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Chris Hadfield
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Create One-to-One Learning, with IBM's Jon Iwata

The single best way for businesses to remain vital is to cultivate the people that power them.

Jon Iwata: IBM is in the business of innovation, which means we’re in the business of knowledge. It used to be limited to technology, but as technology has moved over time to change not just back-office functions and automating manual processes like payroll and inventory to today, because of big data, changing health care and how cities are now managed and the power grid — then the knowledge that we need in our employees, which we call IBMers, has to be constantly replenished. We are an intellectual capital-intensive company. Arguably, every company is an increasingly intellectual capital-intensive company. The value they create, the assets they own is more about what they know. We have always been huge investors in the skill development and learning of our people and we’re always trying to modernize how we do that.

Now we happen to be going through an unusual time in the technology industry where now and then there’s this kind of inflection point. It’s being driven by big data, by mobile devices, by cloud computing, by social networks all at the same time. It’s transforming professions and industries at the same time. So you have to take a workforce — in our case 430,000 people — we hire, you know, tens of thousands every year. We’re constantly trying to create this knowledge, you know, replenish the knowledge.  

One of the things that our CEO, Ginni Rometty, asked us to do last year was to be inspired by, you know, MOOCs and online universities and to build that inside of IBM for our own people. We call it Think Academy — it’s accessible through any device. And Ginni said we’re going to introduce this platform, but we’re also going to introduce a new ritual. And the ritual is that every first Friday of the month we will have a Think Friday and on that Friday we will put into Think Academy a new course. And I, Ginni, will lead the teaching of that course every Think Friday. We have been on a regiment of learning. And it’s big data; it’s analytics; it’s cloud; it’s transformation of hardware and semiconductors; it’s security; it’s mobile devices. And we will keep adding courses, new knowledge, if you will, to this platform. 

And that is more than symbology because the workforce realizes how serious this is for them and for the company. And the other thing here relating it back to big data is it’s instrumented. And so as employees engage with Think Academy, we know what they like because they’re going there. We know what they don’t care for because no one’s going there. We know how they like to learn. And so because we know what their job role is — we know who are sales people; we know who are engineers; we know who are marketing people; we know where they are in the world; we know that they like a certain kind of device at a certain time of day, a certain day of the week; we know that some people like to learn by watching videos and other people like to learn by reading text; other people like to learn by consuming infographics. 

Frankly, all of the technology and techniques that we’re using for one-to-one marketing, those same engines and methods we’re using in Think Academy to do one-to-one learning. In the same way that next-best action, next-best offer is pretty standard in the world of commerce, you take that same capability and say, well, if you like to learn that way, you’ll really like the next three videos. If you like to learn by interviews with clients, well, here are two more that might be of interest to you. Ultimately this isn’t about education; this is about effectiveness on the job and performance. 

 

The single best way for businesses to remain vital is to cultivate the people that power them. And the best way to do that is through a carefully crafted internal learning program, tailored to the company's specific needs, accessible across devices, and deeply responsive to employee feedback. Jon Iwata, IBM's Senior VP of Marketing and Communications, explains how IBM built Think Academy to train its employees on emerging concepts and technologies like cloud computing and Big Data, and how essential Think Academy quickly became to IBM's continuing role as an industry leader.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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R.P. Eddy wrote about a coming pandemic in 2017. Why didn't we listen?

In his book with Richard Clarke, "Warnings," Eddy made clear this was inevitable.

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Coronavirus
  • In their 2017 book, "Warnings," R.P. Eddy and Richard Clarke warned about a coming pandemic.
  • "You never get credit for correctly predicting an outbreak," says science journalist Laurie Garrett in the book.
  • In this interview with Big Think, R.P. Eddy explains why people don't listen to warnings—and how to try to get them to listen.
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Creativity: The science behind the madness

Human brains evolved for creativity. We just have to learn how to access it.

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  • An all-star cast of Big Thinkers—actors Rainn Wilson and Ethan Hawke; composer Anthony Brandt; neuroscientists David Eagleman, Wendy Suzuki, and Beau Lotto; and psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman—share how they define creativity and explain how our brains uniquely evolved for the phenomenon.
  • According to Eagleman, during evolution there was an increase in space between our brain's input and output that allows information more time to percolate. We also grew a larger prefrontal cortex which "allows us to simulate what ifs, to separate ourselves from our location in space and time and think about possibilities."
  • Scott Barry Kaufman details 3 brain networks involved in creative thinking, and Wendy Suzuki busts the famous left-brain, right-brain myth.

What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
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New study explores how to navigate 'desire discrepancies' in long term relationships

With the most common form of female sexual dysfunction impacting 1 in 10 women, this important study dives into how to keep a relationship going despite having different needs and wants in the bedroom.

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Sex & Relationships
  • A new study highlights the difficulties faced by women who struggle with decreased sexual desire, and explains how to navigate desire discrepancies in long-term relationships.
  • Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is one of the most common forms of female sexual dysfunction, impacting an estimated 1 in 10 women.
  • Finding other ways to promote intimacy in your relationship is one of the keys to ensuring happiness on both sides.

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