How I failed with my blog topics survey

In this blog post, I’m sharing a bit more background to why I started blogging, and then I’ll reveal the surprising results of the blog topic survey I arranged in February.

Why?

So, I wanted start blogging – Why? Isn’t that passé? Well, I’m sometimes a bit late to new trends – like about 10 years late to blogging and about six years late with Netflix. Better late than never. And there seems to be a very positive trend: 10 – 6 – …. Maybe I’m only two years late with the next big thing.

More seriously, why?

In November 2016, when I was planning to start my own consulting business, and discussed with a career advisor (Jaana), and told her about my habit of writing down my important lessons learned to deepen the learning process, she replied something like “Hmm, looks like you have been preparing yourself for both entrepreneurship and blogging.“. With that comment, she really helped me decide for entrepreneurship.

Earlier, in 2005, when working for Secgo Software, I was joking to my colleagues that I’ll write a book about our adventures someday. Surprisingly, the great fellows of the Secgo team gave me a book title and a ready made cover page as a farewell gift when I left the company five years later. If there ever was any sarcasm in the others’ recommendations to start writing, I just walked blindly by not noticing a thing. Lucky me. So, it’s the support and urge from people I’ve been lucky to meet that eventually triggered me to start blogging. Beware, your support can make all kinds of things happen in this world.

By blogging, I wanted to share my experiences, which currently cover about 300 lessons learned, of which some 200 I’ve categorized. Here is an excerpt of what topics I’ve learned most about:

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 16.44.06As you may guess, the above topics are not orthogonal, or mutually exclusive, but actually they get mixed in your daily life, and I’ll get to that topic a bit later in this post.

The Survey and its Results

Just shouting out my lessons learned to the vacuum of bit space didn’t feel right. Applying the customer-centric approach from lean principles, eating my own consulting dog food, I decided to approach my potential audience to find out what they would like to read about. So far so good.

Being in love with all the benefits of digitalization, the most efficient way to find out your opinions seemed to be an online survey in a Google form. And the target audience was already there nicely in my LinkedIn network. So, I simply invited LinkedIn users to vote for the topics of their interest. A few weeks later I sent a reminder post to maximize the response rate. All good? Not really…

My voting invitation and the reminder gathered well over 600 views. And how many responses did my Google form gather? Seven – yes 7. The response rate was about 1%.

I warmly thank everyone who voted. You passed one very vicious attention span test I had accidentally created. There is no blame to all those wonderful people who took the time to read my post and check out the form, but didn’t respond.

After a brief moment of reflection I didn’t have to ask for my network for the reason to the low response rate. I had – again – fallen to two deadly traps I’ve found myself in also before:

  1. The trap of details (lack of simplicity) and
  2. The lack of empathy trap

When analyzing my behavior, I figured out the root cause to falling to those traps is actually the same: haste, urgency, hurry.

I did not take the time to set myself into the shoes of the target audience. Had I really done that, I would have noticed that the 37 different topic categories made answering a bit too difficult for an average busy business person. I could have summed up the overlapping categories and end up with maybe 10 distinct topics. My apologies for stealing your time. In a hurry, it was too easy to dump the detailed categories from my notes and create a monstrous Google form.

I might still ask for a verification to this root cause analysis from my network. Feel free to comment this blog to tell why you didn’t vote.

Top 5 voted topics

Finally, getting to the interesting part: Here are the top 5 topics and the number of scores they gathered:

POSITION TOPIC SCORE
1 Culture 42
2 People Management 39
3 Career 37
4 Attitude 33
5 Change Management 29

As you can see, those are all soft skills / topics. The first hard skills, Innovation and Metrics, come at position 7 and 10 with scores of 27 and 24 respectively. And Innovation is actually a lot about soft skills as well…

Lessons learned

Faithful to my habit, I’m gathering my lessons learned from this survey experiment:

  1. Setting yourself in the other person’s position in a hurry is difficult. If you want to imagine the other person’s point of view, give yourself the required time. Routinely taking the other person’s point of view will gradually help me and you shorten the required time.
  2. Hurry is a bad excuse. It’s all about prioritization. Sometimes you only know afterwards, how well you prioritized. I didn’t prioritize for the customer experience – I prioritized for the early release. Sometimes, taking a bit of extra time might open your eyes to the obvious mistake you are about to make and save you from the misery.
  3. Simplification takes time. Simplification is creative work at its best. Empathy will help, but a good simplification may take several iterations anyways.

Simplification and empathy are keys when for example mapping customer journeys. My survey respondents’ journey wasn’t a very smooth one this time. (Edit 2017-05-10: If the above link doesn’t work, try get the content from the internet archive. Thanks for informing me about the broken link. I hope it’s temporary.)

Stakeholders involved: My LinkedIn network (and their networks), myself.

Questions to you

Do you often find yourself or your organization in a hurry? Does it sometimes result in lack of empathy trap? How often? What have you done to avoid the trap?

Have you been prioritizing the early release over ease of use? What happened and how did you recover?

Do you sometimes find yourself using services or tools, which are difficult to use – feeling the tools or services are not designed for your needs? What have you learned from those moments?

Please share your perspectives on hurry, empathy and simplicity. We can all learn from each other.

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2 Comments

  1. Wow! This is a great example of sprint retrospective in action – really practicing what you preach. However, don’t feel too bad about the response rate. Surveys are always hard – that’s why Net Promoter System tried to get rid of all the clutter and focus on the one most important question “Would you recommend us?” Unfortunately I still get surveys that are so long and arduously detailed that I bail out around question 15 and send the comment “If you want to know what I think, you need a better way to collect it.” Great example of the lack of empathy you identify.

    I will think more about hurry and empathy. I’m sure you are right about the connection. In fact my recent article is about when I was in too much hurry to properly notice that my team member wasn’t really ok with the plan. Fortunately I was able to realize it during the evening and fix it the next day… not so easy when your hurry got baked into a product.

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience and comments, Johanne.
      I fully agree on the simplicity of NPS.
      Yep, balancing between hurry and empathy is probably something one should keep in mind every day.

      Like

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