The Art of Curation


One of the most critical components of Aesthetic Intelligence is what I call “editorial command.” Specifically, it’s the ability to curate objects, spaces, stories and experiences for optimum effect.

Curation is one of those words we often use without knowing exactly what it means. The term actually relates to the word “cure.” To cure (or curate) something is to restore it to health by eliminating the parts that damage or devalue it and assembling what remains in a harmonious and coherent way.

In the context of business, I believe there’s an enormous untapped opportunity for executives to apply better curation in most areas, including product development, brand building, staff training, office design, just to name a few. But this requires care, judgment and, above all, a human touch.

Algorithms can act as a filter to help us sift through our seemingly endless set of options, but they can’t compete with the skills of an expert curator. Google search, for example, can give us answers to the questions we pose, but it cannot respond to questions we never thought to ask. Likewise, Netflix can suggest movies that we may like, but it cannot begin to educate us about unexplored genres — ones that might introduce us to new ways of thinking or broaden our aesthetic appreciation.

This helps to explain why bricks-and-mortar bookshops are coming back, why personal brands continue to gain share over generic ones, and why Spotify´s human-generated playlists continue to fuel its success.

So how can you hone your own curatorial skills? Here are five quick tips.

1 | Do more with less!

People have too many decisions to make and too little time to make them. Studies show that choice overload causes stress, reduces engagement, and leads to poor decision-making. For that reason, the first rule of thumb in curation is to eliminate all extraneous inputs. Focus the attention of others on fewer, but better options and stand by those options with conviction.

2| Curate With Compassion

In the consumer marketplace, about 85% of purchase decisions are driven by how a product or service makes a person feel (i.e., aesthetic delight); only 15% are based on a conscious and rational assessment of a product’s features and functions. The same may apply to decisions related to hiring and retaining staff. Thus, it’s important to tune in to the emotional and sensorial effects of what you’re curating. Do they come together to tell a compelling story, convey genuine values and elicit powerful feelings?

3| Organize with Empathy

People can handle more choices if the choice are categorized properly—but the categories must mean something to them. Most businesspeople categorize according to how their business operates and present too much information, too clinically. Customers, on the other hand, are on an emotional journey. For example, imagine if groceries presented their food according to mealtime (breakfast, lunch, dinner) instead of food type (e.g., meats, dairy, spices, etc.).

One industry that gets it right is the fragrance sector. Beauty retailers know that customers do not respond when perfumes are shelved according to logical divisions like pricing, chemical ingredients, or country of origin. Rather, they respond to the moods and images that fragrance brands aim to project (e.g., romantic, sexy, clean).

4| Sequence Strategically

Smart curation depends on prioritization and sequencing. If every item and every feature have the same level of intensity and significance, nothing stands out or resonates. As such, it’s important to start people off with simple decisions and gradually introduce more challenging ones. This method sustains engagement and deepens their investment in their choices. For example, studies show that, when buying a new car, people feel more enthusiasm about their purchase if they start with easy choices (e.g., select from 3 different exterior colors) and end with more complex choices (pick one of 10 different interior details). In contrast, if you bombard customers with a slew of choices all at once, they feel overwhelmed and are more likely to walk away from the transaction altogether.



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