First results on the “How we Learn” survey

The survey I started in March already brought some learnings I propose to share with you, here, in an informal way. It’s also to introduce a new serie of posts “How we Learn”. This serie will come out every Monday as part of my 30 days writing challenge. It will be weekly with a monthly review of new learnings from the on-going survey and individual in-depth interviews the other weeks. What is interesting in this serie is that it’s based on your inputs.

The survey is still open. Did you take it, go! #LetsDoThis 🙂

Who are the lifelong learners

27 answers so far. Average age is below 40 with 60% female respondent. This for the demographics. This matches the persona I prepared for Kneaver, soon to be posted.

Half are self-employed, a third enterprise employed. Which leaves us with a sixth of others. The dominance of self-employed is vastly higher than the 7% found general population statistics as seen on This is because the survey was mostly filled by people in my network with a predominance of tweeps in Software, Design, Marketing and L&D. It’s important because self-employed are typically taking care of their workplace learning themselves. Yet only 3 described themselves as L&D pros. I guess this last question was not sufficiently clear.

Half of respondents experienced or are planning a radical change in their career. Half are planning their learning in accordance to their change plans. It’s not fully correlated, but the questionnaire let it open to chose either answers or both. What we can be sure of is that half respondents are planning their learning in relation with their careers and they want or did change it. This means that changes don’t happen without some preparation and planning. Good to know.

Of course in most organizations, such needs and plans may come undetected. Understandable since the still employed may not want to disclose his growing interest in other fields before making it official that she’s planning to leave. Hence, results from inside organization may differ from our results. That’s a guess. It’s only correlated with the very low score of “I follow a plan prepared by my organization”. I would like to have insights from Learning Workplace pros. Are people, planning to pivot and leave an organization, sharing their plans and taking advantage of L&D services available to complete their education?

Learning Strategies

On the learning strategies, there are big trends:

Two-thirds of respondents (I took this upper range to start with)
– detect their knowledge gaps themselves based on intuition. This surprises me because it’s not always easy to understand the best skills to gain and how to acquire them before precisely you have them and you are in a position where you use them.
– learn from others on social media: Aha, this could be my answer. The possibility to network and engage with others already in the desired position, learning from their story (just fresh) via blogs, interactions is new. Twitter chats, for example, are a great way to engage with people who made it. A little less than 2 third, but a proud half, read blogs and learn from there.
– have a clear idea of what they wish to learn and why
– defined their objectives themselves (which make sense considering above, still how do they formalize it? Should we help?)

– direct their learning path themselves
– are responsible of their own professional development
– look around all the time for new ways, new resources to learn new things

So we have a vast majority of proactive learners, ready to have a reflective look on their learning. Still only one third manage their learning activities and track them. For me, there is a slight gap here and possible need to address, not far away from the next findings on time issues.

Empathy Results

From the feedbacks, pain points open questions I collected a few sentences and reorganized them around three topics. I did this is the spirit of Empathy interviews of Design Thinking. I was surprised to see that the first ones come around time and resources. That’s a big takeaway for me. Honest, I thought I was the only one experiencing time management issues and having a hard time fixing them. #Jocking. I’m preparing a post on that.

I didn’t attribute sentences to people even when they gave their identity. Let me know if you think it’s a problem. Also I extracted phrase from sentences, possibly impacting mildly the meaning. This is where you see continuation dots afterward. Between parenthesis my comments.

time and resources

  • time, prioritizing and planning
  • $ and time
  • to know what to prioritize.
  • So many things, not enough time!
  • Lack of time

overload and difficulty to retain organize on the long run

  • filtering and organizing information – basically dealing with information overload
  • Finding what I want when I want to apply it. (This is not directly related to overload but I often feel the same. We learn, we forgot, put on some backburner).
  • abundance of tools and platforms adds to the confusion. (Did you tag, bookmark it on feedly or place it into a note in Evernote, a recap on storify. How to find it back after a year: A grouped search on all tools would be handy.
  • finding becomes a problem
  • Too much information and you never know where the best one is
  • In the end, books are most reliable.
  • Keeping up with the volume of information available and the rapid pace of change

Motivation, retention, attention

  • courses are boring
  • learn by doing seems a good answer
  • I need to apply .. to retain them.
  • I teach myself – by doing. I prefer doing so rather than listening to people … (It’s a constant that self -directed lifelong learners are also independent people who like to do by themselves. They are not mostly self-employed for nothing)


  • A first analysis of the responses is already bringing plenty of learning for me.
  • I felt strange starting a study on learning with almost no background on learning theory. The more so that a third of respondents are learning specialists themselves 🙂 There is a possible gain in my candid quest. I’m very good at thinking laterally and searching for ideas without preconceived ideas. Not being a specialist could be an advantage to explore a field with a new eye.
  • I’m pondering options to streamline the treatment of answers and get better computations. Today with 27 answers simple average, counts and extracting sentences is already interesting. Let’s keep learning but keep in mind it’s an intermediate result.
  • There is more to learn from the study, I look forward collecting many more answers to grow stronger conclusions.

Did you find it instructive? feel free to engage and continue the discussion in the comments.
Do you have suggestions regarding the questionnaire itself? Comment or tweet me.


I already wrote a post on the follow up interviews “Lessons Learned from Interviews”, but this was mostly on the form not the take aways.

The survey itself is still open at, feel free to join the move and add your stone to the edifice. The study will remain open forever and may evolve with more questions. So answering several times is an option specially if you make sure to leave your identity.