Pan being pulled from water with gold pieces

Kickstart curation in your workplace

In Knowledge Sharing by JD Dillon

Curation is more than a trendy topic. It’s an old-school idea with the renewed power to shift L&D mindset and enable learning and problem solving in more scalable, personalized ways. It can help you keep up with the needs of the business by shifting L&D’s focus from creation to connection. Sure, we’ll still create plenty of materials, but, with a curation mindset, our first instinct becomes the activation the subject matter expertise across the organization. To summarize, curation is a good idea. If you need more of an argument to that point, David Kelly has you covered.

So if curation is such a good idea, why hasn’t it transformed the way information is shared in the workplace yet? Why is the company intranet still a mess of unsearchable folders filled with dated PowerPoint presentations? Why is all of the best information still saved on your employees’ personal drives? Well, just because it’s a good idea doesn’t mean people are going to just start doing it on their own. While we benefit from simple curation behaviors in everyday life (browser favorites, aggregation tools, social networks, Netflix, etc.), most orgs haven’t been able to transfer those behaviors into the workplace at scale. Instead, they continue to focus on technology and assume people will just naturally shift their behavior. Unfortunately, most of the tech is still bad, and people just don’t change that quickly without a clear WIIFM.

To that end, here are 3 practical steps you can take to kickstart curation in your organization.

Install a Curator

I firmly believe curation cannot have the impact desired without putting a skilled person at the helm. Clutter, confusion and the recreation of the wheel are the very nature of complex organizations. Someone must be formally installed as the “company curator” and charged with making information and insight easier to find, share and apply.

The last season of Halt and Catch Fire included an interesting example of this premise. As the characters were building what was likely an early version of Yahoo, they found it increasingly difficult to organize rapidly-expanding web content. Therefore, they hired a chief ontologist (scene below). She brought a unique perspective on how to make information more accessible and useful to a burgeoning internet audience.

Technology (even with nifty AI) will only get you so far. Curation requires a person – especially during the initial change initiative – to build the needed (light) processes and ensure all players are contributing to the overall good. Most successful workplace curation efforts I have come across included a designated lead.

A few more thoughts on installing a curator …

  • This person should NOT report into L&D, HR or communications. Rather, they should function with autonomous authority and report into the operation.
  • This role is often distinct from existing knowledge management or learning practices and should consistently partner with these functions, taking on an informal leadership role.
  • Hire a person with a demonstrated ability to add value to information through curation behaviors, not just organize and tag stuff.

Highlight Curation during Reflection

Reflection is a critical component of continued learning. It is often embedded in a variety of workplace processes. For example, you may have postmortems during which you explore the highs and lows of a project. Managers may hold pre and post-shift gatherings to discuss successes and challenges of the day. Scrum meetings include round-robin overviews of what everyone is working on and where help is needed.

Each of these reflective moments includes an opportunity to promote the role curation is already playing in your workplace. Ask questions to promote this discussion.

  • What curated resources are you using to support your decision-making?
  • Where did you find those resources and how did you pull them together?
  • What resources do you wish you had to support your work?
  • What resources did you create during your work that may be useful to others in the future?

Invite People to Share

Have you seen the episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine becomes attracted to a guy based solely on his curated movie selections?

Ultimately things didn’t work out for Elaine (I won’t spoil the episode if you haven’t seen it), but her story comedically reinforces the power of curation. It also includes a simple, practical tip.

Most employees are already demonstrating curation behaviors, but they’re doing so in silos. They have personal browser shortcuts. They have useful tips scrawled on a notepad. They have folders of information saved to their desktops. Before taking a larger leap into a scaled initiative, invite employees to share what their curating and how they’re doing it. Ask them to show/tell during team meetings or as part of a regular company communication. You are likely to uncover new tools and ideas that will be useful as you look to expand the concept. You may also uncover early champions who are willing and able to contribute to organization-wide curation efforts.

How are you promoting the idea of curation within your organization? Where have you seen success? What challenges do you continue to face?