Is podcasting the new team learning?


I’ve noticed something dramatic occurring in my field of work. As a facilitator of change for teams and individuals I used to be invited to spend several days with teams over a year or more to undertake long term engaged learning that was face to face.

People wanted to sit together in a room and have conversations, but no more. We are now operating faster and consuming content more than ever before and, as a result, also want our learning and results immediately.

I was in a room with the marketing team from a top ASX listed company last week and when I asked who read books only three of the twenty seven people put up their hands.

When I asked why, everyone said “we don’t have time”.

In that same room of marketers however, every single person listened to podcasts. Every single person was listening to true crime and other chats, some an hour or more long, but 90% of the room were listening to what we call the short form business or ‘commute podcast’.

In today’s fast-paced world, no one really has time for the long form of anything, be that journalism, books, online learning or days out of the office. While I think face to face learning is a gift, I also know that time is one of the greatest luxuries of the modern age.

The commute business podcast is 15-20 minutes of relevant, topic based discussion that gets to our greatest challenge and then addresses it with relatable examples, tips and insights for addressing these challenges. It’s like a personal coach and mentor in your pocket.

In my daily work, my team and I get to listen to and learn from amazing leaders. People who might not be on the cover of a magazine, yet they are living and breathing the everyday challenges of the workplace and building successful meaningful careers. Our challenge was how we give access to these amazing humans to everyone for free and how we would fit that insight into our daily lives.

PodcastOne took a punt when they agreed to try the short form business format as most of the podcasts circulating were easily an hour and often took a while to get into. Our aim with Fast Track: Career Conversations with Margie Hartley was to deliver the goods in a way that made it stimulating and useful in 15 -18 minutes. We wanted to create relevant access to information on career building, without the fluff.

But does 15 minutes work? What we know is that our collective attention span has diminished dramatically since the invention of the smart phone and mass access to the internet. Several universities have reduced their lectures to 15 minutes after the perceived lack of effectiveness of the hour long lecture.

Ted Talks revolutionised the serious presentation into an 18 minute format, which at its worst is formulaic and at its best, the most valuable resource kit in the last decade. Similarly the 15 minute meeting is on the rise. See my forthcoming episode with Naomi Simson.

There are no really robust methodologies for measuring our attention span and most assessments are flawed, however, the anecdotal evidence is that people want bang for their buck when using their limited and valuable time.

The short form business podcast is all about stimulus. Stimulus for listeners to dig deeper after listening if they want to, by reading a book, visiting a website, attending a talk or using another resource recommended on the episode.

Maybe this 15 minute podcast conversation sparks some creative thoughts and opportunities of your own making. Maybe it has become a topic for a team to discuss at their weekly round table meeting. Maybe it is just for you, on your way to work to get your head in the game after a lovely weekend. Maybe it is part of a bigger learning curriculum for a leadership program or maybe it’s just a way of keeping yourself engaged.

Whatever it is, the new way to make time for your learning is incremental. Learning through intimate listening opportunities between your ears, anytime you choose and gaining the knowledge and insights you need on the go. Try it. You just might like it. 

About Margie Hartley

Margie is one of Australia’s leading executive coaches and founder of Gram Consulting Group, an independent coaching and facilitation community. Having worked with 11 of the top 20 ASX listed companies, Margie’s strong track record with enabling results has seen her and her team transform individuals through facilitation and executive coaching. Her podcast Fast Track: Career Conversations with Margie Hartley features weekly career insights from some of Australia’s top CEOs and business leaders on how to, literally, fast track your career.