5 ways to curate and add value

by | Apr 11, 2011 | Blog | 2 comments

Red Booths by John Register, Modernism Gallery

“A child with a smart phone has instant access to more information than the US president did only 15 years ago,” according to Think Quarterly.

Any wonder why we adults often feel so overwhelmed by the flood of information we get swept up in each day?

For those of us who communicate with others professionally inside organizations, this is a relatively new problem. With employees accessing so much stuff on their own inside and outside the company firewalls, it’s hard to get people’s attention. (By comparison, when information was scarce, employees looked to us to provide them with the information we were able to gather.)

So we need to stop shoveling out stuff and instead start curating more. As Steve Rosenbaum, author of the new book, The Curation Nation,  wrote in this opinion piece, curation is just as important as creation.

Curation—the act of sharing items of interest that add value either as is or through synthesis—has been on my radar screen for more than 18 months. I wrote “Are you a curator or an editor?”, fall 2009. Back then, my perspective was narrower than it is now.

Now, with people like Rosenbaum, Seth Godin, and Robert Scoble taking up the curation cause, I’m even more committed to curation.

These three trends make curation critical, especially inside organizations, to cut through the clutter and help people focus—or refocus—on issues that matter.

  • The overload of information in terms of quantity and speed. People often miss important nuggets or even big trends. (And, let’s face it, our daily work projects are seldom the “time magnets” that people gravitate to. As Adrian Ott, the author of the The 24-Hour Customer: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved, Always-Connected Economy, says, people like to spend their valuable time with Nike+ iPod Sport, Angry Birds, Disney World, and other products that allow them to pursue personal pursuits, improve their status, and increase their acceptance with family, friends, and co-workers. For more about this, see Be time wise when providing wisdom. )
  • Interest in the real and authentic. People often want to see and touch things that real people created rather than hearing a sanitized version from a stuffy suit.
  • Changing rules of the road. In our 24/7 news cycle, no one accepts the phrase “No comment” anymore. Instead, we want instant answers, which we think we can find on Facebook, Twitter, or our peers if authority figures won’t respond.

So what are effective ways to curate? Try these five:

  1. Call out the important; highlight the areas or topics that matter now.
  2. Connect the dots, making the connections to your business strategy, key themes, and values. This also helps people recognize patterns.
  3. Provide context, explaining why something is important and worth paying attention to.
  4. Summarize key points so you’re providing clarity through the noise. And be willing to synthesize too.
  5. Encourage conversations—even convene discussion groups—so people can explore issues in a deeper manner than the email or social media posts going back and forth. Take the time to ask probing questions to further the discussion to create ah-ha insights.

Also, don’t rewrite or re-purpose the report from one of your marketing gurus, policy wonks, or another peer. Instead, provide the link or document and then add a short summary, some color commentary, and maybe some graphics that will appeal to the stakeholders who will find the information of value.

The advantage to you? You save time. You gain clarity. You build credibility. And you’re also preparing to communicate with Generation C, as Jim Richardson, the Managing Director of the UK design firm Sumo, talks about. This is the generation of content, creativity, connectivity, and curation.

How are you curating?


  1. Joanne Reid

    Thanks for this blog on curating. I’m switching from a regular old blog where I was sharing my ideas — and let’s face it — I’m not that interesting outside of my old narrow world. I’m switching to curation and appreciate that you made it clear here that the point is to add color commentary and link to the content.

    The result of the overwhelming content created by writers willing to write for next to nothing, regurgitating already worn out material, used to scare me. I used to wonder where it would end — so much junk and so little time. It seems so obvious in retrospect that curation would be the only way to stop from drowning in the endless avalanche of information.

    I just wanted to say I appreciate your blog.


  2. Liz Guthridge

    Thanks, Joanne. Glad you agree on the curation front, as not everyone does. To me, it’s the best way to give attention and credit to the great stuff that’s out there and ignore the mediocre and rotten.


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