Who has time to read books these days? According to a recent report from the Netherlands’ Social and Cultural Planning Office, fewer and fewer Dutch people are managing to fit reading into their increasingly busy schedules. In 2006, 90% of Dutch people spent at least ten minutes reading a book each day. By 2016 this had dropped to only 70%.
Spotting this problem, TU/e Innovation Management student Jop van der Kemp has created Lunch Learners, a new service which aims to condense the core ideas and knowledge contained in popular non-fiction books, and present them to workers during their lunch hour.
The idea came when as a student with a weekend job, Jop was unsatisfied with the amount of time he could spend reading the books he wanted to. “I had the same problem our customers have – I really wanted to know what’s in these books, but I did not prioritize reading. So I started thinking, how can I read these books and make some money”.
Diving straight in, Jop contacted the manager of a business out of the blue, offering to come by and present a negotiation-strategy book he had been reading to the company’s employees. The added bonus being that the pressure of presenting would focus Jop to absorb as much of the book’s content as possible. “He said ‘OK, but what’s way more costly for me is having these thirty employees not working for an hour. So why not do it while lunching?'”
From there the idea was born. Two years later, Jop now has a team of five other students under his wing, each with their educational backgrounds and specialisms giving them expertise in the various books they present.
Following a presentation template carefully designed by Jop, each of his Lunch Learners presenters takes time to read, analyse, and tease out the essence of the book they are assigned, before preparing a professional talk on the book’s topic. Currently the catalogue of books on offer from Lunch Learners is centered around management, business strategy, as well as personal development – all concepts which Jop sees as having the highest value for companies and their employees.
“If you look at successful people, like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, they read more than half of their working days. The funny thing is we don’t seem to have the time, or seem to make reading a priority. So a lot of students or workers want to learn from books, but do not want to put in the time. And that’s really the problem that we aim to solve. Eating lunch, that’s something everyone does every day. So if you can just ‘read’ a book while lunching, yeah, how easy can it get?”
Far from being upset that their lunch-hours are occasionally used in this way, workers at participating companies appear to be fully embracing the concept.
“We’ve asked participants what is the most added-value of these sessions for them, and most people said it was learning something. But also, a lot of people said it was more social than a normal lunch. Because a lot of people never see each other, and here is one event where everyone comes together to discuss the topic presented. So the social aspect is the second biggest factor in what they value”.