Webinar Q&A | Freedom or Focus: The Curation Conundrum

By on October 25th, 2017 in Uncategorized

In our digital world, the amount of content created is increasing by the minute. Learning leaders are now in the position of having to source enablement materials through multiple channels and curate, create, aggregate, moderate and rate the material in order to meet the evolving needs of the modern learner. Based on this evolution, their focus needs to shift. They should arrange relevant pieces in a meaningful manner and provide value-added insights to create an optimized learning experience that is dynamic, personalized, virtual, and business aligned. However, it can be overwhelming to determine where to get started in this “new” world.

In a recent webinar I shared programmatic elements that organizations need to consider as they embark on establishing an effective curation strategy that supports long-term business objectives.

If you missed the session, a recording is now available online. However, if you are looking for the abbreviated version, here are some of the critical elements of an enterprise curation strategy to give you the framework you need to get started.

Just because you ‘build it’ does not mean learners will come:

  • This may be a silly movie reference, but many organizations fall prey to the belief that once a curation model and platform is setup that learning will automatically take hold. Simply put, that is not the case. The critical programmatic elements shared during the webinar are all critical to ensuring success at launch and to sustaining that success over time.

Governance is the foundation that the ‘Curation House’ stands on:

  • All of the programmatic elements we discussed during the webinar are critical to near, mid and long term sustainability of this model, however, governance is truly the most critical as it provides the structure and guard rails for developing learning, it shapes how learning shows up, it dictates how learners engage with learning, and how the program continuously improves over time to meet the ongoing needs of the business.

Leaders play a critical role in early adoption and long term sustainment:

  • The role of leadership is critical to long term sustainability. As is the case with any large change or program initiative, employees will follow the example set by their leaders, therefore it is critical to get leadership onboard and engaged from the outset of the program. Furthermore, it is critical that once launched leaders play a visible part of the overall effort – completing learning tasks, proactively engaging in the social side of the program (liking or recommending content, etc.), participate in the development of content and learning journeys/pathways, and engaging in proactive follow up in learning and development with the individual learners on their team(s).

Change Management will play a critical key to overall success:

  • An organizational shift of this magnitude will require purposeful and thoughtful change management. Organizations should be prepared and poised key change elements, example could include, but are not limited to:
    • Organizational Readiness – identifying the facilitators and potential barriers of success, assessing and identifying degrees of change required across areas of the business, etc.
    • Communications – establishing a communications cadence: Pre Launch, during launch, post launch and ongoing. Establishing communication formats and ownership of communications (by type) are essential to have aligned communications throughout the program life cycle.

After the presentation, several great questions came up from the audience and I wanted to share them with you. Below are those questions and my best answers. This is an ongoing conversation, and I encourage you to keep the questions coming in via the comments section at the bottom of this page. ­

Q: ­What is keeping content curation from reaching the tipping point?­

A: A number of items continue to pose organizational barriers keeping organizations from reaching the ‘curation tipping point’:

  • Technology: GP’s view is that technology is truly an enabler to achieving an effective and sustainable curation model. With that said, many organizations curate content without technology, so net-net technology should not become a barrier to make this shift
  • Muscle Memory: Organizational learning has become stagnant, and organizations have become comfortable with standard learning approaches, this shift requires significant leadership and change management to make this a reality, and often times organizations are unable to dedicate the requisite resources to make this transition
  • Discomfort: As learning becomes more informal, there is a great deal of discomfort related to provide a more open forum for learning to be shared between learners and learning groups

In all cases, the tipping point has more to do with overcoming organizational barriers and hurdles, which most cases, can be overcome with a purposeful strategy and leadership support.

Q: ­How much of a role does change management play in moving to this type of learning model? ­

A: Change Management plays a fundamental role in moving to this new enterprise-learning model and truly touches all facets of this type of program, typical impacted areas that require change management include:

  • Leadership and Stakeholder alignment: Aligning leadership to one centralized vision is one of the most critical, and most challenging, aspects of rolling out this type of learning model. In addition to having one central, unified vision, establishing accountability, establishing clear near, mid and long term program objectives are equally as important to the long term success of this type of initiative.
  • Communications: Clear and purposeful communications and the cadence by which the communications are delivered are a critical success factors when rolling out this type of learning model. Additionally, establishing two-way communication channels with the field becomes equally important for the long-term sustainability of the effort.
  • Business Readiness: How prepared and ready, organizationally speaking, are companies to make this shift? What are the known facilitators and barriers to success, etc.?

We view change management as an essential foundational element when moving to this type of enterprise learning model.

Q: How are you defining ‘learning journey’ or ‘learning pathway’?

A: As there are many references and interpretations of the terms ‘learning journey’ or ‘learning pathway’, given that GP Strategies defines these as:

  • Purposeful set of blended learning activities that is structured for learners to reach proficiency (within their roles or on a specific topical area) in an efficient and purposeful manner.

Based on our experience typical elements of these ‘journeys or pathways’ align to the following:

  • Promotes learning as a complete process rather than a single event
  • Typically these ‘journeys or pathways’ provide an end to end view of the learning activities an individual learner will engage in, and will be structured so that each of the activities builds on the other in an orchestrated and organized manner.
  • Allows learners to engage in a manner that aligns to their personal learning preferences (timing of learning, consumption, etc.)
  • Aligns to a blended learning model, and offers up learning assets that have been built (custom learning), bought (off the shelf learning) and sourced (videos, articles or links from the internet)

Q: ­One concern that we have is safe guarding content. How do you manage ensuring what is available meets standards?   ­

A: Through our client experiences, this is a common concern and one that is overcome through solid governance. Some of the critical governance components that ensure content is ‘safe guarded’ and meet standards include:

  • Establishing clear content standards (timing, formatting, recommended/trusted sources, etc.)
  • Establishing clear learning pathway / journey standards (formatting, etc.)
  • Establishing clear review processes for both content and learning journeys / pathways
    • Ensuring the right mix of learning and business oversight to ensure content is contextually aligned to the intent and that it meets organizational standards
  • Ensuring that organizations have dedicated teams focused on maintaining standards and managing/updating learning as the need requires is also critical to ensuring learning not only meets standards but meets the business needs of the organization

Q: ­What have you found to be the most successful construct for organizing content? Skills, roles, other?­

A: Our experience indicates that all of the fore mentioned examples could all be successful. Many organizations align learning pathways/journeys in the following manners:

  • Role Based: End to end role based learning journeys that account for role scenarios such as: new to organization, new to role and in role enablement scenarios
  • Skills Based: Learning journeys that enable specific skills such as leadership essentials
  • Topical Based: Learning journeys that enable specific topical areas such as diversity and inclusion

In all scenarios having a structured process to develop and roll out learning journeys/pathways is critical to success of rolling out a well thought out and purposeful learning journey that achieved the desired learning objectives.

Q: ­Can you discuss the different types of content review processes you’ve seen organizations put in place?­

A: We have seen a variety of different content review processes that have all been successful. Moving to a full enterprise curation model requires making some levels of adjustment compared with a more standard learning content/asset review process. Some of these considerations include, but are not limited to:

  • Establishing clear guidelines for content such as – length, duration, format, approved sources for curated or sourced content (from the web), and procured content that has been purchased. It is critical to remember that as content and assets become more digital that they align to how today’s learner learns and accesses information.
  • Having a clear and standardized learning journey intake process, this will help ensure learning journeys have a similar look and feel and align to established standards
  • As learning journey’s typically have cross functional representation from numerous parts of the business it becomes more critical to have cross functional representation from L&D and lines of the business to ensure that the content and the overarching learner journey support the desired learning and business outcomes

Q: ­What are effective ways to get leaders to curate and show that to employees?­

A: Engaging leaders from Day 1 of the program is a critical success lever. Leaders need to be enrolled and bought into the positive changes this type of learning format can provide to the broader organization. Equally important is the role of leadership in program communications (pre, during and post launch) as well as maintaining a visibly and engaged presence one the program is launched (engaging with learners, engaging with content, setting the example on leader boards, and collaboratively engaging in the process through recommending content, proactively making posts, etc.). Remember, learners will follow and in many cases mimic the behavior of their leaders, if this is not important to the leadership team it will not be a priority for the learner population.

Q: ­Do you think it’s better to have someone in the org to review/approved content that’s shared (eg, a SME) or to allow user feedback to drive what’s meaningful (star ratings, comments, likes, etc.) and should stay/be removed from platform?­

A: The short answer is both. The organization needs to provide the structure and programmatic guidelines to ensure consistency and that overarching learning objectives are being met, so it is critical that key organizational SMEs take an active role in the review process for both content and learner journeys/pathways.

Additionally, as the curation system takes hold and becomes more mature, it is imperative to listen to the learner base – what do they find most valuable (topically, format wise, etc.), what types of assets are more popular and/or leveraged the most, what items get rated the highest, what is the most visited, etc. It is critical that feedback channels be implemented to proactively and continually seek guidance and feedback from the learner base in order to continually enhance the overall program in a way that is most meaningful to the learner base,

Q: ­If implementing across an organization, do you recommend piloting first with a smaller business unit?­

A: Based on our experience, we would recommend as a best practice, to first pilot your roll out with a small sample size or area of the business. Using this approach allows organizations to identify a number of potential hurdles such as:

  • Accessibility
  • Technical challenges
  • Learner feedback around content and learning journeys/pathways,
  • Allows organizational leadership the opportunity to see this learning model in practice and to engage on a smaller scale
  • Allows L&D teams to observe how learners engage with the system (both the learning system and the technology)
  • Allows L&D teams to measure and leverage data to make longer term planning decisions
  • Allows the program team to make any course corrections and adjustments prior to formal launch
  • Allows teams to understand how technology may (or may not) work within their current technology landscape and affords the time to address any unforeseen challenges

There are many factors to consider when rolling out a pilot, such as size, complexity and global scalability, but generally speaking this is a best practice to ensure your larger roll out is a success and where possible you can avoid potential pitfalls once the formal launch date occurs.

Q: ­Do you recommend establishing a governance council/group? If so, is there an optimal number of participants and what disciplines/functions should they represent?­

A: We strongly encourage that our clients establish a governance council that maintains responsibility for overseeing the overarching program governance model. Related to number and types of participants, it really varies based on organizational structure, global reach, size of learner population, etc. We strongly encourage our clients to have cross-functional representation on the governance council including representation from the following groups: L&D, the lines of business, IT, and leadership.


GP Strategies Corporation

GP Strategies is a global performance improvement solutions provider of sales and technical training, e-Learning solutions, management consulting and engineering services. GP Strategies' solutions improve the effectiveness of organizations by delivering innovative and superior training, consulting and business improvement services, customized to meet the specific needs of its clients. Clients include Fortune 500 companies, manufacturing, process and energy industries, and other commercial and government customers.

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