if you want to attract and retain top workers you’ll need to cater to what your talent expects, wants and thrives with.

To some, social networking may seem to be an annoying fad. But the intense engagement users have with them, the simple distribution of information and the sense of cooperation among people exposes that social networking tools, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, GoToMeeting and so many others, prosper where many company knowledge management and knowledge sharing plans have crashed. These online communities offer immediate answers to employees’ job-related inquiries, a place for contemplation and an equal opportunity to partake in the organizational and individual strive for excellence.

Why You Should Get Onboard 

Your employees are using “it” already! The use of social media in the workplace is validated by Bill Jensen and Josh Klein’s groundbreaking book Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results. The following examples described in their book clearly illustrate just how essential, powerful, and uncontrollable social media in the workplace can be:

  • An Apple employee couldn’t get anyone to own up to changing faulty product documentation, so he cc’d Steve Jobs in an email. Within minutes there was a stampede of people rushing to correct the error.
  • A woman who was ordered not to bring up unhappy customer reports snuck filmed testimonials onto YouTube. The public outcry was huge, and the problems were fixed.

Jensen and Klein also explain that today, information can be assembled, managed and distributed at scale by anyone who has Web access, and that the resources available online usually outperform those that companies provide by a huge margin.

The writers explain that companies need to start treating employees as partners and assist them in creating original solutions to the company’s issues. Below are some examples of how companies use social media successfully and how the customary firewall dividing external and internal audiences is diminishing.

PepsiCo – They launched a global campaign called “Pepsi Refresh.” People submit grant proposals to a website, then Pepsi urges online voters to select the winners (amounts: $5,000 to $250,000). 

Starbucks – Starbucks asks for suggestions on how to make the company better and the CIO actually discusses the idea on the site and explains his rationale for implementing or not implementing the idea.

H&R Block – They use their Facebook page as a means to offer tax advice.

McDonalds – They used Facebook to virally spread the word about their “Day of Change” campaign. As a result, online donations increased in 130% in 2010 compared to 2009.

SkittlesTheir “Win the Rainbow” promotion urges users to upload a photo or video on Facebook illustrating what they would do to win a full-size vending machine filled with their new product Skittles Blender.

These examples validate how companies foster greater dialogue with their customers / stakeholders and leverage that dialogue to deliver better results and solutions.

Preparing for Implementation

According to a 2010 Cisco study, only 1 out of 7 companies has a formal process which embraces consumer-based social networking tools for business intentions. So, what is a company’s first step after accepting the fact that they need to welcome the transparency and unfiltered communications that comes with social networking?  They will need to build frameworks so that one of their greatest assets, their employees, are inspired to be representatives of their brand. This will give them the power to communicate internally amongst co-workers as well as externally with their customers. To do it right, a social media plan needs to be put into place, and in order to increase the success rate of this plan, a social media policy should be established. Such a policy will allow the company to actively benefit from social networking, help employees understand how they are supposed to behave and can protect the company if the employees do something that calls for discipline.

Guidelines within a social media policy explain etiquettes and methods that employees need to consider when using and sharing information online. The rules within a social media policy don’t need to be much different than the basic do’s and don’ts that have been established for those who speak on behalf of a public company – there are limits in regards to what/how one is allowed to discuss things such as trade secrets, future strategies, company earnings, etc. Once you set rules, it is clear that there can be consequences if any of these rules are violated.

Along with trying to shape the social dialogue through guidelines, employers should realize that such communication is naturally self- regulating as well. For example, most professionals should understand that a careless opinion shared publically could result in “defamation of character” and have legal/financial ramifications. Adults know that what they say in public has social consequence for them as well. One thoughtless comment by an employee can result in a challenging situation with their employer or other stakeholders.

Learning in This “New World”

Now let’s talk about how information, and thus learning, is created and consumed in this “new world” where especially our generation Y thirsts for “immediacy”.

Consider the example below:

A photographer captures a moment during the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. A journalist writes a one-page article describing this photo. A news reporter discusses the article in 60 seconds. A social media user comments on this one-minute clip with a 140 character tweet. 242 others tweet on the same topic.

Some may argue that the 140 character tweet may not be as specific as the one-page article and that the information may be diluted, but one can also argue that the reader’s investment of time has been used more wisely, because he/she receives better knowledge from 100 relevant “compressed” tweets in one day then they can by reading 10 different articles.

As the COO for getAbstract, I must relate the significance of my organization to the topic of discussion. Take the analogy above about the photo and think of it as a book. A relevant and concise summary of a noteworthy business book gives one the fundamental message needed. Combined with 10 other topic related high-quality summaries of business books, the aggregated lesson could be more beneficial and the time invested is less. If a reader wants to delve deeper, then they can do this only for those books which summaries were of greatest value to them.

getAbstract is not only a powerful informal learning tool with over 7,000 business book summaries, but also a medium for social networking. Our surveys reveal that every abstract that is read is also, on average, shared with 5 other people, which allows for social networking on a very basic level. It can also serve as a great tool for those companies who have only recently taken the initiative to encourage the use of social media at work. It will allow employees to learn socially through the use of get Abstract’s Virtual Business Forum, where users work together and share ideas about a particular abstract and the information’s applicability to their job. Users can also recommend a summary on Facebook or Twitter.

getAbstract is a great social learning stepping stone for firms for multiple reasons. First, getAbstract is a trusted information source that companies can rely on – our abstracts are created by more than 120 first-class, well-respected business writers, who work closely with our high-quality editorial staff to summarize leading business books from over 460 publishers. Second, our site is password protected and extremely secure. In addition, the use of getAbstract within your organization can be easily monitored through reports and real-time user statistics. But most importantly, we have over 10 million professional business users today including about 20% of the Fortune 500 companies as customers. Lastly, the solution is always delivered with a dedicated Learning Consultant who will work to ensure it is configured and integrated to your very specific company needs. So, while getAbstract’s learning solution is social in nature, its content and means of distribution are essentially risk-free.

The Verdict Is Clear

Social networking and impact on learning is happening faster than ever. Therefore, it is wise to embrace and leverage it within your organization. Knowledge exists everywhere and social media provides a great channel to find and digest this knowledge. So, go on and find your stepping stone into the realm where connections are endless and effortlessly sustained, it will prepare you to compete more easily on all levels.

About us: getAbstract is passionate about finding valuable business knowledge, summarizing it at the highest-quality, making it available as an on-demand library at the point-of-need, aligning it to an organization’s business objectives- allowing professionals to make the right business decisions, develop employees into leaders and provide companies with innovation and agility.