Posts Tagged ‘CSEP’

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CERTIFICATION AND LEARNING

December 29, 2010

Over 25 years ago when the CMP certification was launched, I was VP of Operations for the Meetings Division at Carlson Marketing Group. This was long before CMP discussion/study groups were formed, as the certification concept was in its infancy.  But surrounded with a staff of meeting planners with varying degrees of expertise, in January, 1986, I ordered the PCMA Preparation Manual for the Exam and the First Edition of Professional Meeting Management, and introduced the 25 disciplines covered to my staff of meeting planners.  Each was assigned a section, and asked to review the topic and then present it to the team for discussion as part of the weekly staff meetings. 

I envisioned the manual as a good training tool; and better yet, one that would save me the time of organizing my own knowledge and thoughts to create tools myself.  But along the way, I observed an interesting phenomenon-each planner instinctively used personal experiences to illustrate what they learned, and the audience quickly shared their own experience to support or question the point being discussed.  In some cases, we decided the manual did not always reflect the world of corporate meetings as we knew it – but we simply assumed this was because of innate differences between corporate and association meetings.

Eventually, I decided to actually sit for the exam and off I went to Chicago to be tested; and became one of the first five CMPs in the State of Minnesota.  And yet, the process was somewhat disconcerting.  It seemed I had some trouble with questions relating to AV Equipment and Production.  Really?  How could that be – by this time I had been responsible for AV Production and Equipment for a $15 million division of CMG for almost five years!  Surely, I knew the basics.  As I reviewed the questions I missed, I was irritated to find that I did give the correct answers; however my answers reflected emerging technology and practices not in place when the manuals, study guides and exams were authored. 

And with that, I experienced the first disillusionment encompassing certification-it is too time-specific for an ever-evolving industry.  The second, of course, was that no client in the world really knows what CMP means even these 25 years later, so it does not offer much value in terms of one’s promotability.  Nevertheless, I generally supported the process; advising those considering sitting for the exam not to expect a raise, or more business, but to concentrate on the real value – the process of interacting with one’s peers in the learning process.

And then a decade or so ago, another certification process emerged – this time for the CSEP.  Most who know me have heard me say that I would like to be part of a study group, but have no intention of sitting for the exam.  I believe my credentials and client successes speak well for my knowledge; I am not sure testing facts and practices at any given point in time is meaningful; and although I commend those that have risen to the challenge and successfully earned the designation, I do not see the benefit for me personally.   I accept that attitude as partly an age thing and partly just my quirky personality, and really have not given it much thought – unless I am questioned as to why I have not pursued the certification.  I have been encouraged, however, to see that process in the event world continue to emerge – from measuring how well one memorized definition of terms, to more emphasis on measuring process and innovative problem-solving within an event environment

But in the last two weeks, this nagging certification issue has fallen into place for me, thanks to my newfound “bible” – The NEW Social Learning.  The authors define learning as a “transformative process of taking in information that- when internalized and mixed with what we have experienced- changes what we know and builds on what we can do.”  Learning is based on input, process and reflections.

Despite being a disciple of new emerging ideas in the learning field, I was surprised to see that 70% of learning and development takes place from real-life, on-the-job experiences, tasks and problem-solving;  20% from other people in formal or informal feedback, mentoring or coaching situations; and only 10% from formal training.  That caught my attention and reminded me how we intuitively polished our planning skills so long ago in the Meetings Division by interacting with our peers and sharing personal experiences.

But the authors pushed further as they suggested that the traditional corporate training model is being modernized to take advantage of incidental learning, learning from interacting with others, and learning along the way in the course of doing work.   They further suggest that traditional training methods may survive and will prove useful for teaching highly specific tasks or safety procedures, but evolving practices require more.

There is no doubt in my mind that I have been a part of an evolving industry for 30 years, and in the last 10 of those years, it is an industry that has speeded up exponentially.  Every day our base of best practices is redefined and so, too, are the “right answers “ of yesterday proven to be dated and even wrong. 

So that explains the dilemma of testing knowledge at a given point in time as in my CMP experience…but it does not provide the answer to how one measures learning nor how one ensures that once certified, one continues to learn.  And while I have not thought enough about this particular topic of certification and its value, it does reinforce for me that it is merely a first step in a big process.

 If in fact one sits back after certification and considers oneself the proven “expert”, I fear we would end up with an industry out-of-sync with the rest of the world. I personally am not too motivated to tackle the grueling testing process needed to add those coveted additional initials to my name and so, for now,  will keep my own energies focused on continuing learning instead.  

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