Bite-sized learning for business success

In 1999, young entrepreneurs Patrick Brigger and Thomas Bergen were looking for an innovative idea to launch a new startup. They soon stumbled across a gap in the market that paved the way to do just that.

“As entrepreneurs, we needed smarter, quicker, better information,” Mr Brigger explains. “We wanted to have instant access to all the knowledge contained in the business books on our bookshelves. And we knew we could make that knowledge accessible and useful to others as well.”

This realisation led Mr Brigger, with Mr Bergen and their third co-founder, best-selling author Rolf Dobelli, to launch getAbstract, an online library of concise business book summaries.

“When we started, only one other firm was offering book summaries, and only in print, in limited quantity and from a handful of publishers,” says Mr Brigger, who recognised an unmet demand. “We took a chance and never looked back.”

Now getAbstract is the world’s largest library of compressed knowledge, featuring more than 20,000 summaries of business books, articles, podcasts and videos. It has become a preferred learning solution for corporate and individual customers worldwide.

The challenge for many L&D departments is that changes happen extremely quickly; what you learnt yesterday is not necessarily what you need to know today

World’s best business content

Almost 21 years later, Mr Brigger is proud of what getAbstract has achieved. The company finds, rates and summarises the world’s best business content to enable users to learn quickly, efficiently and flexibly, wherever they are and from any device.

“We select and summarise our content in a completely unbiased and neutral fashion,” he explains, adding jokingly: “We are Swiss, after all.”

The company’s editors curate their selections based on quality, innovation and applicability, drawing from the work of more than 600 publishing partners. The editors constantly scour websites, catalogues, magazines, newspapers, book fairs and bookstores to find the best content.

The world of learning and development (L&D) has undergone major transformations since 1999, yet getAbstract has been able to keep pace by continuing to provide clients with outstanding, up-to-date content. getAbstract clients, often companies with thousands of employees, reap the benefit of continuous learning, which enables them to be more innovative in a fast-moving and unpredictable business environment.

“The challenge for many L&D departments is that changes happen extremely quickly; what you learnt
yesterday is not necessarily what you need to know today,” says Mr Brigger. And this is where he sees the most promising opportunities.

Learning workers and leaders

Business guru Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge workers” to describe highly skilled employees who apply their knowledge to develop sophisticated products and services. The phrase is now commonplace in management jargon, but Mr Brigger says he prefers to use the terms “learning workers” and “learning leaders”.

“L&D solutions often focus on developing workplace skills, but employees need, and often want, a broader perspective, which includes solutions that allow them to develop themselves holistically,” he says. “Moreover, it’s important to extend personal knowledge beyond existing boundaries. L&D needs to foster an urge for curiosity and then be able to satisfy that curiosity in various areas.”

Pushing boundaries

To succeed in a world shaped by unprecedentedly rapid change, Mr Brigger maintains you have to think creatively and curiously, both on a corporate and personal level, while constantly envisioning what the next innovation might look like.

“We’re always thinking about our customers, how their habits and needs are changing in tandem with the world around them,” he says. “We strive to make knowledge accessible to everyone everywhere, regardless of how much time they have. We know people are busy, but that shouldn’t prevent them from learning, even if that means reading or listening to content for five quick minutes on a mobile device in an airport lounge.”

In its quest to serve global needs, getAbstract provides summaries in English, German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian and Mandarin Chinese. Its multi-language libraries are unique in the world of business and global companies among their customers, such as Microsoft, welcome having an extensive bank of information that everyone in their international workforce can share.

getAbstract is committed to helping the next generation of leaders seize their opportunities and understand their challenges. As part of a new initiative, getAbstract now offers students free access to its online library, a public service embraced at once by students worldwide.

Beyond business

While getAbstract’s primary aim is to educate on business matters, Mr Brigger is acutely aware of how interconnected the world has become. He’s adamant that to foster a deep understanding of a subject like business, you must have a solid grasp of the scientific, political and economic forces which shape global affairs. “We offer the hands-on, skill-based information that learning workers need, like how to be personally productive, how to sell and promote a product, and how to drive a career and run a successful organisation. However, we also want to provide the larger context,” he says.

“We’ve extended our traditional business library to encompass a science library, a politics library, an economics library and an ‘Inside China’ library, where we find and rate content in Mandarin and summarise it in English. No one else offers access to that kind of knowledge from the Chinese business press.”

Looking ahead, Mr Brigger sees the company continuing to develop in this vein. “We intend to produce more applicable, high-quality content from a wider variety of sources and to continue to be the dominant, most useful presenter of essential business content summaries worldwide,” he says.

“We know that it can be tough to stay on top of the latest developments in a world that’s changing at such a breakneck pace, but we’re here to cut through the noise and make learning immediate, smart, manageable and meaningful. This is the age when companies need purpose, as well as profit, and we’re very clear that this is our mission.”

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