How do you cope with information overload? A recent McKinsey study found that the average knowledge worker spends 28 hours each week writing emails, searching for information and collaborating with coworkers. The authors of the study suggest that when internal knowledge and information is more available on social media, a typical employee could increase productivity by 35 percent.
As L&D practitioners, how do you guide others through the daily deluge of data? Content curation is becoming an increasingly important skill to master and is an effective way to facilitate informal learning in your organization. Steven Rosenbau, author of Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators, explains that while computers are capable of aggregating content, “aggregation without curation is just a big pile of stuff that seems related but lacks a qualitative organization.”
Georgetown University professor Rohit Bhargava defines content curation as, “the act of finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue.” According to Bhargava, there are five ways to curate content: aggregation, distillation, elevation, mash up and chronology. Aggregation and distillation are lower levels of curation, requiring the gathering of relevant information but with no further cognition required. Chronology is as it sounds: organizing information in sequence to show an idea’s evolution. Elevation requires identifying a larger trend from collected information, and finally, mash up is merging existing content to create a new point of view.
Content curation uses three out of the ten skills needed for the future workplace, as outlined by the Apollo Research Institute. They are: sense-making, new media literacy, and cognitive load management. Sense-making is determining the deeper meaning of what is being expressed. Social media blogger Beth Kanter says sense-making is about “giving the best nuggets of content to your audience in a format that they can easily digest and apply it.” Cognitive load management is a term coined by the Apollo Research Institute to describe the “ability to discriminate and filter information for importance.”
There are a number of online tools to make your role as content curator easier. Here is a sampling of resources available at no cost.
Google Reader – Use for: Subscribing to blogs and other RSS feeds. Google Reader is a convenient way to read all of your RSS feeds in one central location. It’s easy to use, and Google will make recommendations for similar blogs based on the topics to which you subscribe.
Evernote – Use for: Bookmarking urls and categorizing by topic. Evernote is a “must have” curation tool to save online articles that you would like to read later. And with its tagging feature, it’s a breeze to sort links into different categories.
Delicious – Use for: Storing and categorizing urls. Delicious lets you store website urls that you like to visit frequently in one convenient place. These links can be tagged into categories, and made public if you wish to share with others. This could be a handy tool for collating useful links to help onboard employees or providing deeper knowledge about a subject for students after a class.
Paper.li or Scoop.it – Use for: Publishing stories on a specific topic. Whereas Delicious and Evernote are effective tools for gathering your urls, Paper.li and Scoop.it are the go-to tools to publish your information in a cohesive format. It’s like publishing your own online magazine (without the advertisements).
Pinterest – Use for: Searching for and saving graphic-heavy information. Pinterest is an increasingly popular platform for users to “pin” visually attractive information. You could use it to collect infographics, compile reading lists or to showcase your work in an online portfolio. Using Pinterest is more like playing than working, even if you are being productive.
Storify – Use for: Compiling social media posts. With Storify you can collect posts from social media channels, including: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram and Google+, and assemble them into a cohesive story. It’s an effective way to cover an event, such as a Twitter chat.
As you can see, there are a myriad of tools out there to help you sift through and share content with others. The key to curating effectively is to select the tools that work best for you and your audience and to apply the higher level skills of sense-making to your curation efforts in order to provide more value for others.