Why You Need To Curate Content For Continuous Learning
Continuous learning matters to teams, individuals, and businesses. Here are 5 reasons why.
1. Our Skills Have A Shelf-Life: Don’t Be AT&T
"If you want to keep earning, keep learning."
If you worked for AT&T 30 years ago, you were probably feeling pretty good about things. You were working for the company that once owned the patent for the telephone. How cutting edge can you get? You were trained once at the start of your career, and that stood you in good stead until retirement. Skills for life, a job for life. Learning is for newbies.
Flash forward a few decades. AT&T find themselves fighting to survive. They’re chasing the tails of companies less than 10 years old, and losing to them. What happened? In simple terms, they didn’t keep up with changes in their industry. They got Ubered (or in their case, Googled, iPhoned, and Amazoned).
They're not alone. We're all at risk of obsolescence. Read Exponential Organizations – Why New Organizations Are 10x Faster, Better, and Cheaper than Yours (and what to do about it). It’s a sobering read for anyone who thinks they’re on top of their game:
- The average shelf life of a business competency has dropped from 30 years in 1984 to 5 years in 2014.
- 89% of the companies on the Fortune 500 list in 1955 were not on the list by 2014.
- The average lifespan of an S&P 500 company has decreased from 67 years in 1920 to 15 years today.
- In the next 10 years, 40% of all S&P 500 companies will disappear from the list.
So what do you do if you’re AT&T? Get smarter, and fast. Continuous learning is their only hope for survival. Their CEO’s edict is that everyone spends 5-10 hours a week learning to “stay on top of the firehose of new information”. And if they can’t stay on top? “Mark my words, if we don’t do this, in 3 years we’ll be managing decline.”
Content curation feeds the appetite for continuous workplace learning by providing recent and relevant content. Our view is that recency is particularly important in curated content. An article on emerging trends in marketing from three years ago is not going to be very helpful to me today. Curated content is more relevant than formal courses, which is one reason businesses need it to stay up to date.
2. To Stay Smart, We Need To Look Beyond Traditional Training
Traditionally in organizations, the majority of learning has been delivered in the form of formal, structured training such as classroom or eLearning courses. In the 70:20:10 model, that’s the 10% (20% being learning from others, 70% learning from experience).
Beyond The 10%: Why Formal Courses Aren’t Enough
Formal and structured eLearning always has a role to play, especially in taking new learners on a guided path. However, it has some limitations:
- It’s dated.
Courses are authored at a point in time. They start going out of date the day they’re released.
- It’s closed.
Courses rarely link out to live or recent external content. They present a closed view of the world. They’re usually housed inside a Learning Management System, which is also closed to external content.
- It’s slow.
Developing a course is not a rapid response to a knowledge gap or burning problem. Even with modern development tools and techniques, it can still take months to develop a learning module, pushing it even further out of date.
- It’s inflexible.
Maintaining and editing courses is rarely done every day and every time there’s new insights or content to share. If it’s done at all, it’s on a fixed schedule and it can be time consuming and costly to update them.
- It’s expensive.
Formal courses have a high production cost, though this continues to fall with new tools and simpler production techniques.
So we need to look beyond the formal 10%. The good content is out there. We just have to find it.
3. To Stay Smart, We Need Continuous Learning
Just like the AT&T employee 30 years ago, if we tap into external content just once, or infrequently, we’ll quickly become irrelevant. Things change too fast.
"In a world of rapid change and increasing complexity, the winners will be those whose rate of learning is greater than the rate of change and greater than the rate of their competition." - Tom Hood
Job security and career development is about employability. It is about having constantly updated skills and experience that are relevant and which makes an individual employable. Job security no longer comes from being employed. Every industry is being disrupted and changing. Those that succeed will be the continuous learners. These individuals will:
- Always be learning something new and seeking more knowledge.
- Learn a wide variety of things, not only those related to your current role.
- Seek new ways of doing things and new experiences.
- Always be up to date on current and future trends and technologies.
- Be agile, things change, stuff happens, be flexible.
- Maintain networks, well connected, and connect people.
- Be active and visible on social media both tracking and sharing latest developments.
The eLearning professionals using social networks to share knowledge, resources, and best practices with peers around the world are the pioneers in the continuous learning movement.
4. We Learn Better Together: The Power Of Collective Intelligence
Continuous learning is a team sport. No-one is as smart as everyone. MIT define Collective intelligence as a property of groups that emerges from the coordination and collaboration of team members.
“Group intelligence is not strongly tied to either the average intelligence of the members or the team’s smartest member.” - Thomas Malone, MIT Center for Collective Intelligence
Jens Krause calls this “Swarm Intelligence”: “It requires people to gather information independently, process, and combine it in social interactions, and use it to solve cognitive problems.” Krause’s research shows that in swarm intelligence, “because people act collectively, they can consider more factors, come up with more solutions, and make better decisions.” Good curation means collaboration.
5. The Content Shock Problem: Too Much Content, Too Little Time
So, we all need to look externally and take a drink from that firehose of external content to make sure we’re staying smart, as individuals, and in teams. And if that was as easy as spending 10 minutes a day checking the latest sources, we’d all do it.
But it’s not that easy.
- Over 3 million new blog posts are published a day.
- The amount of content on the web is expected to increase by 500% in the next 5 years.
- Google indexed 1 trillion articles in 2007, today it has indexed over 30 trillion.
We are in an era of what Mark Schaefer calls “Content Shock”, where the rate of new content produced significantly outstrips our capacity to absorb it. You could spend your waking life trying to keep on top of all of the new content published each day and never make a dent. If we measure intelligence as the percent of the world’s content we’ve read and understood, then we’re all waking up dumber than we went to bed.
Information Overload and Filter Failure: The 21st Century Knowledge Worker’s Disease
Ignoring all of the recent developments in an industry could be fatal to your career. But so could try to keep on top of everything. What we frequently call information overload has 3 components:
More content is produced than we can keep up with. You already know that’s the case. Every day we are exposed to 74 GB of data, according to a report from CNN (also the top shared article on information overload last year).
Insufficient time to digest information, analyze, and act on it, especially if you’re under pressure to make a decision.
Often inversely proportional to quality, the needle in haystack problem becomes more pronounced the more information we receive. It becomes more difficult for quality to stand out in the noise.
Any one of these 3 conditions can cause information overload. When all three strike at once, you have the information overload perfect storm, or to give it its more common name: your average day at work. 73% of Americans say they suffer from information overload every day.
Fighting Filter Failure With Technology
NYU Professor Clay Shirky has a more accurate term for this experience: Filter Failure. In his view, it’s not about too much information - it’s too much of the wrong information. We’re letting too much of the wrong stuff in.
Who’s going to help professionals to manage their filters and guard against overload? eLearning professionals can be the content curation heroes. But you can't do it manually. You need automation to filter your content.
Our free tool Anders Pink is one way of doing that. You can set your filters using keywords, and then decide which sources you want to get content from: Your preferred sites, Twitter influencers, and RSS feeds. It then updates every few hours. For example, here are the latest articles from 40 eLearning sites. This gives you a filtered baseline of constantly updating content from which you can handpick the most relevant content for your audience.
Continuous learning is a challenge, but we ignore it at our peril. Learn from AT&T and develop a plan to stay smarter every day using automated filtering and content curation.
Find out more in our free book on Content Curation For Learning.