What a sub-editor does and how to use one to transform your business’s knowledge and post-Facebook social internet literacy into an enduring and unstoppable force for competitive learning

If you want high quality written material, that makes sense, is reliable, enjoyable and easy to read and reduces barriers to make team learning easier to achieve, get a knowledgeable sub-editor to help you produce it.

Against the obvious historical shortcomings of attempting to share undocumented knowledge, the media’s production model is proven, reliable, and, over centuries, its evolving processes have driven all learning in every civilisation.

Using its practices, someone with specialised knowledge comes up with an idea. They research it, give it form, document and publish what they learn, and from this they create a new understanding of their corner of the world.

Someone else then picks up their contribution and adds a new dimension, and so the cycle goes on. This is as true in the fast-moving cycle of daily TV news journalism as it is in academic publishing.

The knowledge each wave of insight creates then shapes the way future generations learn to perceive the world and how it must next be changed.

This procedure’s universality can be applied to accelerate learning and adaptation in your own, or in any, organisation that wants to learn quicker than its rivals.

Fundamental to this is the sense-making function, the checking and quality assurance operation at work at the heart of every professional publishing house.

Although its role is largely invisible to them, without it, readers drop off quickly.

It is known as sub-editing.

Sub-editors are the primary sense-makers on a publication

Editors are needed because everybody’s original writing contains errors they can’t see that an attentive second reader will spot – missed words, misspellings whose meaning a word processor’s spell-checker won’t pick up, lapses in logic or sequence and often erroneous assumptions about prior reader knowledge.

A sub-editor’s job may not be seen by readers, but it is to detect, check and address all such shortcomings to create consistency that makes the reader’s life easier.

The sub’s efforts make other writers look good, as no matter how skilled the original author may be, there are things all who do this for their work, especially those doing it at speed under pressure of deadlines, frequently miss in their own material.

As such, sub-editors may become the pickiest of proof-readers, and extremely fussy about the accuracy of language used on the page.

Because they ensure the words used are concise and that meaning and intent are clear, their efforts make for a better, less confusing experience and faster absorption and learning by readers.

Such specialists are indispensable to publishers because, above all, as “production” journalists they are the people who, with designers, transform words into publications.

They cut text to length, write headlines, captions and summaries that introduce readers to what comes next in a story.

As such, working with layout designers, they ensure the reader’s attention is drawn to what matters most, to make a story attractive and pleasing to read.

There is not one trustworthy, quality publication that exists without them, and anything you read in a professionally produced title will certainly have been subjected to the interventions of at least one of them.

The argument for articulating, making sense of and growing what your organisation knows

The argument against making workplace knowledge work to drive a business’s learning is that its people may not have a formula to manage and grow what that business knows.

Many might think that capturing that knowledge would simply be too hard.

They may be deeply sceptical that this can be done, or of its value at all.

And of course there will be some in any workplace who think they simply know more than everyone else around them anyway, so why try?

To this point, it is true that workplace knowledge has been difficult if not impossible to capture.

But things have changed, and post-Facebook, amid now pervasive internet social literacy, every business’s knowledge can be transformed into material of value capable of directing that organisation’s continued knowledge growth, creativity and learning.

To facilitate access to it, every business’s knowledge now presents its own potential internal Wikipedia puzzle waiting to be arranged and solved.

The language a business uses to itself matters because it can speed or slow its learning

Undocumented knowledge is unreliable and for obvious reasons pretty much impossible to build on in any consistent fashion except in the very smallest of workplace groups.

And it is impossible to build on, because you can’t guess what someone else knows, how they interpret what you assume they know, or what importance they give it, if any.

If it is to be referred to reliably, important information must be written and recorded.

As the Chinese proverb goes, “The palest ink is better than the best memory.”

But, while their intelligence, their ideas and suggestions may be good, not everyone has the same gift, comfort with or care for writing. Many people write poorly, don’t like doing it, or record information in ways that may be imprecise and unsuited to use by others.

Not everyone is good at creating or managing high-quality documentation that evolves at speed, and most wouldn’t choose to.

Although the social internet medium may be new and different, making sense remains to all intents a sub-editorial role, for those sufficiently interested in doing it.

And this is no longer a luxury, as the better and more readily someone brings order to its content, the more quickly the business can advance its transformation to the detriment of its rivals.

The challenge lies in organising its knowledge materials, as, in short, every company needs a plan to get smarter, quicker, beginning with even small steps, relative to competitors.

I can demonstrate my relevant experience to execute such plans, and I’d like to talk with you about how I can help you use it to take advantage of what your organisation knows.

I make this argument for making your organisation’s knowledge work for it

My knowledge communications solution is straightforward and familiar and gets the mental energy of everyone in a business working for its future health by shaping its capacity to learn. This in turn guides the future shape, well-being and resilience of the organisation.

To date, learning organisations have had little true competition, but in future, just to survive, every successful business will need to become one.

It would be a privilege to help you attain that goal, so please contact me at graham@shiroarchitects.com or 0416 171724.

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