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Seek, Sense and Share: Sam Lawton on Why Content Aggregation Needs Context, Collaboration and Community

Roberta Gogos
Jan 20 2021

Over the past few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed my interviews with Fuse Product Director Rhys Giles. We dug deep into content aggregation and Rhys helped me to understand not just the strengths of aggregators in learning, but also the gaps many enterprise organisations are experiencing in relying on content aggregation to drive active, engaged and continuous learning. 

In Why Content Aggregation is NOT the Answer to the Skills Gap Rhys helped me to understand why LXPs’ approach to skills is not working to close the skills gap, and how important it is to build a picture as to how learners engage with content on learning platforms. In Part II of the series, Rhys Giles: On How Learning Actually Works in the Real World, Rhys expanded on the user learning experience and its associated workflow, showing me just how Fuse has been built to allow learning teams to facilitate the whole process of learning.

Both of these pieces taught me that it’s not simply that content aggregators aren’t a good tool to help engaged learning: it’s that they are a small part of an expertly built learning ecosystem that must be carefully considered before it can grow organically and positively impact organisational performance. Simply put, there’s a lot more to it than it may seem, and it only takes a few minutes with a Fuse expert to know how dedicated and passionate this lot is when it comes to helping companies achieve results through engaged learning. 

sam-lawtonToday, I am continuing the series by talking to Sam Lawton who is Head of Client Success - EMEA at Fuse. We’ll be continuing on the theme of what’s needed beyond content aggregation, and how ‘seek, sense and share’ is essential in engaged and active learning. 

Q: Sam, thank you for joining. As per our intro, is there a content aggregation conundrum when it comes to enterprise learning? 

Sam: I do see a conundrum in what to me looks like the static learning that a content aggregator-driven approach delivers, and the subpar results that come from that.

At Fuse, a big part of our philosophy for our own learning and the learning we’re encouraging on behalf of the customers using our product is looking at how we help people make sense of content, and share it back to their communities in the best way possible to encourage further organic learning possibilities. 

When a content aggregator is in charge, it’s a bit like a static library. It’s always there, but it doesn’t reflect the journey that people took in seeking out knowledge, understanding and interpreting it, and distributing it amongst their peers. It doesn’t encourage people to contribute or make comments on that content, in order to give more context and share it with a wider community with that enriched information added on to it. To me, that is a conundrum because it’s stopping short of creating engagement in the learner and in the learning community, which is a key part of active learning in the enterprise.

Q: It’s an interesting concept. Can you explain the thought process that led you up to looking at learning in this full circle, end-to-end way? 

Sam: There were a few things that have contributed to my thinking: one was a formal concept I read, and the other was an analogy that popped into my head at home one weekend when cooking. 

On the more formal front, I read Harold Jache’s Seek>Sense>Share framework, which actually appeared in Inside Learning Technologies back in 2014. It’s basically a simple standard that allows people to capture, interpret and share their knowledge, or, as the name suggests, seek, sense and share.  

It’s probably helpful to look at the formal definitions and concepts behind them: 

  • Seeking is finding things out and keeping up to date. Building a network of colleagues is helpful in this regard. It not only allows us to “pull” information, but also have it “pushed” to us by trusted sources. Good curators are valued members of knowledge networks.
  • Sensing is how we personalise information and use it. Sensing includes reflection and putting into practice what we have learned. Often it requires experimentation, as we learn best by doing.
  • Sharing includes exchanging resources, ideas, and experiences with our networks as well as collaborating with our colleagues.

What really struck me is just how much Fuse encourages this approach. A lot of thought is put into content recommendation and curation, so learners get really thoughtful, useful content recommendations - and not just from AI driven aggregators - Fuse encourages and facilitates humans making recommendations as well. Fuse is also built on communities, so it encourages sharing amongst trusted peers. 

Fuse also encourages sharing on every level, and commenting, so users are constantly adding insight to what they’ve learned and sharing that. They are also creating their own learning content for others. There are a tonne of positive similarities between Fuse and this framework, and both are dedicated to continuous professional development. 

Q: Clearly great minds think alike. Now, you’ve piqued my interest with your mention of an epiphany during dinner prep - how were you seeking, sensing and sharing in the kitchen? 

Sam: Actually, I was perusing through a Delia Smith cookbook I had borrowed from my mum, as one does. As I was flipping through the book, I noticed that on each recipe, she’d written little helpful notes based on her experiences with the recipes - things like, ‘drop the oven temperature by X degrees for the best results,’ or, ‘spin dish throughout cooking in the case of non uniform oven temperature for this recipe.’  These were real value-adds based on her experience. 

It stood out to me exactly like the analog sort of demonstration of a comment in a specialist community, and a great example of how people learn and share things on Fuse. She’s working out a better temperature and sharing that with people, and really, it’s exactly how people make sense of things and share them back in a digitalised learning community. 

In Fuse, one piece of content like this can exist in multiple places, with only the community members seeing the relevant comments attached to the communities they are part of. What’s also great is that they can also add additional notes, the same way someone might if they were to have further learning experiences whilst using a recipe and finding ways to improve the results. In this way, the content keeps maturing, growing, adapting and generating more value over time. 

You don’t get that process with a content aggregator. Firstly, the content coming from the aggregator is likely to be third party and fairly generic, unlike what you would get with Fuse, which would likely make more sense in the first place, as it understands the context of your role and can point you to the most relevant part of the information. With Fuse, users will see comments and this will encourage them to make their own sense of the content, and to comment on it themselves, applying that sense and sharing it back to the community. 

Q: So which types of customers do you see doing this well? 

Sam: All of our customers have completely engaged with this model in using Fuse, and what is common amongst them is the social element that encourages their employees to participate in communities to build a level of comfort in learning. It’s a bit like what Rhys explained in having a ‘safe place’ to learn. They are creating that safe place and nurturing it so that people can establish themselves, grow in confidence as they learn, and communicate that learning with a wider group to share their expertise.  

Scandic Hotels is a great example. Scandic is the largest Nordic Hotel chain with over 18,000 employees dispersed over many locations. With Fuse, Scandic was able to establish function and role specific communities. The food and beverage community is particularly strong. Scandic users can search wine pairing content, or food preparation. There is also a strong emphasis on user generated content, which is really demonstrative of sharing information to the community. 

However, perhaps one of the strongest elements of the way Scandic is using Fuse is the commentary seen amongst the communities, which really plays to the sense and share elements of Jache’s framework. 

I think each of our customer stories illustrates these points in one way or another, so I’d encourage you to look at our case study pages and to come to us if you have any questions about how your company can move on from a content aggregation only approach, to a more active, engaged and continuous learning culture that will demonstrably boost performance amongst your people.

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