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December 2007
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February 2008

Getting Readers' Attention

I received an e-mail yesterday from Premiere Speakers Bureau.  They were having a contest to see who could find the phony speaker in their catalog.  To determine which was phony, you had to review the catalog, its index and the Bureau's website (because the phony speaker would only be in the catalog).  Those that locate the phony speaker are entered into a drawing for prizes.

At first glance,I thought this was lame (I must admit I'm a skeptic on anything looking gimmicky).  However, I actually think they might be on to something.  With so much information bombarding us all, it is hard to get the attention of readers.  A little game/contest like this just might be the little boost that's needed to 1) keep your e-mail message from being deleted (heck, I read it and I don't even book speakers) and 2) get your target to actually read (or at least skim) your full set of materials.  It won't work for all your readers, but will anything?

The idea could easily be applied to an association's website, on-line bookstore or catalog of courses.  But, what about using it to get people to view instructional videos or read application manuals or guides.  Would the "game" distract from the readers ability to absorb the material?  My gut says it would work best when your goal is awareness not instruction, but who knows.  Getting someone to skim something is better than nothing! At least they would be aware that it's there, for when they're really interested.  Anyone tried something like this?

Certification and Associated Products

I mentioned in an earlier post that many in the certification industry are still debating the appropriateness of certifying agencies selling products or services other than certification.  The certification industry standards (like NCCA and ANSI) do NOT prevent selling products or service except under certain conditions like 1) requiring a separate product purchase as part of certification or 2) accrediting the education programs leading to the certification. 

However, some individuals believe certifying agencies should not sell education-related products and some believe they should not sell anything other than certification.  I don't get it.  If a product supports you in accomplishing your mission and goals, why shouldn't you sell it?  As an example, if your mission is public protection, why shouldn't you offer self-assessments to help your certificants indentify their learning needs?  Why shouldn't you offer an online searchable database of industry learning activities?  Why shouldn't you offer certificate programs in targeted areas where skills are lacking?  Aren't these products helping your cause? 

The usual argument is that it's a conflict of interest.  I don't see it.  Certainly, conflict can occur...if there is a professional association that also creates (or desires to create) these products.  But that's a competition (and political and turf) issue, not a conflict of interest.

So far I haven't heard a compelling argument for this "certification as the sole product" belief.  What do you think?

Real Certification Conversations

I just returned home from my annual mandated training by the American National Standards Institute for assessors evaluating conformance with ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 for accreditation of personnel certification programs.  It may not sound exciting, but it was the best certification professional development I've engaged in since, well, the same training event last year.  As a consultant, I'm most often in the position of educating others - which I love; however, educating others doesn't often stretch my mind, and this meeting offers that.

It's an opportunity to dialogue with over 20 of the nation's leading minds and voices in personnel certification.  Industry lawyers, psychometricians, program managers and consultants together discussing, debating and reaching consensus on the certification industry standards (we can't change the standards as they have been internationally adopted, but we are charged with U.S. interpretation and that's no small task).  As expected with any convening of industry leaders, there were divergent opinions present, but fortunately they were accompanied by open minds.  Great conversations.  Just one example of many:  we debated the appropriateness of certifying agencies selling other products and services.  More on this later...because I have a clear opinion on it. 

The meeting was two days; I would have stayed all week.  It left me wanting more.  Why aren't there more opportunities for real dialogue among industry experts (in any industry - not just certification)?  I'm so frustrated with traditional conferences where information spews forth, but few or no real conversations happen (except in the hallway). 

Amy Smith and I lead a session at Great Ideas 2007 that had no slides, all conversation.  One of the attendees said it was the best session they attended at the event.  One said our presentation style was the best they'd ever seen (we really facilitated the conversation and added to it, where we felt it would enhance the discussion).  Sure, Amy and I could have easily presented for 75 minutes, but for this topic (Just Because You've Always Done It That Way Doesn't Mean You Should), we wanted to hear from everyone regarding their challenges and solutions.  The conversation was rich, and the evaluations were strong - supporting the desire for this type of format.

One of my goals for 2008:  enable more conversations.  Not sure how I'm planning on doing that yet.  Any ideas, send them my way.

Certification is not your purpose

Recently I scanned the websites of numerous certifying agencies and found an alarming trend:  many mission statements read like this: "Our purpose is to certify members of the X industry."  Here are two REAL purpose statements that I found via my Web search:

  • To develop, maintain, promote and administer a high-quality certification and recertification program for (target audience).
  • To certify (target audience) and to identify, for the public, quality professionals through a system of certification, adjudication, standards of practice and continuing competency programs.

Yuck (and sorry if it's yours!).  Hear this:  CERTIFICATION IS NOT A PURPOSE.  Certification is a strategy to accomplish a purpose.  If  your mission/purpose statement reads like these, you've severely and unnecessarily limited the impact of your organization.  You need to uncover your real purpose.  Is it to protect the public?  Advance the profession? Better position individuals in the marketplace?  Once you've done that, you'll open yourself up to the possibilities of how your organization can accomplish your purpose.  While certification is one strategy, there are numerous others to consider.  More on this later.

Bill Gates, Not as You Would Imagine

Thanks to Garr Reynolds for pointing to this hilarious video of Bill Gates' last full day at Microsoft.  Watch it for humor alone, or imagine the viral campaign possibilities for such a video in your association.  But, how many leaders are willing to poke such fun at themselves?  I agree with Garr: "Take your message, your job, and your cause very seriously, but do not take yourself so seriously."

(Note: if the video won't show, try again later.  I think it's getting a lot of traffic based on the point from Garr.)