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Fixing the Broken Education to Jobs Pipeline: Cost to Skills, Time to Skills, & Skills to Jobs

Creating a book ( & a service ( to help people reach their potential: 10x learning, doing, & creativity.

Photo of Guy Bieber

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Cost to Skills

Expensive Degrees -> Inexpensive Skills: The cost of education has gone up 1127% since 1978, while only 25% of people that start a degree get their desired job. Instead of a great job, most students end up with an average $29K in debt. The education to jobs pipeline is broken. We have reached a point in the US where the middle class has shrunk to less than 50% of the population. The body of knowledge on the Internet doubles every 1.5 years and information has become practically free. This means that people must constantly retrain to keep up. 

Group Learning -> Customized Learning: With access to free/inexpensive information and learning (Coursera, UDx, Udemy, Lynda, Kahn Academy), our limitation is moving away from affording a one-time education to our ability to adapt to constant change through continual, inexpensive, and adaptive learning. Why is the unit of learning a semester and the cost in credit hours? Why can’t people learn at their individual fastest rate? Adaptive learning technologies and the machine learning based evolution of courseware enable rapid learning. Rapid learning has become one of the few sustainable advantages in the information age. Learning is no longer a beginning of career event, it has become a career-long challenge.

Teachers -> Mentors: Let’s face it math, English, and the basics of science haven’t changed much in years. Why do we keep treating teaching like theater, where teachers can only reach a small number of students, they force a group to learn at the same rate, and repeat the same thing every semester? It doesn't scale. Teachers test and judge instead of encourage and enable; this reinforces a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset believes their ability is limited. A growth mindset believes they can learn anything. It is more important for a young person to have good mentors or a personal board of directors to be successful. An hour a week with a good mentor can make a huge difference in development. 

Time to Skills

The good news is there many ways to improve your time to insights and time to skills. Inexpensive online courseware makes great content available to anyone with an Internet connection. The challenge for massive online courseware is not accessibility or cost, it is motivation. The abandonment rate of online courses is very high; so high that one vendor will return half your money when you complete the course as an incentive.

Words Per Minute (WPM) -> Insights Per Minute (IPM):  Are more words per minute what you want or do you want to get more insights/knowledge per minute? Insights per minute (IPM) is a far better measure of learning. Let’s face it; most content has a lot of fluff in it. Why is every meeting an hour, every class a semester, and every PowerPoint about 30 slides? We put fillers in the dead space. In a classroom lecture you cannot speed up or slow down the instructor, but with audio and video recordings you can adjust the consumption rate to insight density. There are much faster ways to consume information now that don’t require you master speed reading. Did you know you can listen to Audible books at up to 3x the rate, Udemy classes at 3x the rate, and many YouTube videos at up to 2x the rate (with the right player)? That alone can double or triple the number of insights you can consume in the same amount of time.

Select the Right Content: Finding the right content can save you lots of time. The better your signal (good content) to noise (poor content) the more efficient you will be. We only can consume so much content in a day. The options are endless so choose wisely.  How can you find the right material? Let’s take an example of learning a typical college semester worth of a language from the book Peers Inc.  It takes about 150 hours of classroom learning for a semester of college in a standard class. With the Rosetta Stone application you can learn a semester of language in 60 hours (60% faster). Doulingo is a service that helps translate documents while learning how to teach language faster. They have reduced learning a semester of language down to an amazing 34 hours (77% faster) and it is free! So you can save tuition and learn 77% faster. That is the power of the right content. 

Consume in Layers: Layering helps both with content selection and content consumption. You can eliminate many books just by reading descriptions and reviews. Maybe it is an idea you already understand or just doesn’t seem worth the time. If it is worthy, you can often find a summary of the book that gives you the key insights in under 10 minutes (services like GetAbstract and Blinkist). That is a huge time-saving. Perhaps you want to go deeper. You can often find a talk by the author and listen to it at 2x speed (Talks at Google on YouTube is a good place to start). Finally, if the book has really high insight density or you need more explanation, grab it in audio format and listen at 2.5x speed. That takes an 11-hour book down to 4.4hr. These time savings allow you to consume a lot more insights, more quickly than you ever imagined. 

Test Based Learning -> Project-Based Learning: Targeting learning with a specific application in mind is called project-based learning. It both allows you to have a very specific purpose for learning and to apply it directly. Montessori schools create rich, hands-on environments where children can explore, experiment, and express new ideas and skills. They focus on critical thinking and problem-solving. They allow children to learn by doing. Many famous entrepreneurs started their education at Montessori schools including Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Sergei Brin (Google), and Larry Page (Google). Project-based learning also creates a portfolio of what you can do.

Skills to Jobs

Degrees -> Portfolios: By moving from the idea that degrees are the only qualification for job fitness to portfolios we enable skill to determine fit. This can be useful for traditional employment, crowd platforms (like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer), and for entrepreneurship.

Missing Skills -> Creativity and Entrepreneurship: As automation and AI starts to consume more jobs, people will more likely need to create their jobs. Entrepreneurship and creativity training is sorely missing in traditional education (as well as teaching people basic financial skills). The Potential book provides some of the best practices for creativity and entrepreneurship in the section on 10x Creativity.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

The idea is designed for anyone that wants to be continually relevant in the job market.

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

For the book ( feedback on the ideas that resonate and don’t resonate in the book. For the service ( people interested in providing user feedback. The service implements the best practices and science of the book. The service learns the fastest ways people learn and do things and shares those efficiencies with everyone. People interested in sharing their learning and doing paths.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

The book is being released shortly. Feedback on the book is one way to collect information. A user interface demonstrator for the service will be available in a couple of months to get feedback on the service. Think of it as Jarvis Light.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am an entrepreneur (, futurist, author (, engineer, maker, & former CTO (Silicon Valley and defense industry). I have been privileged to work on everything from maneuvering rockets, wearable soldier systems, autonomous helicopters, billion-dollar sensor programs, advanced lab research, & fostering corporate innovation. I am currently working on 10x learning/doing/creativity, robotics, & IoT.


Join the conversation:

Photo of An Old Friend

Hi Guy,

Great contribution! I never thought to listen to books at more than 1x, can't wait to give that a whirl..

I think the idea that all the information we need is out in the open for free is a huge consideration while comparing traditional college programs to ad-hoc learning and other online guided learning programs.

One aspect of our current school system is the validation it provides to employers. It affords the analysis of a student's dedication and smarts. I wonder what may exist as a validation mechanism in a reality where students gather their own learning materials?

Photo of Guy Bieber

A degree in the past has meant you have the ability to learn and a background in the field you are entering. A portfolio based system would allow people to show what they can do. These portfolios sometimes are managed by the course provider (like seeing your Udemy completed courses), while other learning (videos, books, articles) is really hard to measure. A degree and a resume are a poor way to measure job fit. A portfolio and a trial period (for instance Zappos pays employees to leave after a trial period if either side thinks it's not working out) is a much better way to address job fit. It is hard to separate jobs and education. Skills become perishable too quickly. Two cents.

Photo of An Old Friend

Understood - I like where this is headed. I believe that the portfolio approach is definitely feasible!

Photo of Guy Bieber


Thanks for the feedback. Between layering, format, and rate I bet you can easily consume information 10x faster. Happy growth hacking!! If you like that you should check out my book Potential. You can preorder here:


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Photo of An Old Friend

Awesome - thanks, Guy!

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