Training specialist, Illumine, has found that its speed reading courses are not only helping to improve delegates’ reading speeds but also helping them overcome the stress of ‘information overwhelm’. The average reading speed of delegates attending Illumine’s speed reading courses in 1997 was 265 words per minute (wpm). According to data from more recent Illumine courses, the delegates’ average initial reading speed is now 297wpm.


Clive Lewis, Director of Training at Illumine and author of ‘The Extraordinary Reader’ commented: “In the last decade or so, the explosion of information in the form of email, the web and printed material has been phenomenal, so we were interested to see whether reading speeds had increased accordingly – to allow people to cope with this new pressure to acquire more information faster.”


Having identified that people were starting its courses with higher initial reading speeds, Illumine examined whether this had an impact on the improvement they experienced during the courses and discovered that, whereas the average improvement used to be from 265wpm to 695wpm, the average improvement now is from 297wpm to 839wpm.


“Interestingly, many of the individuals who already read 50% or even 100% higher than the average, tell us that they are still struggling to cope with the volumes that they are expected, or need, to read,” said Lewis. “However, our figures show that while, in 1997, less than 10% of delegates finished the course with reading speeds above 1000wpm, that number has now leapt to over 30%. For these individuals, information overwhelm should be a thing of the past.”


Illumine’s news prompted this response from e-learning guru, Phil Green, of both Optimum Learning and Onlignment: “I believe the capacity of people to pick out one or two nuggets of relevant or interesting information from a background of visual noise is a high order skill. It’s the same effect as hearing your name spoken from within a cacophony of conversation. Your reticular activating system gets excited. Those who are best at skimming and scanning text or imagery to spot the ‘nugget’ are faster and better at using search engines, more successful at self-study and probably better instructional designers and trainers too, since they are able to separate the ‘need to know’ from the ‘nice to know’, and keep on message.”
Comment: According to Illumine’s figures, if you had been on one of their courses, you should have read this story in about 30 seconds. If not, it’s likely to have taken you around 90 seconds. In either case, you won’t get that time again – which proves there’s an opportunity cost to gaining information, just as there’s an opportunity cost to everything in life!