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How to turn curation into knowledge sharing

The 70:20:10 approach is a topic I have discussed with numerous learning managers. If you’re familiar with this framework, you’ll know that it suggests that 20% of our learning comes from knowledge sharing. Driven by the 70:20:10 initiatives in corporate environments, people are increasingly engaging in knowledge sharing.

What the learning managers all have in common is they all see a real need to transition from a top-down approach in knowledge management to a user-centric approach method of knowledge sharing.

There were three recurring reasons for this shift:

  • Future-proofing knowledge management. To remain relevant, L&D needs to switch from learning management to learning facilitation. This means enabling subject matter experts to create learning content, with instructional designers moving to a consulting function.
  • Enabling rapid change. Instructional designers often struggle to keep on top of training demands, due to going back and forth with SMEs, so learning content is often out of date on publishing. By giving ownership of creating, curating and updating learning content directly to SMEs, using user-friendly authoring tools, you can ensure that it is up to date and relevant.
  • Budget cuts. In many industries there is a strain on budgets for learning departments. The creation of content by corporate instructional designers or third parties is very expensive. Shifting this role to your organization’s SMEs is a more affordable solution.

Using curation to enable knowledge sharing

Within the 70:20:10 framework, curation is one of the quickest ways for SMEs to share knowledge. However, most curated content does not qualify as knowledge sharing. Here is how to turn content curation into knowledge sharing.

What is curation?

I’m talking about curation in the context of knowledge sharing and learning. In that context, curation is usually defined as something like: ‘Someone (an expert) who shares a selection of links.’

For me, however, it only becomes knowledge sharing when a crucial element is added: context. Curated content only qualifies as knowledge sharing when curators add their own specific knowledge: the reason for the selection and an explanation of each listed topic.

So my definition of curation is:

Someone (an expert) compiles a selection of links (online content) and shares them, adding a clear explanation of the selection criteria used to compile the list as well as brief introductions explaining why each link is relevant.

It doesn’t matter what technology is used to share the curation (a specific curation tool or Twitter, Facebook, or a blog). The same rule applies to all these platforms. I will go over the process in more detail.

The collection

As an expert in a particular area, you will gather a lot of information. This information is your collection. If you simply share this information with your audience, it will add some value but not a great deal. You are doing more or less the same as a Google search: sharing links, but not knowledge.

This is, of course, assuming they will go through your whole collection, but you must consider people’s attention span is decreasing rapidly in this day and age, so curation not only serves a knowledge sharing goal, but it also allows you to shorten the time people need to spend with a piece of content. If you present them with your whole collection, you will lose your audience quickly. But curated content will help you get your audience much more engaged.

The Selection And The Motivation

Instead, don’t share all the links you see, but rather turn them into a selection. Sharing this motivation with your audience is the first step in adding value. It gives your readers an indication of whether your collection might be of interest to them.

The context

Very often you will share a list of links. If it’s a simple list covering a single topic, all you need to add is an explanation of why you selected these links. This explanation should help readers decide if they want to click through and read the original content. If your subject is more complex, you need to create separate lists or chapters. The title and introduction of each chapter should contain the reason for that part of the selection. And of course, you need to explain the reason for each link.

On my personal blog I wrote:

Context for me is the essence of curation. I want curated content because the curator knows more of a certain topic than I do. I want to learn from him; not only see what sources he uses. In short, when you are selecting you are improving your Google search, when you add the story (your knowledge) it becomes knowledge sharing. And for me, that is the only goal of curation.

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