As learning leaders, we wear a lot of hats. Just like in fashion, the popularity of these hats tends to come and go, but there are classic ones that never seem to go out of style.
Which of these hats is on the shelf in your closet? – trainer, designer, performance consultant, learning architect, learning consultant, learning advisor, business partner, developer, learning and performance professional, knowledge manager, program evaluator, community of practice leader, OD consultant, chief learning officer – the possibilities go on.
And here’s the newest hat available in L&D shop windows: curator. I have to say, as much as I am sometimes worn out by the endless parade of hats we’re encouraged to favor, I’m loving this newest one.
Up until recently, I thought that a curator worked primarily in museums, and it wasn’t a role that I wanted to take up. But here’s what a curator DOES:
- Functions as a keeper, or a custodian, personally responsible for the acquisition, classification, and safeguarding of materials in a collection.
- Facilitates meaning-making by bringing together a variety of ideas and practices in a framework or context through which they can be accessed.
- Acts as a catalyst, whose actions – the selection and interpretation of materials – initiates a dialogue.
- Makes ideas available; acts as the filter through which ideas and practices become known.
(Above role definitions are adopted from Curators in Context.)
That’s EXACTLY what L&D professionals need to be doing these days.
Curation is another way to describe a process I have called Learning Environment Design, an idea I’ve been talking and writing about for a number of years. When people have complex, emerging learning needs, it’s hard for a formal curriculum to keep up. In the “new culture of learning,” it is assumed that we will identify our own learning needs and use all the resources at hand to find our own learning resources and propel our knowledge and skill development forward. But that’s not as easy as it sounds.
Learning Environment Design advocates for the idea that as learning leaders, we MUST do a better job helping our learners find the best “stuff” to support their learning. There are so many possible resources and activities that can support learning of complex skill sets and ever-changing knowledge bases, it’s imperative that we help our learners get to the best material as quickly as possible. We have to be curators!
I’ve been reading Curation Nation by Steven Rosenbaum, and finding a lot of terrific advice that I can put to use in advocating for learning environments. Mr. Rosenbaum talks about curation as a way to solve one of the biggest problems of the internet age – too much information. Search algorithms can be helpful, but there’s no substitute for solid recommendations on where to find the best information, the most helpful experts, and the leading edge conversations. And how do we find those recommendations? Curators!
“The question is, by what mechanism does the cream rise to the top? The secret ingredient is people. In order to collect the best content and put it together, someone’s got to figure out what’s best. That’s what curators do; they bring their judgment and experience and taste to bear on the question of what you and I should look at next. And we cannot survive without them.”
We cannot survive without them. Our learners are looking for US to help them sort through the possible resources for learning and point them in the right direction.
Aggregation alone is not helpful. With aggregation – all you’re doing is putting a lot of related “stuff” into one place (unfortunately, that will be familiar to many of us who use shared workspace tools).
Curation is about being picky about what gets captured. It requires the judgement of a knowledgable human – and by wearing a curator hat, we can expand our effectiveness in supporting learning and performance in our organizations.
What do you think? Do you want to sport a curator hat as well? I have more thoughts on the subject, so stay tuned for additional posts.
My thinking on curation has been influenced by the following:
> Curation Nation Book by Steven Rosenbaum published in 2011.
> The Trainer as Curator. By Clive Shepherd in the April 2012 edition of T+D magazine. (Accessible using this link if you are a member of ASTD.)
> Who are your curators? Blog post by Jeff Cobb at Mission to Learn.
> Curation: A Core Competency for Learning Professionals. Blog post by David Kelly at The Learning Circuits Blog. March 20, 2012