Lord of Curation Series: Karen Dietz

Our Lord of Curation series presents to you some of the great curators on Scoop.it. They are here to share their insights and advice with you.

Karen Dietz, owner of Just Story It, works with executives and companies in capturing and telling their most compelling stories to increase their influence in marketing, branding, and leadership activities. She has over 25 years in business consulting, training, facilitating, and organizational narratives. Withdoctorate in Folklore, Karen has been academically educated in storytelling and over the years has been trained by some of the nation’s top performance storytellers.  She draws on her experience in Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, and non-profit organizations to provide practical experience, guidance, and tools in working with stories that can be put to work immediately.

Karen wrote the Introduction and co-wrote the chapter on storytelling and financial management in one of the top ranked books on organizational narratives Wake Me Up When The Data Is Over; How Organizations Use Stories to Generate Results (2006). She is also featured in the book Storied Careers: 40+ Story Practitioners Talk About Applied Storytelling by Katherine Hansen (2009).  Karen is also included in Steve Denning’s book The Leader’s Guide To Storytelling; Mastering The Art And Discipline Of The Business Narrative (2005) in addition to other works.

In addition to her consulting work, Karen is the former chair of the Storytelling In Organizations Special Interest Group and the former Executive Director of the National Storytelling Network.

What is curation to you?

For me, curation is a powerful process of sifting through tons of material on a specific topic — in my case business storytelling — ignoring the junk, and finding gems to share with everyone.  Every day it’s like going on a treasure hunt to find the best articles, videos, graphics, and the like to share with others who are interested in the field of business narrative. And with Scoop.it, I get to write reviews of each piece I select,sharing with people why I chose it, what I liked about it, and what may be missing that if added would help us even more.  Or sometimes the material provides examples of what not to do.  All of this is hugely instructive, allows us to elevate the conversation about business stories, the dynamics of storytelling, applications, processes and methods.  In other words, we all become a lot smarter about the subject and practice of business narrative and hopefully produce more excellent work.

Compared to other curators though, I’ve got a pretty ‘nichey’ field. Business storytelling or business narrative as a professional field is still pretty young. Lots of people are writing about it, companies are producing blogs and videos telling their business story, and technology is adding new twists and turns into the crafting and sharing of stories. Some material is fabulous in its clarity, insights, or sharing a powerful story.  There is lots of material that is substandard.  It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly out there.  So I think of my content curation as creating order out of chaos, as a way of organizing the best material and being a repository for us all.

Curating content is not for everyone, though. To be a really good curator not only requires depth of knowledge in your field, it also takes well-developed synthesis and pattern recognition skills to quickly sift through the junk and find the gems. I was talking with a well-published colleague in my field the other day who applauded my affinity and delight for content curation, saying that he would hate doing it. We had a good laugh about it, acknowledging our different talents and contributions.

The content curators I enjoy the most — and who I have tried to emulate — are those who have developed an editorial voice.  These are the ones who write reviews sharing with others their thoughts on the material they are curating.  When we are flooded with information these days, having a voice in the wilderness to cut through it all by sharing comments helps people make sense of it. We identify the most valuable trees, and cut a path in the forest for people to walk through. What I have tried to do is make very clear in my ‘welcome’ post on my Scoop.it page what my editorial viewpoint is.  I think more curators need to write and post these up front so people understand their point of view.

It takes awhile to develop your editorial voice, though.  It’s a process of asking yourself:

1.Why do I like this article? Why am I selecting it?

2.What is in the article that is valuable for others to know?

3.Does this piece fit into my topic? What do I want to say about what I like?

4.How can I point out deficiencies in the material that is helpful to my audience yet still as kind as I can be to the author? OK — on this last point there are days when I am better at this than others and the part of curating I struggle with the most.

Overall, my voice is still developing and I find it a fascinating part of the content curation process.

What is your best curation secret?

LOL — Twitter! I’m continually fiddling with my Scoop.it keywords.  Let’s face it — business storytelling or business narrative will pull in tons of unrelated material because the word story is so ubiquitous in our language. So I always am checking my Twitter stream to catch pieces I might have missed. I also ask my followers to send me material they think I should review.

How has curation enhanced your social media experience?

Well, I continue to grow quite a following which tells me my topic and selected content are resonating with others out there. I get a big hoot out of watching my Scoop.it and Klout scores grow. And I have come to really treasure my fellow curators.  We suggest material to each other, which is very helpful.  And when we rescoop articles from each other’s content, we always acknowledge the other curator in the post. I’ve been able to send direct messages to fellow curators on Twitter or just post to their stream to thank them. Or simply to retreat material. Or to promote them in #FF posts.

What I am working on now is contacting the authors of all of the material I’ve posted to start an online professional relationship with them. And I’ve certainly been hearing from my colleagues and followers about how much they appreciate my content which I see in the forms of direct messages, comments, mentions, and resharing. So overall my content curation has been a fabulous social media experience.

You seem to be really interested in the idea of storytelling. What do a good storyteller and a curator have in common?

Ahhh — what a great question! The best storytellers are very conscious about their role to shape people’s thinking, to inspire and/or move them. And with that consciousness comes great responsibility. Stories have the power to harm or heal, to oppress or set people free. Wearing the mantle of storyteller with its responsibilities and power requires training, skill, knowledge, competence, and consciousness in the care and feeding of stories, and in the dynamics of story sharing. Content curation at its best is another form of storytelling. In selecting the material I do and commenting on it, I have the same responsibilities and power as a storyteller. I am shaping thinking, pointing out when the emperor has no clothes, and if I am very lucky, inspiring people along the way. The only big difference I see between storytelling and content curation, is that as the curator, instead of sharing my own stories, I am instead sharing/promoting/supporting material that others have created. I say, “Look — this is a great piece this author wrote. Go read it now!” And that ability to identify and support other clear voices in the forest gives me great joy.

Our Lord of Curation Series continues next week. Stay tuned!

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