I don’t think I need to convince anyone who regularly uses the Internet or World Wide Web that finding useful and relevant information amongst the volumes of dross we get from advertisers, marketers, brand mangers and ‘those-that-want-to-be-heard-but-have-nothing-of-value-to-say’, which unfortunately accounts for the largest proportion of content that swills around our in-boxes and search results, is becoming increasingly difficult. Information is being pumped at us almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This was bad enough when we were shackled to an office desk and a “lobotomised” corporate desktop/laptop computer – you know, the ones where IT security bods and corporate policy makers have surgically removed all the useful productivity applications. But now that most of us are connected 24 x 7 via our smartphones, tablets and laptops, information can get to us wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.
So, it’s probably meaningless to conduct a survey that asks people if they suffer from information overload, because I can guarantee that the vast majority would say “yes”. The paradox is that many people don’t realise that they are in control of the situation, and not – as they perceive – helpless victims of this information deluge.
It does helps if you’re not susceptible to FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out, where you need to sleep with your smartphone under your pillow in case someone sends you an email or SMS text in the middle of the night (which you must of course read and respond to straight away). If so, you may need professional psychological help – which I’m not qualified to give!
But what about all of those unsolicited emails you get, or the inane Tweets you read, or the random messages from people you don’t know (or would rather not know) on various social networks. When was the last time you cleared out the clutter in your various in-boxes and put in place some intelligent filters that prevented the “mad and the bad” information from ever reaching you? When did you last trawl through your newsletters and unsolicited email sources to unsubscribe from anything you don’t need or don’t read? Just deleting them will not make them go away – they’ll be back next week or next month.
The worst of it is that with all of this useless information reaching you, you’re liable to miss the good stuff. Finding useful and trusted sources of information is becoming an art. This is the stuff you want, because it’s relevant to your job, profession or personal life. This is where you need to be a “Knowledge Curator”.
The role of the curator has been around for centuries, but specifically associated with people who practice their profession in the hallowed halls of the world’s museums and galleries. To suggest that digital curators all bring the same depth and breadth of knowledge as a professional curator might be somewhat missing the point.
Curation, when it comes down to it, is all about creating value from building collections. Curators know that the sum of an experience can be greater than the parts alone. And you don’t always have to be an expert to tell a decent story.
Curators perform four basic actions; they find quality sources of content; they evaluate, organize and store the key elements of the content; they add insight and personal knowledge to what they’ve found; they publish and share through their preferred channels.
I’ll go out on a limb here, and go against the combined wisdom of many expert curators and say that you don’t have to do that final step, publishing and sharing, if the audience is yourself. Perhaps that seems strange, but personal bookmarking is a type of knowledge curation. You’ve found, evaluated, organised and stored something that you have found personally valuable, and you want to be sure you can find it again, learn from it and use it.
In his Future Show episode 3: The Future Of Work and Jobs, Futurist Gerd Leonhard talks about the growing trend for machine-automation (e.g. robots) taking over repetitive and routine jobs, and identified curation as one of the new and emergent jobs for 21st century knowledge workers, where creativity and human intelligence – things that can’t readily be ‘roboticised’ – will become more prevalent.
So why is knowledge curation so important? The only way we can ever make sense of the world we now live in, where information permeates every aspect of our on-line presence, is to use and develop our cognitive skills to effectively apply filters that separate the signal from the noise; to know how and where to find trusted sources of content; to sort, organise and categorise information, and to ultimately create value and useful/actionable knowledge – for ourselves and for our audience (if we have one).
This, then, is “knowledge curation”. A skill as important as learning how to swim, and just as relevant if you don’t want to drown in a sea of (useless) information!
In a future post I’ll look at some of the tools (including AI) that will assist the Knowledge Curator in finding and using relevant knowledge and information, i.e. separating the signal from the noise. In the meantime, hone those knowledge curation skills and avoid the robots!
Further reading: Equipping Today’s Knowledge & Information Manager for Tomorrow: Mastering the 8 Critical ‘ates’ and the Role of a “Knowledgeur” by Paul Corney. Check out point 7 on the list of KM skills.