Recently I ran a survey on Survey Monkey (love their new survey result images – see below). My goal was to find out more about how people learn. In particular, I was looking for insights into how best to shape, position and design Book Rapper for the future.
The big idea I wanted to explore is: Are people still reading to learn? And, if so, what and how are they reading?
There were eight multiple-choice questions and one open question. Here are the results and my interpretation of what they mean. 36 people responded – which is good and clearly not a massive sample size.
1 How do you like to keep up to date with your professional knowledge?
There are several groupings here. Clearly reading comes out as the number one way to learn. Face-to-face or live learning is second. Video and Audio came in third place. I was curious about infographics – this is a significant result. Almost one in three people include them as part of their learning mix.
2 Are you reading as many books as you’d like to?
In hindsight, this is a poor question. What did I really expect here? This confirms the bleedingly obvious – there are more and more great books out there and we all want to read more of them and we simple aren’t getting it done. Welcome to the Information Age!
3 Do your prefer to read, watch or listen to content?
I love the clear symmetry of the answer here – visual (read), visual (video), audio (listen). Again, I’m not sure what this tells me. It needs context – is this a traditional bias that we are used to based on our formal education and schooling or is this a shift? For me, I’m consuming a lot of podcasts now compared to almost none 12 months ago. That’s a shift. And, at Book Rapper, it highlights the preference toward reading the RAPs rather than watching or listening to them.
4 What’s the ideal reading time for you?
Again, I’m not sure if I got the question wrong or I simply received an answer I didn’t expect. I think the question is ambiguous. I really wanted to know whether the 30-minute length of a Book Rapper issue was a reasonable goal. Or, is there a stronger preference for shorter content forms? If I read these responses literally, only 25% of people want content up to 10 minutes in length whereas 75% of people are happy to spend 20 minutes or longer reading.
5 Which is your favorite device for learning new information and keeping up to date with?
This set of responses is really clear. Or is it? Tablets handsomely win with 45% whereas desktops and laptops are both at 25%. Alternatively, can you lump laptops and desktops together at 50% because they are similar? In my Mac world, a tablet is different to laptop and desktop because they use different operating systems. And, this separation continues to merge. Soon they will be one. Also, whilst smartphones are not really in the game in this set of responses with only a 3% response, the merger of smart phone and tablet is also taking place with an increasing range of device sizes blurring this division. Plus, there might be a generational bias here. The younger audience today lives on their smartphones and are way less likely to use a desktop.
6 Do you prefer to gather information and learn as a general activity or to solve specific questions?
This one surprised me. 72% prefer general learning to specific learning. I was expecting more people to say ‘solve specific problems’. Naturally, we all do both. I prefer to generally fill my brain up with interesting stuff. And, then when I need something specific I search for that. A really good comment from one of the respondents noted that sometimes learning generally is the only way to solve more complex problems. For instance, if you want more sales do you learn only about Facebook or about marketing in general? This is partly personal preference and partly it reflects the nature of our contextual, connected and complex world.
7 How well are you managing your information load?
I see a 60-40 result in favor of people consuming only what they need to as a big victory. We all experience the flood of information that comes at us everyday and it’s pleasing to hear people are finding ways to manage their response to this. I also think this comes and goes. For instance, some days I feel swamped and mostly I don’t.
8 Do you believe there is enough free content or are you happy to pay?
Obviously, running a content rich business, I was very interested in this set of responses! A 70:30 willingness to pay for good content is significant. And, I think this reflects a considered approach that ‘yes there is a lot of good free content out there’ and ‘yes there are times when paying for it is best’. This question probably needs a mate that then asks, ‘What are the qualities of content that you will pay for compared to free content?’ I’m curious about the distinction between the quality of the content and how easy it is to access and digest. Is this a decisive factor in free or fee?
Generally the comments that people left supported the view that learning is complex and varied. Sometimes we want specific or general, private and reflective or social and interactive. Sometimes it’s being part of a larger group at a seminar and sometimes private mentoring allows for deeper insight. Sometimes we need to gather info and we also need to sort, synthesize and reflect. And, ultimately, there is always a need to take action as a pathway to learning what really works in your unique situation.
A Special Thanks!
Thanks to everyone that responded to the survey. I really appreciate the time and effort you spent in answer the questions. The five lucky winners of the Book Rapper subscriptions were: Fred, Rildo, Gilly, David and Elizabeth.
I’d love to hear how you interpret these responses. Let me know by adding a comment below.