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DISSECTING THE ART OF NOTE TAKING

“Writing and learning and thinking are the same process.” – William Zinsser

Boiled down to its essence, I view my primary goal as a marketing research professional as helping others understand something I have learned.

I try to ask thoughtful questions, listen attentively, and then effectively translate ideas for the benefit of others. This is a capital-P Process for learning and communications. However, it is not always linear, and my methods for asking, listening, learning, and communicating are varied.

Over the past 15+ years of working professionally with data and language, I have learned (the hard way – through mistakes; and over and over again) that I personally learn best through writing by hand. I use my PC, laptop, and phone for many things, but despite the ease and convenience of these technologies, when I want to absorb information, retain it, refer to it later, and ultimately translate it for others, I grab a pen and notebook. I like to physically spell it all out and scrawl across the page, leaving a record I can refer back to (and re-interpret) later.

It’s not really pretty, but it works for me…
I realize that I am just one information worker among many, however, and others have very different habits, practices, and preferences.

We recently conducted a brief, statistically reliable (N=1000) nationwide survey via Piplsay, powered by Market Cube to gain insight into how people take notes at work and the benefits they seek in making related decisions. Here is some information we gained on the subject:



Data Source for W5 Poll: Piplsay, Powered by Market Cube, September 2019

These are all valid techniques for taking notes and sharing ideas at work, of course. The prevalence of different habits and preferences is interesting. It is clear people learn and communicate differently and a combination of methods can be effective (and is most typical).

I was a little surprised at how many people take notes by typing, and that only 57% do so by writing. Personal preference and bias aside, in light of psychological science reflecting the value of handwritten notation for comprehension, I thought this percentage may have been even higher. It does, however, seem to make sense that typing is a preferred method for sharing information later – which for many people, may be a reason to take notes in the first place.

I was amused at some respondents’ confidence in relying on memory (though they, somewhat humorously, seem to admit it’s not the best way to record information to tell someone later).

Ultimately, it’s not about the tools or techniques. The key is to maintain focus on sharp questioning, open-minded listening, and efficient communication, using whatever methods aid you through the learning (capital-P) Process.


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