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10 Key Steps to Content Curation Success

Bob Little 

March 17, 2017

Albert Einstein was a man of strong opinions – and one of them was, “Once we stop learning, we start dying.” Einstein was a firm believer in the process of lifelong, or continuous, learning – and the modern way of enabling continuous learning is content curation.

I made the case for content curation in my previous post. The next priority is to decide who’s competent to do the curating and what the 10 key steps to content curation success are.

One option is to allow individuals or teams to curate content for themselves. Under this system, everyone spends a few hours each day checking multiple sites, sources and social media in search of the most relevant content. While this might be a nice idea, it will likely prove impractical given the pressures of modern working life.

So, your organization will need to have a designated – and trusted – curator, or team of curators. Ideally, these curators know the learners’ specific interests and professional goals so that they can deliver relevant external content, in the right place, at the point of need. This suggests that it’s L&D professionals who are best placed to become an organization’s curators for learning.

6 Curation Skills

The skills involved in effective curation are the ability to:

  • Find.
  • Filter.
  • Grade.
  • Synthesize.
  • Contribute.
  • Signpost.

Harold Jarche’s model of “Seek > Sense > Share” broadly supports this view, while David Kelly of the E-Learning Guild claims that a content curator can support learners by:

  • Aggregation – seeking and bringing together content.
  • Distillation – identifying the most relevant and important content.
  • Elevation – identifying and highlighting significant trends.
  • Mashups – collating curated content to produce a new viewpoint or perspective.
  • Chronology – providing content by date to show how a topic is evolving.

Of course, curation isn’t a one-time thing. As Stephen Walsh, the co-founder with Steve Rayson of Anders Pink, points out, “You need to institute a process to make curation a sustainable habit.”

10 Key Steps to Content Curation Success

Anders Pink has recently published an e-book on content curation that includes the following 10-step process for successful teams and learning professionals to make effective curation a reality:

  • Agree business drivers and success criteria for curation.
  • Define your target audience.
  • Set a baseline for curation.
  • Start knowledge discovery.
  • Filter effectively – use automation.
  • Make sense and add value.
  • Share – right content in right channels.
  • Collaborate – get teams to curate.
  • Make it stick – build daily curation habits.
  • Keep it fresh – get feedback and refine.

10 Starter Questions

Rayson advises that you ask the following questions as part of step one:

  • Are there groups/audiences/job roles in your organization that need to stay up to date on external news, trends and developments?
  • Do those teams have a culture of reading/sharing external content, including being active on social networks or sharing links to external articles via email?
  • Is there a business risk if those audiences aren’t kept up-to-date?
  • Do we have a structured approach to helping those teams keep up-to-date?
  • Is there budget pressure on learning (since content curation costs less than commissioning or producing formal courses)?
  • Do we have a channel for sharing content?
  • Do we have key formal learning programs that are out of date and would benefit from recent and relevant content to keep them fresh?
  • Do our audiences feed back that our learning offering could be more up-to-date?
  • Do we have candidates – such as subject matter experts – who could support us in curating specific content for a specific team?
  • Do we have a pilot candidate team who we can curate content for?

“If you can say ‘yes’ to enough of these questions, there’s a business case to be made for running a content curation pilot for learning in your organization,” says Walsh. “The next step is to clarify what you’ll curate, and for whom. Each audience in your organization will have different needs for external content, so the curator’s job is to understand what type of information is needed, from where, for whom, and how often.”

Success Criteria

Walsh continues, “Once you’ve identified your target audience, start figuring out what type of curated content will be of most help to them. You need to know what ‘being informed’ means for them – so study their daily activities and see where timely, relevant content will help in their workflow, and what a baseline for effective curation would look like.

“One way to do this is to present sample user cases and collections of curated content to your target audiences and ask, ‘What if we could do this for you?’ Of course, you should bear in mind that where and when you share your curated content will have a big impact on how successful you are at building and engaging your audiences.”

Rayson says, “When it comes to setting success criteria for the content curation process, remember that curation isn’t a formal learning activity that can be scored by completion or assessment scores. It’s better to agree on a frequency and quality benchmark – initially for a pilot project.

“You could set goals for engagement levels – such as the number of positive comments, article opens, or ‘likes’ that articles receive. The initial success of a pilot will involve sustaining the habit and demonstrating value through the quality of content.”

When it comes to finding the required information, it helps if your target audience suggests some preferred sites and sources, but there’s no guarantee that this will be the case. Importantly, curating content means adding value to content, not just passing on a link to an article. Moreover, curators should be continually uncovering new content – and being discerning about what they share. They should augment this with commentary, context and insights – and remove irrelevant content, so that only the highest-quality information makes it to the recipients.

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2 comments on “10 Key Steps to Content Curation Success”:

  1. Kwao Stephen wrote:

    I have been enlightened by this content and I am so grateful. Thank you for Mind Tools

  2. Rebel wrote:

    I love that saying by Einstein and I fully agree – life is really about lifelong learning. The interesting thing is, the more you learn the more you realise how little you know. We can’t afford to stop learning!

    Something I’ve often noticed is that older people who are still in a learning mindset, seem a lot younger than their actual age. So to keep young, stay learning!