Learn to Learn Faster

The Three Cs are all you need to know: Curation, Creation, Communication. As I’ve explained on this blog before, these are the three sets of skills that I believe will stand anyone in good stead for their future career. In an age of accelerated business and widespread automation, people who are strong in the Three Cs will remain in demand.

Having written about Communication recently, I thought I’d tackle Curation.

What I mean by Curation is the skill to discover and qualify information. This is slightly different to the way the word may be used in the context of content marketing or an art gallery or museum.

I’ll take it in two parts.

Discovery

Discovery is about knowing how to ask the right questions in a number of contexts. It’s about the ability to identify a problem and even from a very small knowledge base, begin exploring it until you can start to find a solution.

This is challenging because when facing a completely new problem you often don’t know the language to use to shape the question. The language in which the answer is written may be as unfamiliar to you as the problem itself. But through an iterative process of asking questions, absorbing answers, and using the new knowledge to ask better questions, you can begin to explore.

This is perhaps best illustrated with search strings. The first place most of us turn for an answer these days is to a search engine. But what do you type to get the answer if you’re exploring something completely new? You start with your best-guess approximation, learn from what it returns and progressively refine until you find the answer.

Qualification

When you find that answer, the skills of qualification kick in. How do you know you can trust what you have found?

Too often people take what they have read on face value and compound the error or untruth by sharing it to their own networks. The skills of qualification are about building tests in your own mind based on your existing knowledge and what you can glean from other sources around the topic you’re examining.

Some of this may become almost intuitive: inaccuracies often just ‘feel’ wrong to those with a sceptical nature. Some of this may be based on acquired knowledge: a quick bit of maths can often tell you that a reported number must be false. But sometimes the qualification can only come through rigour and discipline, double and triple-checking with reliable sources.

Self-Directed Learning

Together, discovery and qualification represent Curation, a fundamental skill for self-sufficiency in the future workplace. In a fast-changing environment we will all need to learn to learn faster and there often won’t be people who can teach us because we are the first — in our own organisations or anywhere — to do what we are doing. The ability to recognise a barrier, define it and scale it, is invaluable in that situation.

So ask yourself: how good are your curation skills?

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Tom Cheesewright