Certificates, Yes and No

It seems that the debate around certificates will never end.

Some people and organizations ask me to provide official certificates for participants of Management 3.0 events. What we offer now is a simple “Certificate of Attendance”. It only says that we confirm that a person participated in the event, and that he or she was physically present in the room. That’s all. We cannot certify knowledge or understanding, because I don’t know of any “tests” to validate that a person understands and is able to apply Management 3.0 principles and practices.

For example, when people play Moving Motivators and start discussing “correct” definitions of words such as goal and mastery, they probably don’t understand complexity thinking. Multiple opinions and perspectives are often better than just one, which means there is no “proper” interpretation of words and pictures. But when a person invents her own motivational game, as an alternative to mine, and the game gets her colleagues all engaged and excited, she should pass a Management 3.0 test with flying colors! Do you see the problem? How can you certify people for disagreeing and innovating?

On the other hand, in order to introduce Management 3.0 practices in organizations, one might have to take a counterintuitive approach. When a sick child prefers only sweets and candy, you might need to coat its medicine in honey. When organizational cultures only adopt new ideas when they fit their current thinking, you may have to offer your idea in the form a Trojan horse. Yes, that could mean wrapping it in a stupid certificate, if that’s what it takes to make the patient swallow its medicine. The practices that I dislike most might be needed in order to have my ideas absorbed, so they can do their work from the inside.

The world is too complex for a dogmatic stance toward certificates. They might hurt or help you in ways you never had expected.

That’s complexity thinking too.


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  • http://twitter.com/AnkoTijman AnkoTijman

    How about peer certification, i.e. that others that have seen you apply the theory in practice, certify you (and they will have to write a synopsis on how they saw you doing it)?

    • jurgenappelo

      It will be meaningless. See: all the silly things that people “endorse” me for on LinkedIn. Anyone who certifies another should be highly qualified to do that, otherwise it has no value to anyone else.

  • Stephan Merkel

    The best certificate I can think of: personal statements about purpose and changes I want to bring about, signed by @jurgenappelo.

    • jurgenappelo

      I will be happy to sign. 🙂

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