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15 Affordable Resources for Learning New Business Skills

15 Affordable Resources for Learning New Business Skills

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What’s your favorite resource for learning new business skills cheaply?

1. Coursera

Andrew Schrage
    Coursera offers a wide variety of business-related Web courses for free. You can take and complete courses as you wish and communicate with other students.

    Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

     

     

    2. Accelio

    Liam Martin
      Accelio has a number of step-by-step guides written by industry experts (versus some professor). The lessons cover anything and everything — not just business. The unique thing about Accelio is that courses are task-specific, and you only learn what you need to learn.

      Liam Martin, Staff.com

       

       

      3. Experts

      Aaron Schwartz

        Although reading a book or taking an online course is great for learning, as a CEO, my time for self development is limited. To improve different skills, I ask close friends who work for tutorials. Spending two hours taking a friend to dinner and chatting with an expert allows me to focus my questions on the issues that are relevant to my business.

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        Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

         

        4. People Who Are Smarter Than You

        Andy Karuza

          They say wise men learn from other men’s mistakes and fools learn from their own mistakes. Put yourself around people who are smarter than you, and learn from them. In fact, you can learn something from everybody, even people who you would least expect. Also, take the time to read every night from industry experts and thought leaders; it’s free knowledge without the lunch!

          Andy Karuza, brandbuddee

           

          5. AppSumo

          Danny Boice
            AppSumo offers great deals on learning resources and tools. It’s like LivingSocial, except that it solely caters to founders and geeks.

            Danny Boice, Speek

             

             

            6. Lynda.com

            Joe Apfelbaum

              As a busy professional, it’s hard to find time to learn new business skills. I find that every time I learn something new, our business improves. I read a lot of books, but when I don’t have time to read books, I listen to audio interviews and courses. I like Lynda.com for software skills and Mixergy for business skills.

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              Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union

               

              7. Audiobooks

              Mark Krassner

                I spent a lot of time following prominent bloggers and reading as much business news as possible. I was becoming the jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Therefore, I decided to read more books that took a deep delve into topics that were important for my business. I struggled with finding time to read and started listening to audiobooks while working out. The results have been powerful.

                Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central 

                 

                8. Udemy

                Lauren Perkins
                  Udemy is an online education platform that’s ideal for busy entrepreneurs wanting to learn new skills on the go without being fully immersed in a classroom. Topics can range from business foundations to SEO training. The depth and intensity of the courses vary, so it’s perfect if you want to learn the basics of a new skill.

                  Lauren Perkins, Perks Consulting

                   

                  9. Online Communities

                  Phil Laboon

                    I am constantly gaining new insights from reading industry blogs. I’m a big fan of Moz and use them a lot as a resources for insights key to our industry. There are so many low-quality sites trying to pump out false data about our industry, and Moz always seems to do a good job blocking that stuff from their site. I enjoy learning from the different points of view in discussions and forums.

                    Phil Laboon, Eyeflow Internet Marketing

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                    10. Quora

                    Ronnie Castro

                      For getting up the learning curve quickly, nothing beats talking to an expert directly. Quora is a nice alternative where you can find candid thoughts from leaders concerning specific business decisions.

                      Ronnie Castro, Porch

                       

                       

                      11. Mixergy

                      Mike Cuesta
                        Mixergy is where I go to get brutally honest advice and lessons from real entrepreneurs. Andrew Warner who runs Mixergy is an overwhelmingly energetic and transparent interviewer. There are hundreds of interviews from real entrepreneurs who have overcome all sorts of obstacles. Even more impressive is the breadth and depth of companies interviewed — from bootstrappers to VC-backed tech giants.

                        Mike Cuesta, CareCloud

                         

                        12. Peers

                        Natalie McNeil

                          Chances are that you know someone who is strong in one area of business that you would like to learn who could learn something new from you, too. I’ve acquired many new business skills simply by swapping information and training with other successful entrepreneurs. It’s a win-win situation.

                          Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

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                          13. Skillshare

                          Derek Flanzraich
                            Skillshare continues to be the best way to learn something specific at an affordable price from the best teachers.

                            Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

                             

                             

                            14. YFS Magazine

                            Anthony Saladino
                              YFS Magazine provides free, actionable business advice from some of the brightest entrepreneurs worldwide. Regardless of your niche, you will find useful information throughout the website that is sure to help you learn techniques to improve your business.

                              Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

                               

                               

                              15. Mozinars

                              Fabian Kaempfer

                                My favorite resource for learning new business skills are webinars from Moz. They’re free webinars with experts in marketing and SEO. The content of each “Mozinar” is very specific, valuable and actionable, rather than general and vague. You can leave a webinar with lots of great insights and tactical approaches you can apply to your own company or situation.

                                Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

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                                The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                                The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                                It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

                                Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

                                “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

                                In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

                                New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

                                There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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                                So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

                                What is the productivity paradox?

                                There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

                                In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

                                He wrote in his conclusion:

                                “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

                                Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

                                How do we measure productivity anyway?

                                And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

                                In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

                                But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

                                In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

                                But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

                                Possible causes of the productivity paradox

                                Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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                                • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
                                • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
                                • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
                                • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

                                There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

                                According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

                                Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

                                The paradox and the recession

                                The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

                                “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

                                This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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                                According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

                                Looking forward

                                A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

                                “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

                                Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

                                “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

                                On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

                                Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

                                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                                Reference

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