***December 2012 update – Visit our updated KM education site, www.kmeducation.com, and watch our video on the Certified KMer myth***
I want to be clear at the outset of this blog that this is not an attempt to discredit any organisation involved in KM education. It is intended as a statement of observation that looks to pose questions on the progression of professional KM education.
Let me ask you this: Would you hire a finance manager without a CPA qualification? Would you have the confidence in their competence? I’ll take a guess that your answer is, probably not! I am not suggesting for a moment that KM can be governed in the same way as the public accounting field. My aim is to highlight the fact that perhaps more attention needs to be given to the education and experience required to work in the KM field.
I believe that education and experience is a fundamental issue for KM. For me, informed by research, such as our global KM Observatory survey, dissatisfaction in KM can often be linked to poor knowledge and understanding of what the concept is actually about and how it is being delivered. We need benchmarks for education and experience if the field is to mature. A ‘Certified’ Knowledge Manager qualification is both needed and in demand. However, outside of the formal education route, there isn’t an accepted global, or even regionalised, benchmark qualification.
We have a field that is devoid of an accepted definition; high in dissatisfaction; experiencing diminished application as a strategic management tool; and struggling to demonstrate value. Surely it is time to address these issues at a higher level. Surely it is time for a body of people to take a grip of our field and provide a qualification framework that will help define the scope and scale of the field and bring credibility to the function in organisations.
There is some excellent work being done to progress KM on the academic front; for example, see the work of Kent State University or Bangkok University. However, this, in my opinion, is not enough when it comes to the body of professionals that work under the title of ‘Knowledge Manager’. There are organisations providing ‘solutions’, offering ‘Certified Knowledge Manager’ training: for example, KMPro and KM Institute, the latter claiming:
KM Institute’s knowledge management training programs are the de facto standard worldwide today because they focus on the practical application of KM techniques. KM Institute is also the only organisation offering a standard curriculum in the Americas, Asia, Australia, Middle East and Europe. This makes it invaluable to global organisations who can rest assured that their knowledge workers get the same training and resources, wherever they are located
I have no problem with ‘Certified Knowledge Manager’ qualifications, if they are really are what they say on the tin, ‘Certified’ – against a set of industry standards that frame the education and experience of the person ‘certified’. I do not believe that it is wise to promote a “de facto standard” for our field that does not apply a framework to assess the ‘graduates’ competence. Perhaps what we are actually speaking of, in this case, is more an accreditation certificate; such as that offered by Cognitive-Edge. Going back to the CPA example that I used at the outset of this blog, compare the certification framework for the ‘de facto‘ standard for accountants with that of the organisation mentioned above. Also, a de facto standard would seem to mean that it has been adopted by industry and academia across the world. This is most certainly not the case. The proof? The Russel Group Universities are 20 of the UK’s top Higher Education Institutions, “committed to the highest levels of academic excellence in both teaching and research”, and none of them recognise the ‘worldwide de facto standard’ for course credit or even entry. How many of the 283 KM vacancies, from around the world, advertised on Twitter during the period between March 2010 and June 2010, requested this de facto industry standard qualification as either an essential or desirable requirement for employment? None! How about the number of companies currently advertising KM jobs on ‘Monster.com’? Are you getting the sense that there is a theme here?
You might argue that we cannot have an accepted benchmark qualification due to the breadth of concepts that fall under the KM umbrella, especially when considering the dualism of people and technology (I believe that we need to start thinking in terms of duality and a good education programme could lay the foundation for this). I would argue that this is exactly why we need leadership in this area. We need to frame the field and a benchmark qualification could assist in achieving this. I also believe that we have a duty of care to those who hold a ‘certified’ qualification to ensure that it is just that; a certificate where they have demonstrated their competence and can truly refer to themselves as ‘Certified Knowledge Managers’
Our field needs credibility. Where is the credibility in producing ‘Certified Knowledge Managers’ who do not have to demonstrate competence to gain ‘certification’? Take a look at organisations such as the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development for examples of industry standard qualifications in Human Resource Management/Development – qualifications that are recognised by, and delivered in, Higher Education Institutions. In fairness KM training organisations, such as KMPro, are working towards competence based qualifications, evidenced in their exam preparation guidance, issued by their own KM Certification Board. However, even here, we do not have an industry standard. There is no agreement on curriculum content or even exactly how KM should be operationalised in an organisation.
I might be expecting too much and I am happy to accept accusations of idealism, when perhaps I should be pragmatic, but knowledge will continue to be a vital resource for organisations and, therefore, this issue will not go away. A lack of consensus on content and standards across academic and professional bodies breeds inertia and that just doesn’t seem good enough. Institutions such as Kent State appear to be moving the field in the right direction. However, until we find an acceptable professional benchmark qualification for our field, there is an ongoing risk to the credibility of operational KM.