Can you accredit Wisdom? That is, can you give it a stamp of approval, even via a formal process, say one connected to a reputable University? It sounds like an almost preposterous question, but can you give someone a postgraduate certificate in wisdom? At Mayvin, we have the audacity to think that may just be possible.
For the last few months now, we have been in a fruitful conversation with The University of Chichester about this very thing. Along with our partner, Dr Richard Hale, we have been offering a number of our clients a process for practice development, based on Action Learning.
People come up with a practical ‘how can I…?’ question, and work on this question through the life of an action learning group, made up of interested peers, who are all working on parallel but unique questions of their own. We facilitate the learning set and provide technical input specific to the client business, be it Organisation Development Capability Building, Leadership Development or HR practice.
The technical knowledge is important, at least initially, because it gives people a map of the field they are in. We find that often people ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and are reassured to have clarity about this territory. But increasingly, as things progress, what comes into the foreground are the skills, and indeed wisdom, to make fine grained, politically astute and nuanced decisions in the heat of the organisational engine room. These wise decisions are often nuanced, local and timely, like the choice between two high quality candidates for a new post, or the decision, right now, to invest or not in new equipment.
So, in this wisdom-training, participants are not only making the important decisions that keep the wheels turning, but are also learning vital evaluative and critical thinking skills.
This is where the accreditation comes in. If we map these skills to a postgraduate framework of assessment, which takes some painstaking work, and an open-minded University, it is then possible to come up with a framework that can offer people the chance to accredit this wisdom, whilst in the service of the everyday life of their business. We call this ‘double duty’, that is, learning about stuff whilst doing the work; a very efficient method of learning in time-poor businesses, that incidentally tallies perfectly with the Center for Creative Leadership’s famous ‘70:20:10’ formula.
The beauty of this (and the challenge to traditional executive education) is it is less about the technical tools and models and more about bringing out the wisdom and discernment that comes from within the candidate themselves.
We have used it in a very flexible range of settings, and to the great satisfaction of many of our clients. For example, for the last three years, we have been working with the UK Civil Service, providing capability development for HRBPs and Change Consultants in the skills and practice of Organisation Development. In doing so, using the Action Learning Question model, (in this context called the Organisation Development Question, or ‘ODQ’) we have accredited the practice of over 200 people to postgraduate level.
Meanwhile, these participants have been delivering change programmes that have made a real difference across government, from revamping a change community of 100+ within the Ministry of Defence to make them more joined up and efficient, to significantly upgrading the way HMRC goes about designing its teams, to make them more closely aligned to what the department is trying to achieve. As one of the participants on the OD Programme put it:
“You provided a challenging and supportive learning environment in which you consistently helped me translate the theory into practice.”
We are delighted that we now can offer this type of flexible accreditation on any of our development programmes, across the curriculum of leadership, personal and organisation development and design, as well as HR practice by working with the University of Chichester in the UK, and the Australian Institute of Management covering the Asia Pacific region.
We believe that with care and attention to what the business needs, and what people need to do to make this happen, it is possible to make the audacious claim that we can give wisdom the stamp of postgraduate approval.