#266 – Retraining Yourself for the Future

The local university college has a big sign outside saying: “Retrain Yourself for the Future“. The thing is – what is offered is at best years behind the current practice in the industry. If you certify towards a body of knowledge, you forget about the learning journey and only on the outcome. Innovation yet happens in many ways – and industry practitioners are only one form to train for.

The State of Academia

[the way I] talk about skills and expertise was too rigid – they’re built for yesterday’s understanding of what created value

Guy Dickinson: “Skills as a System

I could imagine that, even if testing was being taught in colleges, it would be based on the previous bodies of knowledge. All in the best intention of teaching (sic) “best” practices. Similarly, training in project management methodologies would be based on PMP / PMI. Jenna and Simon recently tweeted about this topic. (Thank you both for the inspiration for this blog post).

One of the challenges with academia is that it takes too long for practices to emerge as training courses. Before a course is offered there needs to be years of practitioners, years of know-how gathered, an institution willing to adapt, and a teacher to champion it. Often colleges prefer to keep stable operations with known courses, and not to react to a changing market. (A well-known story). To change requires both the willingness to learn and the opportunity.

Another challenge is that what is usually considered “good market practice” is rather codified know-how of how things used to work at the time of writing. Even the authors of the much-hyped “Spotify model” (from 2012) say that their article was simply a moment in time, – and was not even correct at the time of writing.

The Certifiable Knowledge

Wardley maps can be used to understand knowledge. A key discussion when talking about knowledge is the differences between certifiable (explicit) knowledge and experiential (implicit) knowledge. In Ben Mosior‘s map of certificates below it’s illustrated – that while companies seek to find trust by requesting that employees have certificates, trust is not certifiable. Secondly, the map also illustrates that certifiable knowledge only exists for elements that are already accepted or theorized. Certificates (also in testing) are a symptom of the industrialized and commodities, of interchangeable components.  

Originally tweeted by ben @HiredThought on June 30, 2020.

It is the same story with agile: Hollow Practices and Evolution: “The artifacts, the jargon, and certifiable knowledge are all still valuable. But it’s their combination with actual use that unlocks the meaning the practice seeks to create.

While you certify towards a body of knowledge, typically a standard or a curriculum, the implementation of the practice in a team is a separate level on the map, ranging from the novel time-consuming acts – to the acts that you only focus on the activities that have matured and become embedded or pervasive.

The learning journey > any piece of paper that “proves” you can do something.

Maaike Brinkhof, https://twitter.com/Maaikees/status/1405803683602866176

So What to do About it

Areti reminded me (thank you, too) that we need all three types of innovators: the framework creators, the framework implementers, and the framework maintainers. I am fond of recruiting for Curiosity and Imagining That Things Can Be Different. While I prefer to learn from new ideas and patterns – others need to be there to innovate solutions in other ways. All three views on innovation help and build on one another.

We do need colleges to train entry-level knowledge on industry practices (albeit being out of sync with the industry*) and we do need the innovators’ continuous experiments and tinkering mindset. Even if it’s half-baked wishful thinking like at Spotify.

To retrain for your future – work on where you can apply the three innovation mindsets.

*: we don’t need colleges that don’t as a minimum recognize and credit experienced viewpoints.

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