Liam Hughes from Biggerplate recently announced that It has launched a certification program for mind mapping software. While this is a noble effort to elevate the professionalism and competence of mind mappers, I’m afraid it’s likely to have limited value as a professional development tool.
Anyone can declare a certification. I’ve seen it done many times, in numerous professions. But it only has value if employers and practitioners see it as having value.
I’m not being critical of Liam and his team. I wish them well with this initiative. But having been involved for many years in industries that have had certifications or have considered launching them, I have a fairly deep understanding of how they work.
The triangle of certification
It’s helpful to think of the structure of professional accreditation as a triangle, with the practitioner, the accrediting organization and the employers in that industry or profession as the three points of the triangle.
Employers view certified practitioners as attractive candidates because they have a proven level of knowledge, expertise and competence that is spelled out by the certification. This helps employers reduce risk when hiring new people.
For practitioners, certification can help them stand out compared to their uncertified peers. They may be offered better job opportunities and be promoted faster because they have acquired a recognized, accredited skill set.
For the accrediting organization, it often helps to elevate the level of professionalism in the industry or profession.
For example, public relations professionals can become APR – but it requires months of study, followed by a rigorous exam.
Engineers can become “PE’s” – professional engineers. This certification is actually very important because it gives the employer some level of legal protection in product liability lawsuits. It’s tangible proof of the engineer’s level of competence. PE’s are required to accumulate a certain number of PDH’s (professional development hours) in order to maintain that prestigious designation.
Who oversees certification?
Usually, certification is tied to a university, a government agency, a trade or professional association or some other trusted institution. Its job is to validate that the training and exam accurately represent real-world skills that are needed to achieve a certain level of competence in that industry or profession.
Typically, practitioners achieve certification through consistent, yearly training, for which they get CEUs or other types of professional learning credits. Many industries and professions also require periodic exams to verify that their knowledge continues to meet the accredited standards.
But here’s the rub…
Certification only has value if employers think it does.
Otherwise, it’s a nice to have a distinction that may look good on a resume or in a LinkedIn profile. But if employers don’t consider it to be a key criterion when selecting a candidate to fill a position, it will have limited value.
So where does this leave mind mapping certification?
It’s definitely in the category of nice to have. Certification on a specific type of productivity software doesn’t carry a lot of weight with potential employers, especially for a genre of software as obscure as mind mapping.
If a job requires skill in using Microsoft Office, they want to know that candidates have experience using it – not a certification in it.
The fact that there is no official certification for Microsoft Office programs tells a story. There are thousands of vocational schools that teach people how to use these programs. People list this training in their resumes. But it’s far from being a certified skill set.
If this hasn’t happened with Microsoft Office, it’s doubtful that competency in using mind mapping software will ever become a certified requirement.
On the other hand, I CAN picture it being one heck of a conversation started during an interview. I can easily picture an interviewer asking: “So tell me about this mind mapping certification. What’s that all about?“ If you have a story prepared to tell, it’s a great opportunity to explain how this form of visual thinking gives you some real advantages!
How can Biggerplate add veracity to its certification?
In the absence of a third-party trusted organization to manage the certification, Biggerplate could create an advisory board or committee that would provide input on the training and testing needed to become a certified mind mapper.
Once again, in closing, my intent is not to be critical of Biggerplate’s certification program. But I do feel it’s my duty to give you a better understanding of what certification actually MEANS.