What knowledge curation looks like
Knowledge curation isn’t just another process. Nor is it a system. Rather, it’s a whole new mindset, one that should define the core activities of the 21st-century enterprise.
Think about it. How much knowledge is swirling around your organization? And how much of that knowledge is “junk” that keeps clogging things up and slowing everything down? How much of your personal and organizational knowledge is valuable, but goes mainly unused because it’s not freely shared, and as a result, time and resources are wasted re-inventing that knowledge from scratch? And even if it’s shared, how much is woefully misapplied?
Let’s take a closer look at how the old type of curation (such as is found in traditional libraries or museums) differs from the new, especially in terms of mindset.
Mindset change #1: Everyone in your organization is a knowledge librarian
At least to some extent, and especially with regard to their own personal knowledge. Leaders must understand that the people working “in the trenches” know better than anyone else what to call something, how it’s connected to other things, and its impacts. These are the accountants, engineers, and salespeople. Production and logistics workers. Customer service representatives. In other words, everyone.
This means handing over the keys to the repository vault to one or more individuals in each subject matter area upon which your organization depends. Along with the keys comes the responsibility for capturing, organizing, making accessible, and keeping the critical knowledge in each subject area relevant and up-to-date.
You might ask, if everyone’s a knowledge librarian, where does that leave the dwindling population of traditional librarians? Which brings up…
Mindset change #2: Every traditional librarian must now become a knowledge flow facilitator
Your organization’s librarians are no longer permitted to hide among the bookcases, which have probably disappeared anyway. If your librarian has long since been jettisoned, seriously consider re-establishing and/or upgrading that position. Be sure to demand high levels of proficiency in soft skills such as facilitation, communication, and negotiation. This in addition to taxonomy/folksonomy development, content management, and governance.
And don’t forget leadership and team building. We’re talking serious silo-busting here, to be performed only by highly skilled professionals. Which leads us to…
Mindset change #3: Bring curation out of the shadows and into the light
Somebody has to keep eyeballs on the growing volumes of content, and that means appointing lots of curators. The lead curator, a.k.a. knowledge librarian, leads, guides and promotes this community. Most importantly, this individual must have full support and commitment at the executive-level, especially when conflicting priorities start whittling away at curation-oriented activities and resources.
Finally, the curation team must link their efforts directly to corporate performance. For example, one former corporate librarian-turned-knowledge curator formed and led a company’s first cross-functional team ever, linking knowledge management to strategic objectives and performance metrics. This led to the formation of additional teams to solve problems and introduce new ideas through knowledge-sharing across departments.
The upshot was that over 70% of the corporate library budget, which was previously spent on databases, books and periodicals, was freed up. Those funds were then put to better use training people in the skill sets mentioned in mindset change #2. Such training is now commonplace across that organization.
Slowly, other organizations are making the transition. Once knowledge curation becomes embedded in your organization’s culture, you’ll never go back.