Curate your curators, a tech leader lifehack

September 18, 2019 | Matthew Carswell

Getting cared for

I freaking love having things curated for me.  I think most people do. When it is done well, and meets me where I am, it actually makes me feel like the world is a wonderful and manageable place.  What is curation anyway? As many words have, the definition of the word curate has changed over it’s long history. It comes from the latin root “Curatus”, which simply means “to care for”.  

In a modern world, maybe we should let the word revert back to its roots and acknowledge that nothing shows care more than defending someone from the ever looming suck of wasted time.  Time is the one variable resource that we all cherish. If you can save me time consistently, you are fantastic.

Curation is everywhere.  From the ancient Phoenecian merchants to Marco Polo and on to Google, Netflix, Costco, Nordstrom, Spotify and Yelp. They all attempt to bring you to your needs faster, saving you time and heartache.  They don’t take away your choice, they make a better choice possible by narrowing the options and allowing you to make the best choice for you.

That’s the key.  Don’t take my choice away, give me choices that I like.  That’s what good curation does and that’s what I mean by “meeting me where I am”.

The Tech Curation Hoodwink

Technology is a vast world of smoke, mirrors, lipstick on pigs, biased opinion, greedy sales people, and an endless stream of information.  If you need the right curator anywhere, it’s here, right? Seems obvious. But is it? What does curation mean when it comes to tech?

Well, back to the root word.  Technology is a Greek / English combo that comes from the Greek “tekhne”, a craft or art and English ”logy”,  a collection of knowledge. So essentially when we are talking about technology at its rawest form, we are talking about the dissemination of  knowledge regarding a craft. Is it possible for you to understand ALL of this knowledge? Or even filter ALL of it? No way. You need curators to guide you.

Do curators exist in tech now?  Oh, you betcha. I’m using the word curator, the industry uses words like “consultant”, “advisory”, “assessment” and many more.  The problem is that most buyers of technology don’t clearly acknowledge that they are employing a Curation strategy. Which means it seeps in through other channels and is susceptible to damaging bias.

Ask Boeing about how they curated the engineers for their 737 max software (Boeing’s 737 Max Software Outsourced to $9-an-Hour Engineers). I’m no expert but I’m guessing there was some smoke, mirrors and lipstick involved, and it cost them lots of money and sadly it cost lives.  Most technical decisions aren’t this important, but getting them right can make your life and business more successful.

What can be done?  You guessed it. You learn to be a good “Curator of Curators”.  Here are a few things to think about when choosing curators.

  1. First, know what you want curated.  Where does your knowledge end? Know what you know and what you don’t.  Whether it’s finance, a consultant or a business stakeholder, don’t let your curators move into your territory.  That’s not what you need them for. I don’t need Netflix to tell me when to watch TV, but I do want them to help me watch better TV when I do want to watch. 
  2. Second, don’t allow your curators to be biased.  If you sense for an instant that you are getting information that is at all slanted for their benefit, do not consider them a curator.  Zero tolerance. Curators are there to help you, not themselves. Don’t confuse the two.
  3. Third, your curators should know what your cost-benefit horizon is.  All costs are relative to time. You can hire the $9 developers that are cheap now, but they could cost you 10 billion dollars at a later date.  This concept is called Total Cost of Ownership or TCO. Test your curators on the concept of TCO by asking them what something might cost this year, in 5 years and in 20 years. Their answers should challenge your beliefs.  If a curator doesn’t provide you with new perspective on TCO, you are not working with the right curator.

In short, know what you need filtered. Don’t tolerate bias. Work with a trusted challenger that sees the big picture

If you need help navigating technical decisions or finding the right curators, JumpModel can help.  Click here to set up a call.


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