A credential is a fancy word for granting a person status. It represents a qualification, an ability to perform an action, typically certifying experience or some form of indication that the credentialed individual can repeat an action. It’s a social proof of work. Granted by an authority to an individual or institution. Credentialing was necessary when civilization lived in communal silos separated by time, space and means of communication. It was a way for a person in one community to travel to another and transfer established trust in their abilities by sharing a credential imbued by a highly known and trusted institution.
The internet has broken down silo’d communities and altered the concept of traditional credentialing.
The social proof and cornerstone behind credentialing is the establishment of trust. Trust in a person’s ability to facilitate future outcomes and trust in the validity of past experiences. The new connected world created an environment where an individual could establish a paper trail of past experience and a reputation in specific fields.
The internet also made it possible for these same individuals to broadcast this experience and reputation to a massive global audience establishing a new type of social proof of work. This new path toward achieving social proof and trust created a set of interesting options for people that wanted to diverge from standardized paths of achieving public trust. Meaning that people can now pursue a living on their own terms, greatly reducing the power of traditional institutions.
The alteration of the social proofing landscape is still in the early stages with many people seeking traditional paths to become credentialed. As social proof of work becomes a prevalent option traditional credentialing paths will start to falter with increasing frequency. One of the most well known examples of a failing credentialing system is the standard education industry.
Standardized education prices are rising in the face of increasing numbers of “How to” educational content focused on internet enabled social proof of work credentialing paths. This dynamic creates a real threat to the standardized model of credentialing because it creates a miss pricing of credentialing within the industry as a whole.
As an example, suppose a set of individuals wants to become business analytics professionals. One individual chooses to go the traditional route of pursuing a standardized college education while the other decides to use online resources and learning in public. The standardized path includes tuition of between $35,000 and $60,000. For the sake of argument lets assume it’s $35,000. The individual that chose non-traditional education has general expenses of $2,000 (conservatively high).
At the end of 4 years of university, the first student has a well rounded education and a significant pile of debt. The student takes an entry level job with a pay scale that sets them up for modern indentured servitude. Like most students in this situation, the student is stuck as a cog in the wheel of society until they are able to pay down their debt.
The other student is able to focus their education on specializing on business analysis from the start. Learning core skills early and performing project based work along the way. These projects won’t pay much if anything at first, but the student will have the opportunity to document their progress via a blog and social apps such as twitter and linkedin along the way.
As they pursue their learning in public and over time, they will be able to engage with the business analytics community. Finding mentors and impressing individuals with their learning progress, ability to structure their thoughts and an ability to create a path forward on their own.
In developing tactics to engage the community an individual on this path will develop well rounded practical skills to bring into a professional setting. Ultimately this form of social proof comes with establishing a public reputation and over a long enough arch of time, leads to inbound job opportunities that do not take four years to cultivate.
This is obviously an extreme example.
It glosses over a lot of the hard work involved and there is an element of reduced risk that accompanies traditional paths that is lost on the new form of credentialing. With that said, when the concept is scaled up, across the many forms of educational credentialing offered, its possible to see that many traditional education paths are vulnerable to this new type of social proof building.
This internet age method of credentialing requires time, an ability to seek out thought leaders, a fearless mindset to document and learn in public, and an ability to take consistent and intentional action over a long timeline. As more individuals seek this non-traditional route it will begin the steady realignment of how credentialing is completed in the years to come.