Summarize Learning in Skills


In coming up with Skills Based Approach a few years ago, I always had a wide lens for talking about skills (never exclusively worked with a technical view of skills). I see skills as the underpinning in everything we do; in every experience, we apply skills. They define how we think, play, converse, engineer, create, build, design, analyze, solve problems, etc. Types of skills include: foundational thinking and soft skills, transferable, technical, and behavioral skills. Here are some of the advantages in working with skills:

  • Definable – every skill can be defined and has related underlying methods and applications. Much of learning (traditional and new age) translate best to skills, including: gamification, badges, and adaptive and personalized learning.
  • Standardized – skill sets are concrete. Skills summarize education and employment needs. Educators, recruiters, and employers understand skill sets.
  • Portable – most social media platforms (LinkedIn, Google +, Facebook), job boards, and personal websites include skill sets.
  • Searchable – skill sets are highly effective as tags to content.
  • Flexible – new skills are created all the time. Many skills today did not exist five years ago.
  • Longevity – skills connect education, higher education, and career learning expectations.

Skills Label™ is an effective, standardized display for learning resources. Much of the display is dedicated to skills and skill competencies. (Once again, drawing on the nutritional label example, skills take the place of vitamins in the layout.)

I agree with educators who stress the importance of helping learners develop lens, perspectives to properly evaluate their circumstances – essentially drive their growth as a person. To some extent, this involves memorizing relevant facts and information. There are places on a Skills Label™ to capture this ‘other side’ of knowledge. First, for each skill line item, a teacher can add ‘skill context’ to describe what is learned for that skill in the experience. Second, below the skills section, there is descriptive ‘knowledge gain’ section to summarize an overall learning objective.

Skills act as the ‘verb’ in knowledge; it is the action part of knowledge. Arguably, this becomes the biggest factor because we are already seeing technology augmenting our ability to retrieve facts and information.

Learn more about Skills-Based Approach and Skills Label™ .

Photo Credit © Camrocker, DmitryPoch, diego_cervo, Wavebreakme

Network Vs. Identity: Slideshare

My first blog was about the concept of representing a network versus an identity. Since I wrote the blog, establishing and thinking about an online identity has become even more critical. Social media is pervasive in everything we do. It also becomes relevant once we start making connections and projecting a representation of ourselves online (so high school and college student should be considering it).Here is a slideshow summarizing some key points:

Blogging Is A Thrill

Made another milestone with this blog, a three year anniversary. Welcome all new followers! Like every year, I want to dedicate a blog to summarize the main themes covered this year.

I successfully launched the Online Personal Brand: Skill Set, Aura, and Identity  model in a book and website. The model simplifies personal branding into a functional, mainstream approach. Some blogs have excerpts from the book, other blogs apply the model to new topics: taking on a thought role, idea promotion, gossip, and pulling feedback.

There is a series of blogs on individual intelligences  (cognitive, emotional, creative, and contextual), artificial intelligence (AI), and collective intelligence. One conclusion is we must focus on elevating a collective intelligence because we increasingly work on teams, connect on networks, and use various technologies

With a Skills-Based Approach, I discuss some new takeaways: self-guided learning, early education and career planning (translated into a skill set), a changing definition of knowledge, and basing performance reviews  on the methodology.

In a series of blogs, I talk about adopting a ‘company culture’. I further discuss the importance of making ‘actualizing ideas’ as a key element of the culture. To be successful, a company must institute programs that encourage, stimulate, and move new ideas forward – what I define as actualizing an idea.

Finally, as I have been doing from the start, I discuss how the above mentioned and other concepts relate to a personal website. One clear signal from trends this year is a personal website must be optimized for digital access. The delineation between an app and a website is becoming blurry. Nevertheless, establishing and owning an online identity is critical.

Blogging is a thrill; it gives you a voice in a noisy world. Personally, I like committing to the process: acquiring knowledge, creating compelling media (sometimes with a metaphor, stats, etc.), thinking of a stance, and write convincing content. If you have the time and interest, you should consider writing one yourself. I sincerely hope you get something from this blog and thank you for your participation.

Cautions in ‘Going Social’

In A World Gone Social, Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt share a compelling case why businesses and persons must establish a social media presence – their future depends on it.[i] Here are some of the underlying themes in their book:

  1. Everyone – employees, customers, competitors, and candidates – is using social media; according to a study referenced in the book: “46 percent of the US population reports having accounts on three or more social networks”.
  2. A social media interaction is usually a more intensive, personalized experience than traditional marketing channels. (It is also much less expensive.)
  3. Interacting in social media collectively within an organization creates ‘company culture’.
  4. A social media presence has become a pillar in personal and company branding. Social media is a platform that promotes and amplifies individual thinking.
  5. Think the acronym “OPEN: ordinary people extraordinary network”.

Social is not change for change’s sake. It is a monumental shift in how we think, work, and live.


Cautions in 'Going Social'
Cautions in ‘Going Social’

Three conclusions I had after reading the book and reflecting on my experiences:

Participating in social may not cost much, but requires a significant commitment. The authors say there is not much of actual expense in running an organic social media campaign, which is true. However, it requires time, attention, and diligence. They say you may spend on average two hours a day in social media (often seven days a week). Moreover, it is not two hours you knock off in one sitting. It requires multiple bursts throughout the day, something they imply when they say you are expected to respond to requests within two hours.

Embrace algorithms to make sense of massive flows of content. As everyone establishes their online presence and creates and curates content, we become inundated with the flow of knowledge. We cannot read all of the knowledge in our subject area created on a given day and, therefore, become increasingly dependent on a personal network and machine algorithms to feed us relevant content. Frequently they use the phrase “More Social. Less Media”.  Perhaps they are trying to say that  a back-and-forth personal interaction is priceless . I agree.

Exciting to jump on the social bandwagon but the road will have bumps. Everyone wants to become an expert in a discipline, where they get recognized for their work and have interactions with an audience. Not everyone captures the attention of an audience. For example, 71 percent of tweets are ignored[ii] and a small minority of users – around .05% of the site’s population – are generating half of all Twitter posts[iii]. (Granted these articles were published in 2011, perhaps these stats have improved.) Not everyone can be an expert. The average income of a LinkedIn user is a $109,000 and over 60 percent of LinkedIn users make over $66,000 – making connections is a lot about the high income earners you know. To be egalitarian, social must: be accessible to all, have communities, and allow status movement.

I think Coine’s and Babbitt’s social revolution is spot on. My only concern is the vastness of it all: billions of people and millions of companies vying for influence and content creation and dissemination at a magnitude we have never experienced before. A common perspective with personal branding is to create a personal marketing plan that mimics how a company brands a product. This is a good start, but tilts to an upper echelon of professionals (at least in my opinion). There are too many professionals. (This is why I suggest a functional perspective to personal branding.) Similarly, I fear social media might become a ‘popularity contest’ where influence is decided by the number of connections in your network and how many impressions you get on your posts. Hopefully, the authors’ notion of building communities based on an OPEN framework is adaptable to the massive growth in online communications we are and will continue to experience in the Social Age. I recommend picking up a copy of their book, they provide plenty of examples and stats to buttress their thesis.

[i] Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt (2014). A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt To Survive. New York: AMACOM.



Original Image © Depositphoto/  lightsource #7854546

Generation Z, Mobile Natives

While I looked into the ‘monthly average users’ for the big four social media services, I realized there is a major new trend: users are using mobile devices on par with regular desktops. According to a recent publication, Facebook has reached 1 billion monthly active users using mobile devices compared to 1.28 billion overall. And this is also playing out with Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +.

The major implication is a good web service must function just as well on a mobile device, it cannot be a secondary afterthought. It is not like building a web service first and then saying “Oh, maybe I should make this mobile friendly.”, but rather, “How can I make a web service that functions on a desktop and mobile devices effectively, where there are little discernible differences in functionality as I go from one to the other?” Another implication is the next generation is being brought up using mobile devices, and could be labeled as ‘mobile natives’ (in a similar fashion Millennials are labeled as ‘digital natives’).

Network vs Identity
Network vs Identity

The use of mobile apps is soaring. There are millions of apps offered on Android, Windows 8, and Mac OS platforms. What is great about apps is they do one simple task really well. You can have hundreds of apps, each providing a particular service.

Our next generation will be accustomed to this ‘app way of doing things’. Microsoft realizes this. This is why they changed their operating system, Windows 8, into a hybrid of what they had before with an app interface. They want to have their operating system accessible on all devices, desktop and mobiles. Facebook realizes this too. This is why they acquired Instagram and WhatsApp.

I do not think usage of desktops disappears. Simply put, there are just too many things we do that we prefer a larger screen or more processing power, and if you are at a desk, why not take advantage of it. For example, if you are playing a graphic intensive game, you need a desktop. So the platform we use is dependent on the task we are trying to accomplish and whether a desktop is accessible. That’s why new web services should be built to work on both desktop and mobile devices effectively.

In a New York Times article, the CEO of a content distributor says:

We used to interact with personal computers daily, for two or three hours at a time. With laptops, we started interacting three or four times a day for 20 minutes each. Mobile phones made that into sessions of two minutes, 50 times a day.[i]


Early Career Professional: A Time to Take on Career Risk

Early career professionals should be willing and ready to take on ‘career risk’; this might include working in another country, joining a startup, choosing a job based on purpose (rather than salary), taking on a role in another discipline, starting a graduate program, etc.  Each of these choices might be considered risky because it:

Career Risk
Career Risk
  • Lacks stability.  Most startups will fail, so if you choose to work for one you may have to find another job in a few months. Why do it? The ride is a life changing experience! It is absolutely thrilling to be part of something with potential. Moreover, you often dictate how much you contribute and invest into a startup. I have twice been part of a startup and drawing from my experiences I can say: it significantly accelerates how fast you build skills and it adds breadth to your skill set. There is pressure to move quickly and take on tasks that were never part of an initial job itinerary.
  • Earns lower income. Non-profits do not pay much in salaries. This is risky because you have to pay back student loans and should squirrel away money towards graduate school or a down payment on a house. Why do it? It provides a sense of purpose. There is satisfaction in giving back to the community, which is especially compelling for the Millenials.
  • Requires competition. There are many jobs that require a high level of skill. You have to perform from the starting gate because if you do not employers may drop you in less than two weeks.[1] This is risky because hopping between jobs looks bad on a resume and damages an ego. Why do it?Higher skilled professions pay well and are often stimulating. Moreover, there are many enticing job openings.  If a young professional has the skills and proves it, then there is potential to make a big contribution.
  • Accumulates more debt. Going to graduate school is a significant financial outlay; it could cost somewhere between thirty to one hundred thousand dollars. Like with any investment, a ROI should be conducted where the risk is included in the analysis. Why do it?An increasing number of professions require a graduate degree because the required skills and knowledge are only taught at the graduate level – like a MBA or JD. Moreover, professionals who are underemployed or unemployed should commit to finding ways to build skills and knowledge so they become more marketable. I always knew that I wanted to go to graduate school for a MBA. After working for a startup for a couple years, I felt it was the right time to elevate my learning by going to business school.

Honoring a calling enables people to use their talents and skills in ways that bring their lives greater meaning.[2]

There are many reasons why early career professionals should consider taking on risk. First, an early career professional is unencumbered with financial responsibilities – such as mortgage payments or family support payments. (Usually there are ways to defer payment on student loans.) Second, an early career professional has few obligations. For example, deciding to live abroad for a few years might be a once in a lifetime opportunity for a young adult – something a family rallies behind. Third, an early career professional has time to rebound after harboring a failure. If a startup is not successful, simply try another one. Finally, an early career professional of this age – a Millennial – is looking not only for salary, but also societal purpose.

[1] Stephanie Gleason and Rachel Feintzeig. “Startups Are Quick to Fire,” WSJ, December 11th, 2013

[2] Margie Warrell. “Stop Playing Safe,” Wiley (Melbourne, 2013).

Original Image © Depositphoto/choreograph #4276399