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The certification question

September 30, 2017

The vexed question of certification came up in conversation yesterday. We’re going through the process of creating the right support systems and quality control processes to allow us to extend training options to a larger population of trainers for Cognitive Edge methods, along with the take on of coaches for our soon to be launched 360º service. In parallel I’m finishing off material for the new Cynefin Centre Masters programme which may be called The Management Apprenticeship, although the Trump associations might trigger a switch to Journey(wo)man or similar!

I faced this issue before in knowledge management and opposed the various attempts to create certificates with pretentious sets of initials to follow your name. Now within Agile at times it appears that no one is actually creating software as they spend all their time on short courses to gain various certificates which at best can record attendance at the event. I’ve always opposed and to be honest, despised people whose interest in a new field is to rapidly codify some lowest common denominator material and then package it up to make a quick buck.

Now in the new Masters we are creating a three year period of study in which the student creates a trans-disciplinary knowledge acquisition path in the humanities and sciences, then validates their learning by examination of a thesis on the application to a real world issue. In parallel they will keep a narrative based log of the work they have done, variously signed off by more experienced people in the field. That will get through a University accreditation process and the letters after the name will have some meaning.

The tentative conclusions I have come to in making notes on the flight from Atlanta to Philly are as follows:

  • Letters after the name need to be linked to a properly accredited educational institution and the accreditation should be national
  • Its legitimate to certify attendance at a training programme
  • Any certification that implies competence has to be accompanied at the very least by an extended period of supervised practice
  • Muti-choice questions can never validate learning
  • Anything linked to something that claims to be a standard or to define a field (not a method or technique) must not be created by, or be the property of, a single player

I may need more than that, but I’m working on it

2 responses to “The certification question”

  1. François Bachmann says:

    Your approach makes a lot of sense and would be a welcome change in the jungle of attended-and-got-the-T-shirt courses. To me, your last sentence perfectly summarizes what a certifying authority declares: “This person may need more than that, but she’s *really* working on it.”

  2. Alan Larimer says:

    Well said.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.
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