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The Caveat Emptor of Curation

“Curation” is a term that has moved beyond art-speak and is being used by all sorts of people in media and business alike. For learning and development professionals, the term pertains to the skills of identifying, analyzing, adding to, and disseminating existing content for the purpose of learning. 

In a period where learning is continually tasked to design and deliver new learning programs or products on a regular basis, the need to curate starts to become a valuable and in-demand skill. Content is no longer king. Context is the new leader of the pack, and with that comes the additional skills one needs, including curation. 

But it is still a very much undervalued or appreciated skill across the learning profession. 

According to Donald H. Taylor and his 2016 L&D Global Sentiment survey, curation is considered as something that “will be hot in L&D in 2016.” But before we start getting excited about what curation can offer, let’s pause. Like anything else that involves a value judgment of one over another, so too curation can be biased or subjective. 

The skill, perspective, and attitude of the curator plays a role when they are curating the content, whether that be for their blog or organization’s enterprise social network or to create a whole new product for the market. 

Recently Marc Rosenberg wrote a series of articles for Learning Solutions Magazine that focused on curation, which I recommend you access and read. Rosenberg offered a series of curation approaches and concluded with what I consider to be the most powerful one of all—us, learning professionals. 

Curators need to be aware that their curated content has the potential of being viewed and embraced anywhere and everywhere. They may at times need to qualify their criteria or curation methodology in order to enlighten the reader of their approach. This can help the reader understand how they went about it and also identify any biases (perceived or otherwise) that the curator may have. 

But do curators need to put aside personal views and perspectives on relevant content or speakers to adequately perform their curation role? Rosenberg makes a great point in that curators are the “final quality-assurance checkpoint of what we use and create.” With that in mind, we do rely on them—whether that be based on their role, position, reputation, or expertise—to provide credible and reliable curated content. 

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Triangulation 

One of my mentors, Geoff Rip, research director from the Institute for Learning Professionals in Australia, identified a process that he utilizes when he accesses curated content—triangulation.  

Although this was a term he picked up via his sailing days, further research reveals that it is also used in data evaluation. 

Rip’s approach is to access at least three different sources or authors on any particular topic or subject area before he utilizes any of that research in his program or decides to disseminate it across his networks. He consciously deploys the “triangulation” approach on a daily basis, because he knows members and colleagues rely on his curated content. 

Although this requires additional effort and time, it helps to identify any biases exhibited by curators. It also ensures that his reputation and credibility is maintained by having more than one source accessed whether that is for content creation or content curation purpose. 

For me, the bigger picture has always been how to streamline the content creation process and identify reliable and credible content with ease. We rely on the curated content provided to us by those we respect, value, and regard highly in the profession. But having said that, it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that we adopt a “triangulation approach” when accessing curated content before capturing, sharing, and disseminating that content, to ensure that we ourselves are not tarnished with any biases attached to the original curator. 

 

© 2016 ATD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Con Sotidis is a solutions consultant with Kineo (Asia Pacific). He works with organizations to help them achieve their business goals by developing effective and efficient learning and performance strategies and solutions. Sotidis spent more than 15 years as a director of learning and development in the Australian public sector and in various senior learning and performance consultant roles. He is a fellow of the Institute of Learning Professionals Australia, a certified professional member of the Australian Human Resources Institute, and a member of the Association of Talent Development.   Email: con.sotidis@kineo.com.au Twitter: @learnkotch LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/consotidis/ Website: kineo.com/au
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