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Learning How to Learn: Transforming Knowledge Into Know-How

There’s a big challenge ahead of us. We can’t rely on people to use their university knowledge for the entirety of their careers anymore. The future of work will be about building and creating more value with human skills – in addition to the technical skills. As we face unprecedented skills shortages, “Learning How to Learn” is a topic that is more critical now than it’s ever been before. It is a complex challenge requiring us to approach learning in a very different way, and I was excited to be able to discuss the “how” with Kelly.

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of hosting Kelly Palmer during the webinar, “Learning How to Learn: Transforming knowledge into know-how”.

Kelly is a thought leader and expert on the future of work, co-author of The Expertise Economy, Chief Learning and Talent Officer at Degreed, and former executive at industry shifting companies like LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Sun Microsystems. 

As we face unprecedented skills shortages, “Learning How to Learn” is a topic that is more critical now than it’s ever been before. It is a complex challenge requiring us to approach learning in a very different way, and I was excited to be able to discuss the “how” with Kelly. 

Upskilling is about investing in continuous learning

There’s a big challenge ahead of us. The World Economic Forum predicts that we need to upskill 1 billion people over the next 9-10 years. We can’t rely on people to use their university knowledge for the entirety of their careers anymore. 

Upskilling is about investing in continuous learning because the world of work is changing too rapidly not to. Examples of this rapid change are: 

  • The length of a career is a lot longer than it used to be 
  • The average tenure in a job role is much shorter 
  • The half-life of a learned skill is 5 years or less

With the emergence of AI and machine learning, the future of work will be about building and creating more value with human skills – in addition to the technical skills. We are in a race to identify and fill skill gaps in order for companies to stay competitive, and individuals to stay employable. 

The difference between knowledge vs. skills

We’ve seen that lecture-based learning doesn’t work. Studies have shown that we’re spending billions of dollars on training that is wasted if employees aren’t able to apply their knowledge within the first 30 days. Project-based learning within teams, where there’s an opportunity to complete real work is much more powerful. 

So what is the difference between knowledge vs. skills? Kelly explains that knowledge is when you need to know something, and skills are when you need to do something. And to be clear…people need both.

A great model for showing how to build skills effectively is what Kelly calls the learning loop – starting with knowledge, the learner will move through practice, feedback, reflection, and then continue on through the cycle. You can apply this model to any skill that needs to be developed. 

Getting started on building skills

As a starting point, understand what skills currently exist. Most leaders don’t really understand the skills of people within their organization. What skills do employees have? What skills might be transferable? 

Next, what skills do you need, and what does your organization need in order to win? 

The skills in high demand can be broken out into two categories: 

  • Power skills: Traditionally known as soft-skills, these are arguably the most important skills for the future of work. Skills such as creativity, communication, emotional intelligence, empathy, collaboration, influence/persuasion, and design thinking
  • Technical skills: Cybersecurity, digital literacy, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data analytics/visualization, cloud computing 

It’s an exciting time to be a leader in HR and L&D. The WEF has listed one of the top 5 skills of 2025 “active learning and learning strategies”. It is so important right now to have effective learning strategies.

Skill academies: The new approach to skill-building

How are other companies approaching this, not just in theory, but in reality. 

According to Josh Bersin with regards to the evolution of corporate learning we are currently between the stages of “Learning in the flow of work” and “capability academies”. Leading companies such as LinkedIn, Ericsson, and Booz Allen Hamilton are already employing capability (or skill-based) academies to develop the needed skills within their workforces. 

Skill academy marketplaces which include boot camps and programs designed and available to support skill building are on the rise. There’s still a lack of awareness for these types of programs, so marketplaces serve as an effective way to bring the offerings together in one place to make it easier to find skill-based programs aligned with organizational or individual objectives. 

Designing high-quality virtual skill-building programs requires expertise. It’s a completely different methodology from creating in-person programs and is further complicated by the fact that L&D leaders are shifting from converting their programs from in-person to digital experiences. According to the IE University CLO survey results, these are the biggest challenges that exist while making this transition: 

  • 28% Methodology
  • 21% Technology
  • 15% Expertise
  • 16% Resources
  • 11% Funding
  • 9% Other

A skill academy, or skill-building model would follows this methodology – as you can see, it’s very different from the traditional in-person learning program: 

  • Content
  • A cohorts that follows synchronous & asynchronous components
  • Project
  • Analytics

Building skills is hard work, and it takes time. Get started by focusing on a few critical skills and putting some goals around them. We’re here to support you in your challenges, and we’d love to learn more about what challenges and dynamics you’re experiencing within your organization. For more insights, watch the webinar recording,  Follow us on LinkedIn, or subscribe to our newsletter to stay in touch. 

WRITTEN BY: DEEPS RAMANATHANCMO, LEARN IN

About Learn In‍‍

Learn In is the first talent-building platform designed for companies to solve every barrier that stands in the way of creating tomorrow’s workforce. Organizations use Learn In to identify talent-building goals, design skill-based programs, learn together in cohorts with coaches, and access flexible financing, delivering measurable outcomes for every dollar spent on upskilling the workforce. Co-founded by the founders of Degreed, Learn In is backed by leading edtech & future-of-work investors, including GSV, Album, Firework Ventures, and Village Global, and has been covered in CNBC, USA Today, EdTechReview, EdSurge, and Techcrunch.

For more insights, follow us on LinkedIn, or subscribe to our newsletter to stay in touch.

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