Imagining a survey

Imagining a survey.jpg

Has my work helped...?

This was the subject line of a group e-mail I received. The gist of the e-mail was that the sender--a well-known self-help writer whose newsletter I subscribe to--wanted to find people for whom her writings have helped with food and diet and who might might be able to give endorsement in an television infomercial. Of course, the carrot of being on TV may be exactly the right impetus to trigger men and women to give the “right” answer to any sort of survey question, but I’m quite sure that most of this writer’s readers would give her high praise without need of a reward for doing so. 

That e-mail did make me wonder, though, about the prospect of an average person sending out an open-ended query asking, “Has my work helped you?” Say for example, the woman slicing cheese at the grocery store down the street or the man laying new asphalt on the road you take to work. Or the woman who cleans your hotel room bathroom or the man who checked the landing gear on the plane you’ll fly on tomorrow. I’m imagining an e-mail from one of them. “Has what I do helped you?” If it were possible for an average person to send out such an e-mail to those with whom his or her work intersected, an open-ended question like that with no reward for answering, a person-to-person e-mail and not a corporate survey, would responses be forthcoming? How might the surveyors’ lives be changed by some affirmation from an end user? How might the recipients be changed by being asked to look at someone that was before invisible?