The 5 UX Design Principles to Follow

User Experience (UX) Design is the process of understanding and designing human-centred solutions that create satisfaction. Simply put, a UX Designer exists to solve problems for real people in their real contexts — by delivering exceptional, intuitive, and seamless products and experiences.

In addition to problem-solving, UX Design takes into context the user and the circumstances in which the product or service will be used. Being a user-centric process that goes beyond executing customer feedback, UX Design aims to provide the best solution to the most number of users within a target audience.

The backbone of UX Design encompasses a person’s interaction with any digital product or service. It concerns itself with ensuring a user’s needs are met through meaningful designs and solutions. A UX Designer determines how it is that you shop on your favourite e-commerce website,  book a flight online, or navigate an internet banking transaction. Do these experiences frustrate or delight you?

So what are some of the fundamental UX Design principles that help ensure you’re designing a solution that’s on the right track?

Design Principle 1: Know Your Audience

It can be easy to mistakenly design a solution based on your individual assumptions and experience, but all design solutions should be user-centric by default. User-centric design isn’t a new phenomenon but at some point, the misconception that design equals aesthetics emerged.

Rather than focusing on just the look of a feature or solution, the core of any user-centric design is empathy; taking the time to understand the user, and design for their needs produces designs that are thoughtful, relevant, and accessible. In the context of design, empathy supersedes what you assume the user is thinking and feeling. Empathy, in the context of design, is an understanding based on thorough, pointed, user-research.

Typical research activities Academy Xi teaches:

  • One-on-one interviews
  • Observation and contextual inquiries
  • Personas and proto-personas
  • Customer journeys

P.S. Read our Introduction to Usability Testing or download this Ultimate guide to UX Design.

Design Principle 2: Know Yourself

Relaying the vision for a product or service can be a lengthy and often, an abstract process. When approaching the UX Design of your product, there is no room for an existential crisis. The motivation is simple: the aim of any UX Design is to improve moments with your customer’s day through meaningful digital and analogue experiences.

By providing memorable moments of interaction, UX Design plays an integral part in invoking a long-lasting relationship with your brand.

Typical visioning activities and UX Design exercises include:

  • Context and objective exercises
  • Service promises
  • Design challenge activities
  • Service ideation and creation workshops
  • Accelerated Design Thinking workshops

Design Principle 3: Know Your Customer’s World

Step into the shoes of your customer and ask:

  • Who are the people in their lives that influence their decision-making?
  • What does success mean for your customer?
  • Why do they need you? Why don’t they need you? How do they really feel about you…and your competition?
  • Where is the customer when they’re interacting with you? Where are you when your customer needs you?
  • When do we show up and be of service to our customers? When do we add value and meaningful interactions?
  • How might we provide services that make their lives better?

This is often known to the UX world as the 5 Ws and H.

Asking the right questions and knowing where to look is a key component of UX Design. Research enables the finding of hidden gems that appear outside of the assumption space.

Here are commonly used research techniques to learn more about your customer:

  • Observation techniques
  • Interviews
  • Desktop research
  • Comparative studies
  • Competitor reviews
  • Participatory design workshops

[Find out more about the UX Design process in our FREE UX Design Guide for your website: Download my copy]

Design Principle 4: Keep Your Friends Close But Your Enemies Closer

Besides having a thorough understanding of what you offer, be clear on what your competitors are doing well (that’s your baseline), what they are doing poorly (that’s your opportunity), and what they haven’t thought of yet (that’s your point of difference).

Competition makes us all better; however, it becomes immaterial when we know ourselves and why we’re in business. By knowing ourselves and our competitors, we carve out our own turf.

  • Competitor analysis
  • Trend assessments
  • Rapid feature exploration
  • Minimum Viable Product
  • Vision setting
  • Personas
  • Customer journeys
  • Opportunity identification

Design Principle 5: Build, Measure, Learn, and Repeat

With inspiration derived from the ‘Lean Startup’ methodology, take out your pencils and sketch your ideas onto paper. Test them. Refine them. Explore more ideas. Expand concepts. Build them. Test again. Sacrifice them. Start again. Then pick something. Ideas are limitless and the barriers to prototyping are so low that you have no excuse not to play.

Things you can use through this iterative process are:

  • Paper
  • Whiteboards
  • Design Thinking
  • Participatory design
  • Rapid mobile prototyping
  • Guerilla testing

When it comes to UX, there are some basic principles that you can employ to ensure that your website or application is intuitive, user-friendly, and a delightful experience. If you’d like to know more about creating an exceptional product or experience, learn more with our free Ultimate UX Design Guide.

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Google's Tilt Brush: A new artistic medium, or something more?

At its core, Tilt Brush is a new way of visualising and creating.

Technology and innovation have long been shaping art. A sparkle of innovation, the humble paint tube, brought impressionist painters outdoors – en plein air; if such a shift didn’t take place we’d be without masterpieces like Monet’s Garden (which you can probably visit in VR, by the way).

We then saw the invention of early forms of photography, which influenced art away from realistic representation. In the latter half of the 20th century, iterations of digital imaging software have paved the way for entirely new digital mediums.

Fast-forward to the present day and we have this entirely new, and incredibly exciting, marriage between art and Virtual Reality tech. You can now draw sweeping marks through 3D space; walking into, and around, your own floating brush strokes. Describing the experience doesn’t really do it justice; painting in space is unlike anything else.

Jane Venegas Sproule, Academy Xi’s VR Course Curator, identified a recurring pattern of use; newcomers to Tilt Brush often follow the same routine. The first use is playful, trying out new brushes and creating unintelligible squiggles. The second try becomes more sophisticated, but is still stuck in 2D; students draw in one plane, as if on a big, floating piece of paper. Jane explains, “by (at least) the 3rd try, students begin to better understand and effectively use space and a 3rd dimension.” Having only tried Tilt Brush once, I’m still at the squiggle stage. This transition into 3D can take some getting used to, Jane points out:

“It’s understandably difficult to get used to an extra dimension; the Screen has dominated our lives since the invention of the TV. We are all very accustomed to smartphones and laptops.”

Taking a step back from the wonder of it all, you can start thinking about the implications Tilt Brush could have on the way we work, live and play – replacing our 2D digital landscape with this new 3D interaction. Companies are beginning to play with this idea of a Virtual Workspace – but there’s still a lot of room for development.

Tilt Brush was released in April this year. Now on its 7th upgrade, Tilt Brush’s newest features nicely sum up how VR is progressing. You can now work in teams, import and export objects, resize your virtual space, and virtually swap controllers. VR creators are allowing users to transcend physical limitations – allowing us to play with scale and space. “What started as a playful VR experience, is becoming a functional tool”, points out Jane, “the applications for prototyping, collaboration and idea visualisation are endless.” Imagine virtually collaborating on a prototype, with team members from across the globe. 

The main takeaway:

Virtual Reality is a blossoming technology that continues to wow. Virtual Reality’s crescendo has become audibly hard to ignore – new and intriguing applications for VR are teaching young mindstreating PTSDhelping paraplegics walk, and even stimulating tastebuds! We’re excited to see how apps like Tilt Brush develop and grow in the future.

With such growth in the Virtual Reality tech space, comes increased opportunities to get involved in the creation and design of VR experiences. Learn the skills and connect with VR pioneers to expand your career now! Apply now for our next Virtual Reality Design Course.

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Reskilling in 2020: How to manage choice paralysis

Reaching the decision to reskill or upskill is one thing; taking the necessary steps to do it is quite another. In an age where the question is no longer “What do you want to become?” but “What do you want to learn?”, we have even more options to choose from and even more potential for choice paralysis. Do we learn software development? UX design? Digital marketing? Should there be coherence to our skillsets and experience, or should we be well-rounded and widely familiarised?
Benefits of upskilling and reskilling include future-proofing your career, positioning yourself for promotion and raises, staying abreast of industry trends, and gaining the knowledge and experience to fall back on consulting or freelancing should you ever need to.

Companies like Amazon, Walmart, PwC, and JPMorgan Chase have upskilling programs underway, and Quartz estimates that most Fortune 500 companies will have launched a program in the next year.But when it comes to taking charge of your own professional future, and deciding whether to reskill in areas that may be brand new to you, it’s important to know what will and will not be worth your time, effort, and money in the end.

According LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, the top 15 Emerging Jobs in Australia are:
1. Artificial Intelligence Specialist: teaching machines to learn
2. Cybersecurity Specialist: keeping computer information systems secure
3. Marketing Automation Specialist: generating leads and analysing workflow
4. Robotics Engineer (Software): building and deploying robotics software
5. Site Reliability Engineer: applying software engineering to systems administration
6. Customer Success Specialist: understanding customers’ needs and managing relationships
7. Data Scientist: part computer scientist, part mathematician
8. Data Engineer: managing pipelines, data workflow and management
9. Growth Manager: using growth hacking to acquire more clients at scale
10. Chief Strategy Officer: developing strategies that deliver growth across a business
11. Anti-Money Laundering Specialist: train employees how to manage fraud and establish compliance policies
12. Product Owner: market analyst, project manager, product designer, business strategist
13. Service Designer: designing experiences for clients and employees
14. Full Stack Engineer: front-end and back-end web development
15. Automation Consultant: introduce software and digital processes into organisations to allow functions to run more efficiently

The U.S. is also seeing demand for Behavioural Health Technicians, Sales Development Representatives, Robotics Engineers, Chief Revenue Officers, Cloud Engineers, and Javascript Developers.

In Europe, employers are hiring Data Protection Officers, Human Resources Partners, Commercial Real Estate Agents, Community Relations Managers, Big Data Developers, Building Information Modeling (BIM) Specialists, Enterprise Account Executive, and Content Designers.

In Asia, add to that DevOps Engineers, Partnership Specialists, Clinical Specialists, E-commerce Specialists, Creative Copywriters, Robotic Process Automation Consultants, Growth Managers, Digital Marketing Specialists, and Lead Generation Specialists.

When taken together, the top skills needed for these jobs are as follows:
Python, CRM, Salesforce, SaaS, Amazon Web Services, Apache Spark, Data Science, Machine Learning, Account Management, JavaScript, Information Technology & Services, and Marketing & Advertising.

With these in mind, it appears well-worth your time to 1) learn programming, 2) become a machine learning expert or data scientist, 3) specialise in service-based IT, and/or 4) study account management or sales.

You’ll notice that half of those skills are service-based or human-centred. And, in fact, the report notes that demand for soft skills will increase as automation becomes more widespread:
“Skills like communication, creativity, and collaboration are all virtually impossible to automate, which means if you have these skills you’ll be even more valuable to organisations in the future,” writes Guy Berger, LinkedIn’s Principal Economist. “If you have these skills, make sure they’re on your LinkedIn profile so hiring professionals can find you for relevant opportunities.”

Let’s take a look at how you might reskill or upskill in both “hard” and “soft” areas.

Reskilling in machine learning

The number-one most in-demand job for 2020, anywhere in the world, is Artificial Intelligence Specialist. Businesses are recruiting AI Specialists for a wide range of projects, from designing crop-harvesting robots to modeling risk in finance.

Element AI in Montreal estimates that in the United States, there are around 144,000 AI-related job openings but only about 26,000 developers and specialists looking for work. One reason may be that people who are, in fact, qualified for these jobs don’t realise they are. But that’s starting to change.

“The most common jobs that AI Specialists held prior to labeling themselves with the title include ‘software engineer,’ ‘data scientist,’ ‘research assistant,’ and ‘data engineer,’” says Jonathan Vanion, writing for Fortune. “This suggests that people may be updating their job titles to include artificial intelligence, to put themselves in a better position to capitalise on the current AI boom.”

This advice is gold: Call yourself what you want to be, not what you are, and you’ll grow into the role. After all, hiring managers often post unreasonable lists of qualifications that describe no real candidate.

“Employers’ list of desired skills often doesn’t make much sense—for instance, a request for ten years’ experience with a framework that has existed for only two,” says Jilles Vreeken, machine-learning researcher at the Helmholtz Center for Information Security and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, Germany. “So make sure you tick lots of the boxes, but don’t feel inhibited if you don’t tick every one.”

To get started with machine learning or AI, you’ll most likely need to know Python and have a solid grasp on data science and deep learning fundamentals. Traditionally, AI Specialists have a degree in computer science, though it doesn’t have to be a PhD. A background in math and statistics is helpful.

“Focus on learning the fundamentals: good linear algebra, probability, and software engineering skills,” says Ian Goodfellow, a research scientist at OpenAI. “The state of the art in machine learning changes from one year or even month to the next, but the fundamentals stay the same for decades.”

That said, you don’t have to be an AI Specialist to work in AI.
Many AI companies are hiring subject matter experts in a wide variety of fields to guide AI development in specific industries like healthcare, insurance, and finance.

“AI designed for simple tasks like image recognition can be trained on data alone, but AI assigned to more specialised tasks needs input from human experts,” explains Antony Brydon, CEO and co-founder of Directly. “Post-doctoral researchers, data scientists, and other AI specialists may be brilliant people with diverse skill sets, but rarely do they have insight into the nuances of product design, the delicacies of customer service, or the subtleties of concierge hospitality.”

According to Nature, businesses such as LinkedIn, Kixeye, and Nextdoor are already using non-technical experts to develop their AI platforms.
The point is that working in AI may not necessarily mean programming machines. It could instead mean consulting AI companies in your area of expertise, like mental health or banking. Still, you could gain an edge as a consultant by studying the fundamentals of AI yourself.

Reskilling in programming

The top programming languages and frameworks mentioned in the LinkedIn report are Python, JavaScript, React.js, Node.js, CSS, and AngularJS. You can learn any of these online, at your own pace. You may even be able to learn a language on the company dime, depending on your employer’s professional development policy.

To get started, be prepared to learn. Voraciously.
“You must have an insatiable appetite for knowledge,” says professional programmer Rob Walling. “This usually means reading a programming book every few weeks in the early days, and moving on to more conceptual books like The Pragmatic Programmer, Code Complete, and Facts and Fallacies after 6-12 months of full-time coding. I can’t stress enough the value of reading, nor the value of immersing yourself in code early in the process.”

Consider doing a software apprenticeship, which involves learning to program alongside a mentor. You’ll pick up not only the fundamentals but insights, knowledge, and insider tips that normally take years to uncover. You may also get a job out of it if you’re a savvy networker.

Next, sign up for a course in the programming language that’s most often required for the job you want. For instance, if you want to work in machine learning or back end development, choose Python. You can learn it as a beginner programmer, although it helps to know programming basics at least in theory. If you want to become a UI Designer or Front End Developer, choose JavaScript or CSS. Both are “core technologies” of the web, so you won’t waste your time with these.

Estimates for “time to proficiency” for Python are eight weeks. For JavaScript, nine months. Tackle both if you want to become a Full Stack Engineer.
Finally, some words of wisdom from Data Scientist Freddie Odukomaiya: “Pick one programming language and stick to it. Don’t go back and constantly change your choice of language to study. If you do, you will slow your progress down.”

Reskilling in data science

To become a Data Scientist, you do not necessarily need a degree in a field like engineering, computer science, mathematics, or statistics. What matters most of all are your skills and experience. This is especially true in a market where demand vastly outweighs supply.

DJ Patil, who built the first data science team at LinkedIn before becoming the first Chief Data Scientist of the United States in 2015 and coined the term “Data Scientist” with Jeff Hammerbacher (Facebook’s early data science lead) in 2008, tweeted the following in 2016:

“Data science doesn’t care about what you majored in or if you even got a degree. It’s what you do with data that matters.”

You could, in fact, be a data journalist (emphasis on the “journalist”) and get hired as a Data Scientist. It’s all about your familiarity with three things: statistics, programming, and business.

“A data scientist needs to know statistics and math to analyse patterns in data and to manipulate it with different treatments,” says Roger Huang, CEO and co-founder of CyberSecure. “They need to use programming skills to deal with data at scale that can take up terabytes of space. They need to understand business fundamentals in order to communicate their findings and drive other teams to action based on their insights.”

What this means is that you don’t have to start from scratch as a computer science student. You can simply take a course in statistics, learn a programming language, and enrol in an online business or entrepreneurship course to learn the basics of each. You can then combine these skills to work on projects with fellow learners and mentors. Remember, you can always volunteer to complete your first project for a company for free to gain experience.

“The one thing a bootcamp can deliver that a really good university can’t is a really thorough understanding of how to build something from ideation to deployment—that’s a full-fledged capability I don’t see often from Ph.D.s,” says Daniel Carroll, a principal data scientist at Aetna. “If you can bring that to light in a CV or interview, that will make you shine.”

Reskilling in account management

Account Managers and Customer Success Specialists are in high demand around the world. If you like to work with people, or at least to manage relationships, then this is a promising field for you. Businesses know they need to become more service-oriented as basic processes go digital, so they will be looking for candidates with strong customer service, communications, and HR management backgrounds.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve only worked as an Account Manager in one industry—your skills are transferrable. And if you’re just beginning your journey in account management, there’s no reason for concern. As you may have guessed by now, you don’t need a specific degree for this field either.

LinkedIn’s Emerging Jobs report lists Customer Success Specialist as an especially fruitful area. Unlike Customer Service, which is more reactive, Customer Success focuses on working proactively to understand client needs on behalf of the company.

“Australian consumers have some of the highest service expectations in the world,” the report explains. “So, it is not surprising that Australian companies have been early adopters of customer relationship management (CRM) tech. According to Gartner, in 2018, local companies spent a record A$2.3 billion on CRM technologies, up 20 percent on the previous year and outpacing the global growth of 15 percent. The rise of Software as a Service (SaaS) business has been a big contributor to the growth in this job. Product adoption & utilisation and customer retention & growth are key success factors for this job.”

The main skills needed for this job are account management, CRM, customer retention, strategy, and Salesforce. If you have experience in any of these areas, or in project management, you’re qualified to apply for a Customer Success Specialist role. Another skill, which we’ll explore below, can push you in the account management direction: Service design.

Reskilling in service design

Service design is an increasingly popular field for professionals in Australia, and will draw higher demand more globally in the next few years. As businesses move from product-orientation to service-orientation, they will need more people to understand how clients interact with those services to help improve their experience.

“Just as an industrial designer designs chairs and water bottles, a service designer designs experiences,” explains the report. “A good service designer can work with a broad sweep of the organisation to ensure that its service is designed to make life more enjoyable for its users.”

Top skills needed for service design include design thinking, user experience design, user research, user-centred design, customer experience design, and customer journey mapping. However, they are not requirements for getting started. If you have a background in the service industry, you can tack on a UX course and start redesigning your CV to help usher in your dream job. You can also take a service design course which, on top of experience in the hospitality or restaurant industry, will set you up for success in your job search.

Upskilling in communication

Good communication skills create a positive experience at work, build team morale, and help you build your own leadership skills. They’re not about taking the floor and delivering monologue after monologue until your conversation partner’s eyes glaze over. They’re about slowing down and being present, listening closely, asking questions, being clear, anticipating confusion, knowing when and when not to crack a joke, using body language that’s aligned with the message you want to send, and making the people around you feel comfortable.

“Good listeners ask questions, challenge assumptions, and generally check for understanding throughout a conversation,” writes Celeste Mora, Grammarly’s Senior Content Strategy Manager. “They cultivate a two-way conversation where they’re constantly trying to improve their understanding of what the other person is saying.”

Communication experts also recommend “over-communicating” sometimes, as we tend to assume people understand us more than they actually do. Balance that, however, by being as clear and concise as possible in your messages. You’ll be rewarded for it:

“Twenty years ago, the smartest person in the room at work was the one who had gathered more and better information than anyone else,” says Dean Brenner, president of The Latimer Group, an executive coaching agency in the U.S. “Today, the smartest person in the room…is the one who can simplify all the things that are going on and create a path through the complexity and toward a simpler solution.”

Brenner adds that when you’re talking about something you do or something you know, most people want to know one thing: how it can apply to them.
“The real mistake is to assume that everybody cares about the nitty-gritty of the data as much as you do,” Brenner says. “What you have to realise is everybody’s listening to what you’re saying and thinking in their heads about how they can apply it to what they’re doing.”

An online course in written or spoken communication could be an interesting option as you head into 2020. Foreign language courses are always useful too, as employers will increasingly be looking for multi-lingual candidates who can liaise with global clients.

Upskilling in creativity

How do you become more creative?
Research shows one big predictor of creative output is a trait called “openness to experience.” Part of the Big Five personality scale, openness to experience is pretty much what it sounds like: exploring new places, meeting new people, going outside your comfort zone, taking up new activities and skills, and generally exposing yourself to new stimuli. Some people are naturally more comfortable with this way of being than others, but it can be learned and honed like any other skill. The more you seek variety and witness the creative fruits of your efforts to do so, the more comfortable you’ll become with this way of being and the more incentive you’ll have to continue with it.

“Multiple psychological studies suggest that a crucial trigger of creativity is the experience of unusual and unexpected events,” says psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. “Unexpected events can certainly mix emotions, and mixed emotions… can increase sensitivity to unusual associations and ideas.”

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology concluded that any life experience, from the traumatic to the joyful, can lead to creativity “as long as it diversifies your experiences and pushes you outside your normal thought patterns.”

For the study itself, researchers placed participants in a virtual reality world where they took a three-minute tour through a university cafeteria. They were divided into two groups: experiencers of a weird reality where events violated the laws of physics or experiencers of a normal reality with standard laws of physics. For example, people in the first group might walk up to a suitcase resting on a table only to watch the size of it decrease, then increase as they walked away.

Afterwards, researchers asked participants to take a test of cognitive flexibility where they came up with as many answers as possible to the question, “What makes sound?”

Participants who had been immersed in the weird virtual reality scored higher on the test, coming up with more creative answers, than those who had been immersed in a normal version of the virtual world.

Kaufman says the “core feature” of an experiment like this is “actively experiencing a violation of how things are supposed to happen.”

These findings have implications for team managers as well.
“The latest research on the role of emotions in creativity suggests that instead of focusing exclusively on bringing out positive emotions among employees—or attempting to dispel negative emotions—managers may want to consider additional factors,” Kaufman says, “such as whether the environment brings out emotional ambivalence (Is the environment unusual? Will it tap into a wide range of seemingly contradictory emotions?) and motivational intensity (Will it broaden or narrow someone’s focus?) when trying to stimulate creativity.”

Other research suggests that taking walks, doodling, feeling at ease, solving problems, tapping into mixed emotions, cultivating interdisciplinary thinking, and switching up your environment can all help you boost your creativity.

Simply put, employers want creative teams because, in an age of automation, creativity is a distinctly human trait. It won’t become obsolete—at least, not any time soon. Time to skill up.

Upskilling in collaboration

Collaboration will trump competition as the world becomes more globalised. We’re already witnessing the rise of the collaborative economy with the phasing out of solo entrepreneurship and siloed teams, the move toward partnerships between companies and consumers, and the democratisation of income through startups like Uber and Airbnb. Organisations know that collaboration is the faster route to growth, and that’s why they’re hiring people who can help build relationships with customers and partnerships with other businesses.

“The real driver of success in the collaborative economy is not technological innovation,” says Andrew Reid, founder and president of Vision Critical. “Collaborative startups like Lyft and Instacart aren’t getting billion-dollar valuations because they’re more technologically advanced than the big transportation and hospitality services that existed long before them. These startups are dominating because they’ve uncovered insight about today’s customers. Ultimately, that understanding of the customer is what will give companies sustained competitive advantage in the age of the collaborative economy and beyond.”

As customers themselves demand more authentic experiences from companies, what it means to “understand the customer” will increasingly require interacting with that customer and building a real relationship with them. If you plan to work in the customer-facing side of a business, you’ll need strong collaboration skills.

You’ll also need to be a team player, enthusiastic about learning from and teaching your colleagues. Teams that work well together simply get more done, and are able to be more creative during brainstorming sessions and meetings. Collaboration doesn’t mean being best friends with the people you work with; it means knowing how to bring out people’s strengths, make people feel heard, challenge people respectfully, stay receptive and open-minded, accommodate different personalities and communication styles, and guide idea sharing in a productive direction.

To become a skilled collaborator, try gaining experience as a community or events manager, customer success specialist, human resource manager, or employee experience designer.

Upskilling in emotional intelligence

Yes, this is a valid soft skill. Yes, employers are looking for candidates who have it. What does it look like, exactly?

As defined by Psychology Today, emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.”

It’s made up of three skills: “the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.”

How do you improve at something that requires so much sensitivity, especially in a professional environment?

To cultivate better self-awareness, Mark Manson recommends understanding yourself and your behaviour on three levels: 1) know what you’re doing, 2) know how you feel about it, and 3) know what you don’t know about yourself.

“Schedule time in your day to get away from [distractions],” he advises. “Do your morning commute with no music or podcast. Just think about your life. Think about how you’re feeling. Set aside 10 minutes in the morning to meditate. Delete social media off your phone for a week. You’ll often be surprised by what happens to you.”

Next, learn to channel your emotions well. This means reserving judgment over the way you or another person feels and focusing on how to respond.

“The whole point of this is to be able to channel your emotions into what psychologists call ‘goal-directed behavior’—or what I prefer to call ‘getting your shit together.’”

Learning to motivate yourself can also boost emotional intelligence. Manson recommends acting early to get things simmering:

“If you don’t feel like anything motivates you, do something,” he writes. “Draw a doodle, find a free online coding class, talk to a stranger, learn a musical instrument, learn something about a really hard subject, volunteer in your community, go salsa dancing, build a bookshelf, write a poem. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after whatever it is you’re doing and use those emotions to guide your future behavior.”

Once you’ve built a healthy amount of self-awareness, you’ll be able to tune into the emotions of others to create relational health around you.

“You do this by connecting and empathising with others. By both listening to others and sharing yourself honestly with others—that is, through vulnerability.”

Finally, Manson recommends “infusing your emotions with values.”

“Emotional intelligence is meaningless without orienting your values,” he writes. “You might have the most emotionally intelligent CEO on the planet, but if she’s using her skills to motivate her employees to sell products made by exploiting poor people or destroying the planet, how is being emotionally intelligent a virtue here?”

Being clear about your own values will allow you to guide your emotional energy in a positive, constructive direction.

It’s a new decade. Time for a new you (or maybe just the 2.0 version). As challenging as it may be to decide which direction you’ll go in, rest assured that you can’t, really, make a wrong choice when it comes to upskilling or reskilling in any of these areas. The only mistake you can make is to take no action at all. So give yourself permission to do what feels right, whether it “makes sense” now or not. The reason you chose that new skill will become crystal clear when you land your dream job later on down the road.


If you want to future-proof your career and learn in-demand skills, we’ve got a variety of short courses available in Human-Centred Design, Business and Marketing and New and Emerging Tech.

Author: Saga Briggs. Saga Briggs is a journalist covering trends in learning, creativity, intelligence, and educational technology. Follow her @SagaMilena 

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The evolution of education

Education has evolved dramatically since it was first formalised in the 17th century.

For educators who have been around for longer than five years, teaching itself has been different, and is constantly in flux with changes in knowledge and culture.

Here are some ways teaching has dramatically changed in the last decade:

  • Media is duplicated and shared: Media now is interactive with personalisation and virality, where one piece of content can be created and used multiple times and in multiple ways. Through the internet, media is easily and directly accessed on mobile, and other devices.
  • Apps are more popular than ever: Teachers and educators are now embracing app use more in pivotal ways compared to textbooks and help augment real-life references and experience for students.
  • Priority on mobile: Progressive learning on different platforms provides the environment for students to move out of their desks and learn autonomously. With flexibility and mobility, students are able to collaborate with others creatively and participate in experiential learning.
  • Equity and identity are important: Issues like access to technology, socioeconomic realities, standardised tests, and even WiFi speeds are crucial issues teachers must consider and confront when creating their curriculum, teaching, and engaging with students.
  • Teachers are connected to students constantly: Teachers must collaborate with other teachers as well as encourage the same for students among their peers.
  • Adaptive software: Apps today are able to adapt to the individual needs of students in ways teachers simply can’t. Where there is one teacher to a class of 25 students, adaptive software can cater and be designed to tailor to students’ individual needs.  
  • Information is plenty, wisdom is scarce: Teachers have to respond to students who can access information in seconds while serving the goals and objectives of the educational institutions they serve. Beyond acquiring information, it’s how that information is used and applied which will determine the quality of academic performance and real-life experience. Teaching has changed and it’s still constantly changing. But that’s not the only facet of education that’s experiencing a significant shift. The way we educate and prepare teachers to teach the next generation of workers is also evolving.

The history of teaching

Let’s look at the brief history of educating teachers. In the 1800s, teachers were typically men who had other professions like farming. Due to their skills, they were easily hired as teachers after being assessed by local review boards. Teaching was also considered a stepping stone to other careers such as law or joining the clergy.

By the end of the 19th century, foundational educational reforms led by leaders like Horace Mann paved the way for public schools with state oversight, ensuring certain standards of education are met. Teacher certifications emerged in 1900, initiating professional standards in teaching subjects like arithmetic, geography, grammar, history, reading, spelling, and writing.

At the onset of the 20th century, a unique division educational programs formed, extending traditional education. These included:

  • Evolution into a university: normal schools expanded into state colleges focused on preparing students for the teaching profession.
  • Evolution within a university: departments within a university grew to become their own schools of education within institutions like Harvard University and USC Berkeley.

By the 1920s, educational programs were preparing teachers with the ability to teach students at an array of levels and across all disciplines, from undergraduate to doctorate degrees. Today, there are many certifications and advanced degrees for educators, such as a Masters of Science and a Masters of Art degrees in education.

New learning tools and techniques

Along with the education of teachers, learning tools and teaching techniques have also changed significantly with the digital revolution. There’s a need to incorporate technology, mobile devices, and independent learning with more traditional models and setups. Some of this disruption in the education system includes:

  • Hands-on learning: In the past, hands-on learning was only seen in school field trips. These days, teachers are showing students how topics are relevant in their lives such as trade school, apprenticeships, and design. With User Experience (UX) Design, students are able to make informed insights from research and apply this to a real-world solution. Hands-on learning is also an approach that incorporates technology so students have the option for the classroom.
  • Flipped classrooms: Flipped classrooms is a learning approach where students are provided with study materials beforehand and are encouraged to present questions during class discussions. Through this flipped approach, students are encouraged to lead the direction of the course, resulting in increased engagement and can learn the material at their pace.
  • Microlearning: To address shorter attention spans, teachers are delivering lessons in “bite-sized chunks” instead of lengthy lectures. Topics are broken down into concise lessons with opportunities for hands-on learning and activities to keep students engaged.
  • Diversified learning: Different students respond to different ways of teaching. Some are visual learners, others do better when they read or listen to lectures. To address this, teachers are giving different opportunities and avenues to allow students to understand concepts such as podcasts, videos, and other digital resources online in place of traditional learning content.

All levels of learning and education are evolving rapidly, from early childhood education to university-level education. Even higher learning and professional schools like medicine have changed in recent years.

Changes in education

Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a crucial milestone for all students, with potential lasting benefits that could stay with them for their whole lives. Here are three trends in ECE that address changes in education:

  • Minimising the achievement gap: Early education centres catering to disadvantaged students (such as those from low-income families, or children with English as their second language) gain more funding when their processes help their students close the ‘achievement gap’ with children from more privileged backgrounds.
  • Technology and the classroom: There is a priority in finding the right combination of tech tools to enrich learning. Technology is used for passive and active consumption, communication, and content creation.
  • Classroom principles: Teachers are encouraged to develop their students’ emotional cognitive social early learning. They do this by integrating classroom principles that help children manage emotions to gain confidence, resilience, and understanding.

Higher education

According to Walter Pearson, a Dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at Loyola-University Chicago, higher education has changed in all facets from the learners and teaching models to the challenges students and educators alike face.

Students are now from a diverse range of backgrounds, compared to the lack of diversity just over three decades ago. Accelerated terms of five to eight-week terms from 15 to 16-week terms are now more widely accepted. Online education is more prevalent than ever before and seen as just as effective as face-to-face learning.

Niche graduate programs and short courses such as those at Academy Xi are also on the rise, assisting adult students to elevate their current career with new skills, or transforming into completely different, emerging fields.

The industry of adult higher education has also seen a drastic change. Public higher education is weakening due to common trends of governments reducing funding in this sector. Access to affordable higher education is definitely becoming more challenging, with public institutions costing much (or even more) than their private counterparts.

University education

In the last 15 years, university education has changed all over the world. Despite access to information, it is not without its advantages and disadvantages.

  • More people are going to university: From 19% in 2000, university participation has grown to 22% in 2012. There is also a link between a student’s likelihood of getting a tertiary education if their parents previously went to college or university.
  • More people are studying abroad: The number of students studying abroad doubled from 2 million in 2000 to nearly 5 million in 2012. China’s popularity as a destination for education also grew, with 8% of international students studying there — the 3rd highest country behind the US and the UK.
  • Priority towards student experiences: This movement shifts away from the traditional teacher-focused way of education. This, however, leads to the very quality of teaching to be under scrutiny, as less focus is placed on knowledge, in favour of the students’ experience.
  • The impact agenda: There is increased pressure for research to be beneficial to society as a whole or a cause or institution that funds it. The purpose of individual research is to contribute to collective research, not provide a direct and immediate impact.

Despite all the changes in education, the industry as a whole is seeing massive disruption and is experiencing overall growth. As education continuously evolves, teachers must adapt and equip themselves with tools and techniques that address the needs of today’s students. The quality of education today has a direct correlation to the development of society and the impact on technology as a whole.

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