Curate’s Egg

Photo Credit: aussiegall via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: aussiegall via Compfight cc

I delivered a session at Learning Live this week which (I hope) wasn’t the traditional curate’s egg – partly bad with some redeeming features. It seemed well received based on the Twitter backchannel and kind people I respect said very humbling things to me.

I wanted the session to be different and used a 20/20/20 split; 20 minutes of framing, 20 minutes of activity, 20 minutes of Q&A. I intimated this would be different when I wrote about the session recently. The interactive activity wasn’t easy for the participants – it was based on the 50 big ideas which I’ve written about previously. In the session I chose 5 of these big ideas and set the group a challenge – to turn those 5 big ideas into 50 smaller ones.

Image courtesy of @dhl66

Image courtesy of @dhl66

I’ll be writing up the outputs over the next 5 weeks. My unpublished plan was to make this session a part within the 50 big idea experience. I’ve promoted the 50 big ideas relentlessly in the lead up to the session so the people attending would be ‘primed’. Similarly, the session doesn’t end when they leave the room. My session wasn’t the start or end of the process but a point where people could work and reflect together to try and take some of these ideas forward.

I wanted the session to challenge our process and way of working, to think about the relationships we will need to change and to challenge our personal attitudes towards the big ideas.

So, in a room with a group of learning professionals I asked the easiest question of the day

I need 5 volunteers – who would like to be a volunteer?

When I had the 5 I needed I explained to the room that these 5 people were now curators. Each curator would be responsible for one big idea and I wanted them to curate 10 good small ideas around that single big idea. I stressed this wasn’t a brainstorm and that quality of ideas was more valuable than quantity but that I did need 10 ideas for each. The business target for me was to get 50 small ideas.

I clearly stated these curators were now in control and the most powerful people in the room – I was implicitly handing the control in this part of the session to them.  This is a core part of the 50 big ideas – releasing the control as a L&D professional and letting people get on with it. As a curator I was expecting them to aggregate ideas and conversation, sift and sort ideas, filter out what would work and which would not, collaborate with each other, to work together to achieve the expected result of 50 good small ideas.

And what happened?

Almost without fail they started facilitating, scribing, questioning and leading the sub group they were responsible for.

I specifically asked for curators. If we’re to move from the L&D professional of old to the new role of performance support we need to understand how to curate, market, negotiate and question.

We don’t need to produce – we need to reference, file, make available.

The need and desire to create a solution is in our DNA…we need to evolve.

The 50 small ideas will be posted over the next 5 weeks and I encourage you to think critically about the ideas presented. Take the small ideas and reflect on how they might impact on your practice. Question, discuss and comment. Work out loud. This is how L&D will evolve.

If you’d volunteered to be a curator, what would you do? Would you take a step forward or a step back? What would your priority be? Let me know in the comments.

13 responses to “Curate’s Egg

  1. Interesting activity! So no one just shared the responsibility to their peers/work group – and together each source the articles and information and together filter and come up with the best ideas? Strange. I think it’s because you said the words, “you’re in control!”


  2. As someone who took part in this it was interesting to see who got hung up on defining the question, who shared ideas and let them hang, and who tried to solve it. For me, it made me think, and this morning spend nearly 3 hours (when the dog should have been walked and chores been done) reading your blog, others blogs, sharing links on social media to my network, and via email with delegates of useful content I thought they would like. I think that means the “curator” message has hit home, and nicely supports ideas 1 and 49.


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  4. Sounds like a good session Andrew-wish I was there! However I’m not surprised that L&D professionals go into default facilitation mode. Usually there is a predetermined point that we have to get to in a limited period (if you were leading a session) which somehow would translate into whether we’d done our job (we reached this decision in this time-tick). It is so hard for us to let go and curate. Also this is a big concept for the business to grasp if a learning culture is not supported by them. I’ve been on projects where I know the best way is to have resources available ‘on the job’ but where even learning managers want ‘quantity’ rather than value.


  5. Great sessions Andrew as I was following closely via twitter on the night. I must say I did loose some of the essence of the requirement and when I started tweeting my thoughts on one of the questions I felt like the leader was trying to solve the question – not curating as you state – but then again I was following in twitter. Hope you can track my tweets and see if there is anything there you can use.

    It does though raise the broader question I have from your session and from reading your blog above: Do we in L&D have the “right” curation skills to play this vital role we are asked to play more and more.

    Are we ready to move from creation to curation?


  6. Thanks dames 20 and LearnKotch for your comments and you both make valid and relevant points.

    I’m not going to change the world in 20 minutes of a seminar session – the point of the session is the reflection afterwards, thinking about how we can take our practise forward.

    The curation skills question is an interesting one. Do we know what ‘good’ curation is? We need to agree and understand what that is before throwing resource into developing the skills behind it. This is why the work that Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Julian Stodd et al is so important. It’s moving the debate forward and trying to stop us just looking back at what we have been doing.


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