There is much discussion nowadays on the value of PMP, PRINCE2, and various other certifications. And for good reasons, as you will experience both being acknowledged, being criticized – and being ignored – after having spent a massive amount of time and energy to get them.
So what should you do? Get the certificate and run? Meaning, stop spending time with your old friends and colleagues who obviously do not understand what is good and instead go out with your new friends from the PMP club.
Or should you run away from certifications and stick to your old friends and your old knowledge? Meaning, doing things like you have always done them, never finding out if there really was some greener grass elsewhere.
When you build a house, what values does that give you? Not just one, right? You can stay indoor, escaping from the wind and the rain. They are advantages, truly, bringing value with them. And you can show the house to the world and your friends, showing this way how successful you are or what a good taste you have. Or you can find a great hobby in growing the garden around the house. Values come in bundles.
So do they for knowledge. And certifications are all about knowledge. Knowledge to show off, knowledge to help you do the right things, knowledge to help you understand what you already knew. There are many kinds of value to gain from knowledge.
The certificate itself will help you display your new knowledge (or that you already had the knowledge, as some certifications claim). It will also show to others that you have been able to focus on doing the work needed to get there. It shows strength, commitment and achievement.
The time you spend learning the stuff you want to get certified in, is time spent well. As is all dedicated learning time. You push some barriers inside of your mind, you challenge old dogmas that you have been carrying around until now. And you understand that the world is bigger than you knew before, making you at the same time a bigger and a smaller person – bigger through the added knowledge but smaller in the expanded universe that you now see.
What is bad about certifications?
Knowledge changes you a bit from practical and action minded to thoughtful and considerate. Not a positive value ind the eyes of some who then disrespect you for gathering knowledge. They might feel that you are loosing value by it. Where you before were quick to do the wrong thing, you now become a bit slower to do the right thing. But they don’t know the difference between right and wrong if they didn’t learn what you learned – so they see only the change from quick to slower.
So what is bad is really that the others do not understand that it is good.
“In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” – well, but only if the blind understand the value of seeing. And how can anyone really understand such an abstract value if they have not somehow felt it themselves? Sometimes they simply understand that seeing is good, even though they do not know what it is. But often, in a certification context, those who do not know what a PMP has learned to become a PMP do not understand that it is good.
The use of the knowledge
What you learn to become certified is often a method or framework. There is usually some kind of practical use for it and you can, if circumstances are right, improve (or at least change) your ways of working in general or in different situations. This might be needed as the world is ever-changing and all the time requiring you to think in new ways.
It has often been mentioned, as a leftover from the time where “we were all craftsmen”, that the apprentice needs a method to stick to when doing tasks. When the method is on the back spine and is always being carried out correctly, the apprentice can now call himself a craftsman. A craftsman can then start experimenting and improvising, gradually leaving the method behind as just a step towards mastery, and some day, when the method has no meaning and everything is done by intuition and being adapted to the situation, he has become a master.
For that reason many people have such a feeling that getting certified in something that is basically a method must mean that you are an apprentice, a beginner, that you are without the experience needed to work as a master of your field. So they look down on certifications as something for beginners, while “real craftsmen do not need to read a book”, as some of my colleagues once told me when I brought a handful of books with me at work.
The code of honour states that those who just do something without preparing, without thinking, are better and stronger – and more honourable – people. A leftover from a time where we were all wild animals acting solely upon our instincts, if you ask me. Modern thinking people should make use of their ability to learn – and keep learning all their life. They should not feel ashamed of learning a method on top of all their experience and intuition – they should feel proud and happy.
When using this new knowledge, of course you will combine it with whatever knowledge and experience you already have. But you must give yourself a chance to learn this new concept fully before starting to adapt it, as there are often several elements of it that need to be considered together. A bit of systemic thinking is needed for an old dog to be able to learn new tricks.
So, really – you choose!
You can choose to stick to an oldfashioned stubbornness that requires you to believe that you are already perfect and cannot learn anything new, less get inspired by others.
Or you can choose to keep improving yourself for the sake of personal development and wellbeing as well as of doing your job as good as possible, adapting to an ever-changing world.
What do you choose?