Human curation – important now more than ever

p1060681Two weeks ago, TheGuardian new paper featured an article on ‘why human curation matters in an algorithm world’.  We may have just witnessed what could amount to one of the most important events is contemporary world history. Whatever your political affiliation, what’s interesting to consider is what factors, from a system and curation perspective, may have led to the result.

Facebook and Twitter have come in for some significant criticism in the days following the election.  It’s lack of editorial scrutiny, by virtue of the medium, have led to some to believe that ‘fake news’ played a key role. This is an area for significant debate and what you are probably asking right now is, as I normally write on learning and knowledge strategy, what does this have to do with any of that?   Well, not to dismiss the issue of false reporting, what has interested me is the power of the algorithm.

Facebook is built for engagement and so will provide you with content it thinks will interest you (with curation provided by its algorithm).  Through understanding your preferences, it will continue to serve content it thinks you like.  The effect of this when its letting me know what the latest gadgets are maybe a bit of a negative impact on my wallet. When this comes to something as important as choosing the next leader of world’s economic superpower, only reading content that continues to agree and affirm your point of view raises serious questions with significant consequences.

We see the same happening in an individual’s personal network on a platform such as Twitter or Snapchat – it’s likely that you will gather people around you that have similar views to yourself.  It’s human nature to want to connect with and belong to a tribe that hold the same values as us, but for both ourselves personally, the health of organisations and society, this can be troublesome. It can leave us doomed to repeat the same mistakes or continue on the same path without looking at what’s truly happening around us.

So bringing it back to organisations and learning, no one wants to be the next Blockbuster video. Without accepting changes in trends and behaviours around you, understanding customer criticism of your product/service or listening to discontent in your workforce, we give ourselves a significant blindside that can come home to roost in quite challenging ways.

This is where the role of human curation comes in – open-mindedness, curiosity, a willingness to bring the unsaid stuff out onto the table and being able to listen are critical.

It’s likely we will hear things we don’t like.  For example, when I worked some years ago for Orange Global (now France Telecom), we used to purposefully read customer complaint sites and forums. There was no attempt to try and keep things quiet, it was vital to recognise where things were not right.  It’s not always easy to hear it but whether we take notice or not, these views are being expressed and need to be acknowledged. Only through understanding all sides can we take actions to improve things and make things better. Just as in wider society, our immediate experience limits our view; often we are too close, too invested in our own beliefs to recognise that the same situation is being perceived very differently.

So ensure you have people in place that are able to be as objective as possible, are able to gather good evidence, are good researchers and display empathy. They need to follow up on the learning, knowledge and information being put out there to understanding how it’s been received, ‘take the temperature’ of the organisations and its external environment and ensure resources are refreshed to reflective that. Its easier to listen to the voices that conform and quietly get on with it, but the future of health of your organisation (and wider society) relies on us not sweeping opposing views under the carpet. Often we will be upset, even deeply disturbed or frightened by what we hear, but pretending these things do not exist gives no room for growth or understanding.

There is no doubt that AI and algorithms can greatly improve the efficiency and curation of information, but let us ensure streamlining doesn’t mean blindsiding.