FS 42_ Curation

At the end of October Nigel Paine and I are running an event in London for learning and development professionals. The day is focused on developing practical skills that participants can continue to use back at home and work. I am running a workshop on content curation and ahead of the event Nigel interviewed me about the session and why mindset and toolset are critically important to making a success of content curation. The interview was first broadcast in our weekly From Scratch podcast, which is available here.

Why on earth would I want to go to a two hour workshop on curation?

If you spend a lot of time looking around the web, going to websites to try and find information you need to help you either in your personal life, your professional life, or within your organisation, then you really need to learn how to turn that on its head and let the web come to you so that you can find and organise relevant information and share that back out to people in your team, your peer network or friends and family.

Is curation a state of mind, a kind of attitude towards resources, or is it about the right tools that allow you to do stuff that you can’t do without those tools, or is it a combination of both those things?

It’s a combination of both so I talk about mindset and tool set. Mindset is really, really important because if you think about information in terms of information overload and the fact that you haven’t got enough time to find what you need online, then that kind of mindset frames finding information as something that’s basically an uphill struggle. The problem with that is there is more and more information coming online and that way of framing it is never going to help improve the situation. That mindset is really a hiding to nothing, it’s a bit of a dead end and down that dead end lies a lot of frustration and the fact that you won’t be able to really find what you need to just get on and get ahead.

So the flip side of that, the mindset that we’re looking at really is the one that answers the question, “How can I be good at filtering the web? What tools can I use,” and this is where the tool set comes in, “What do I need to use to really efficiently bring information to me so I can sort it out in a useful way?”

It’s both mindset and tool set. What you’re going to do is give people some hands-on experience so that they’re not just going to talk about it in theory or give examples of what other people did, you’re going to get people to do it on the day and in doing it they’ll begin to develop the mindset by using the tool set. Is that a kind of crazy way of expressing it

That’s a very good way of expressing it. Put it this way, one of the tools that I like is Listly. It’s a really simple tool for putting web content into lists and adding some context to the content you add to that list. Say if you’re working in learning development and you think that things such as leadership, team building, innovation, creativity, management, performance management, these kind of issues are really important to the organisation. What would you do if you were sharing some stuff with your team or even your peer group around really good stuff to look at to get up to speed? Now, currently, you might be bringing in leadership experts to be talking to the organisation but you could actually set some context around that by creating a really useful list of, say, five or six articles, or videos, or podcasts. Put that together and share it withe the relevant people in the business. That’s what I’m talking about.

So what you’re saying is that it’s not simply about pointing to information, it’s about commenting on it, annotating it, and pointing out why it’s relevant, adding some value to just the pure, naked object that’s sitting there, and in putting more than one thing together, that in itself makes a kind of commentary. You’re adding your own brain power to the resources that exist and therefore creating something that’s more than just the sum of those resources. Is that fair?

Absolutely, this is all about context. You could pull together five great articles on authentic leadership and share that without much commentary. But because people know who you are in the organization and you know about leadership, for example, they might think, “Oh, yes, actually, that person is sharing something because I know who they are, I know what they bring, I know what their knowledge and experience is.” So they are well-placed, they have some authority to be sharing stuff on that topic. That might be enough but I think that the process of curation is about adding value, really, it’s about helping others determine whether something’s worth looking at or not. So to package stuff up, a few things together, give it a bit of commentary and share it so people can see some of that commentary, can be very powerful.

Yes, it’s basically helping yourself to help your community, and that means everybody wins. Plus, what you’re saying is that it helps people get on top of information rather than feel drowned, drowning, and completely intimidated. They see that the easy availability of so much information as a source to be mined and explored and turned into value.

I think so, I think it’s also just worth remembering that no one ever taught you this. No one ever taught you how to use the web effectively. It still isn’t really taught, as far as I can see. This is about individuals really taking control for themselves. If you haven’t learned how to use the web, how to use search engines effectively to find what you need then it can be really hard to get to what you need. But luckily, the web’s been around long enough for some really great free tools to now exist that can help you get there. So I think this is about getting skilled up in how to use the web properly.

In some ways it’s getting skilled up about surviving in this world that we live in. It’s as important as that. Being able to cope with information overload and turn it to your advantage becomes a kind of critical work skill, and almost a critical life skill as well.

I think so. If you really do want to be on top of the things that interest you personally and professionally then you’ve got to know how to do this stuff.