Digital Curation: An Essential Skill-Set For L&D In The 21st Century

“Curation replaces noise with clarity. And it’s the clarity of your choosing; it’s the things that people you trust help you find. We [L&D] need to be the people that organizations trust to help replace the endless noise with clarity.” Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators, Steven Rosenbaum, 2011

Curation has become a hot topic for L&D in recent years, both for its value to employees and its necessity in a world in which the pace of business is accelerating alongside the sheer volume of information. As it stands, the amount of information available to workers doubles every 18 to 24 months, and it’s only going to speed up. 

For L&D, Digital Curation is a mechanism for sharing high-value resources, crafted from content and know-how that already exists elsewhere (either inside or outside the organisation). The power of curation comes once context and relevance are applied for the benefit of the end-user.

I’m sure you’ve experienced curated content and even curated for yourself in some form or another. This may have been as:

  • An article in this week’s news about factors that will directly or indirectly affect your business;
  • A TED Talk with resonance for a cross-section of your organisation’s population, i.e. new managers;
  • A video tutorial on how to practically generate innovative new ideas;
  • A blog post from an economist who predicts a very different type of future for your industry sector.

The above are all examples of content that’s in the public domain but a skilled curator will also, and quite critically, provide content that exists inside an organisation, such as:

  • What people know that new starters should have access to;
  • The experience that successful leaders have that emerging leaders could benefit from;
  • The digital know-how that resides in pockets that could benefit a large number of others.

Digital curation is a huge opportunity for L&D to gather, organise and contextualise resources that have the potential to impact the performance of the business today; the achievement of longer-term organisational goals; and the professional development of employees at all levels.

Beyond L&D, a big opportunity is to have internal ‘experts’ and influential figures from within an organisation share what they are reading, watching, learning, etc. Have them add some context about why it is relevant to the organisation, aimed towards helping other employees make the connections between the ‘content’ and their performance.

In a recent study, it was found that more than 70% of workers had sought their own professional learning from either an article, video or book in the last 24 hours. On average, these respondents invested more than 14 hours a month, learning on their own, and just over two hours on employer-provided training. If employees are finding their own resources and developing themselves online, how can L&D help them to do this better whilst growing internal awareness and capability that will positively impact performance?

So how do you curate?

Digital Curation is already working in many organisations and here’s what you can learn from them: 

Address the biggest priorities in your business

Curation should not be considered a supplementary activity and, in many organisations, the L&D team now place at the core of what they do. Curation is a high-value, low-touch set of activities that can impact the vast majority of employees within an organisation and help to focus them in the direction the business requires, everyday.

Think about what’s going on right now that is of concern or importance to your business?

Digital transformation? Cyber-security? Mobile? Growth in new markets? Shifts in consumer expectations? Disruption by new competition?

Whatever the priorities of your business, start focusing your curation efforts on addressing one or two of the biggest.

Find credible, relevant and recent content

There is an abundance of great resources online – and an even greater abundance of rubbish! So how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? First of all, find some credible sources. Credibility is essential in gaining and maintaining trust – and your own credibility. Here are a few for starters:

  • Harvard Business Review – for ideas and advice for leaders
  • Bloomberg Business – for business and market news, data, analysis, and video
  • Financial Times – for essential news, commentary, data, and analysis for the global business community
  • The Economist – for authoritative insight and opinion on international news, politics, business, finance, science, and technology
  • VentureBeat – for news, events, groundbreaking research, and perspective on technology innovation
  • The Next Web – for international technology news, business, and culture
  • WIRED – for how technology is changing every aspect of our lives
  • The Muse – for original career advice from prominent experts
  • Forbes – for commentary, analysis and tools to succeed at work
  • Fast Company – for editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethonomics (ethical economics), leadership, and design
  • – for everything you need to know to start and grow your business now
  • TED – for 18 minute talks by leading thinkers, innovators, academics and more

Stay on top of it all

You can schedule time to scan your sources for relevant materials or do it in your downtime, such as your commute, in coffee queues, etc. There are many apps that make this so easy for, that bring great content to you, so that you can scan all your credible sources together and make quick decisions on whether an article, video, etc, is worthy of curation. You can do this using:

  • Hootsuite
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Flipboard
  • Newsify
  • Feedly

If you’ve identified a source that you’d like to examine later, save it to Pocket. This app allows you to keep all your scanned articles together in one place so you can review them fully at your convenience – even offline.

What could you be curating?

As soon as you start looking through your sources you’ll find incredibly rich and valuable content that will have numerous applications across any given business. However, too much ‘stuff’ can be just as bad as not enough. Remember, your role is to replace the endless noise with clarity – not more noise. Look for recently published content with resonance for people in your business and make sure your curated content is not outdated. A great article that is 10 years-old may not be completely relevant today.

How to curate one of your sources

The art of curation is in providing context and relevance for the end-user, aimed at closing the gap between content and organisational context and helping them to see its application to their work and career. You can do this simply by answering two questions:

  1. How is this relevant to the end-user / our organisation?
  2. What should / could the end-user do with this information?

This is a simple, tried and trusted structure for your Digital Curation:


As above, precede your curated content with the answer to the first question and then follow the curated content with something that makes it applicable to them. You want to ensure it isn’t a FYI or a nice-to-have for the end-user.

Stay lean

Apply the lean philosophy of Build, Measure, Learn:

  • Curate: Get close enough to the need – the business priority – and curate resources that respond to that need;
  • Measure: Release your ‘curations’ out into the world and measure both engagement, usefulness and feedback;
  • Learn: Respond to the feedback and make your curated resources better and more useful to the next person who picks it up – and continue the cycle.

Technology that employees want to use

You should ensure that the technology you use allows you to sufficiently catalog your resources so that users can quickly and easily access what they are looking for, when and how they want to. This includes mobile devices seeing as mobile Internet usage surpassed all other devices in 2015 and smartphone usage alone surged by a massive 394 percent! With the right technology, you can also ensure that only the appropriate resources are available to those it would add value to.

Taking your curation to the next level

Get others involved

As I mentioned before, people are looking for their own development online and have their own trusted sources and, moving away from L&D as content owners, your ideal situation will be getting others to contribute to your curation efforts. Involve influential figures in your organisation, and senior leaders, technical specialists. Encourage them to share sources that inform them and have them set the context for others. The questions you want them answering are:

  • Why they think this is relevant to the organisation
  • What they think should be taken from it and done

Go niche

It’s easier to identify and address the broader needs of your company but it’s often the more niche topic areas that provide the most value to employees. So, identify technical experts from across your organisation and empower them to curate what they are discovering to help generate resources for others who need them.

In summary

Digital Curation is an approach and skillset for L&D to feed the appetite their employees have for information, insights and tools by bringing the best of the web to them. Done well, L&D have the opportunity to impact every day performance and leave a very visible trail of value through an entire organisation. With the right tools and honed skills, curation can take just a few minutes but make a very big difference.

David James is Chief Learning Strategist with Looop and a seasoned Talent Management, Learning & OD leader with nearly 20 years of experience in the field. Until recently, David was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region.

Looop help their clients all over the world to digitally transform their L&D and capitalise on how people really want to learn today with a platform that is renowned for its extraordinary levels of learner engagement.

See also:

7 Steps To Increase The Reach And Impact Of Your L&D With Digital

5 Tips For Taking The Pain Out Of Compliance Training

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