Certifying Generalists vs Specialists

Seth Godin's recent blog post has interesting implications for certification.

Says Seth: "If the world is really bigger, if you can find the best in the world to do what you want, no matter what it is you want, does that change things?

If I need an animator, I can find the world's best animator. If I need a bond to insure my movie, I can find the best broker at selling completion bonds. If I need SEO help, get me the world's best SEO person. If I need braces, I can find the best orthodontist in my area. Not the second-best or someone who will try really hard or someone who is pretty good at that and also good at other things. Sure, there are occasional tasks where a diagnostician with wide-ranging experience is important (but I'd argue that that's a specialty in and of itself).

When choice is limited, I want a generalist. When selection is difficult, a jack of all trades is just fine.  But whenever possible, please bring me a brilliant specialist.

If you're shaking your head in agreement with this obvious point, then the question is: tell me again why you're a generalist?"

And, why is it that almost all certification programs certify and recertify generalists?  That is, if recertification is by examination, that exam is a generalist exam (usually the same exam given to initial applicants).  If recertification is by continuing education, diversity of content is acceptable...and sometimes mandated. 

I don't mean to oversimplify the issue, which is a complex one.  There's the expense factor, of course, of having multiple assessments.  Then, there's the issue that if you're issuing one credential, shouldn't it have the same requirements and mean the same for everyone (which it wouldn't if you have specialist examinations or other pathways).   But I think it's something to think about.

Look at the PE (professional engineer) - here's an example of a credential that is diverse from the beginning. PEs, regardless of their specialty in civil, electrical, etc., all take specialty exams, but they all use the same credential (for licensure, btw).  I think it's an intriguing model for certifying agencies to consider.

Certification Gets Social!

Here's a group who's documenting their creation of an industry certification program through a blog.  This one's pretty basic, but the possibilities are endless.  What a great way to be transparent (and informative) with members of a profession about the development process...and I could see how there would be easy opportunities for engaging and seeking input along the way. 

I've actually now found 6 blogs sponsored by certifying agencies (plus many more by candidates/certificants).  I've also found several social networking groups of certified individuals and/or applicants...and several videos on YouTube.  Certifying agencies are finally starting to get social!   I'll point you to many of these in upcoming posts.  Blogs, videos, and online communities are outstanding marketing opportunities for you; don't discount them!

If it were only that easy...

Wow, who knew creating successful associations and certification programs was sooooooooooo easy.  According to this YouTube video and website, anyway. 




It disheartens me to know that someone is out there advocating that individuals create "associations" and "certifications" as revenue generating machines for their businesses...and based on the testimonials, that people are buying it (figuratively and literally).