If you have followed me for a while, you know that a big chunk of my work is about Open Recognition. It started when I was 18 and I was a year into Emma’s College. I was designing my own learning and was on track to not earn any degree whatsoever. By choice.
People around me kept asking if I was not afraid, because, in the end, I was not going to get a degree. And everyone knows you need a degree not to get in trouble in ‘the grown-up world’. It’s common to think that entrepreneurs are risk-averse people. Gunslingers, free spirits, adrenaline junkies - they just don’t fear risk as others do.
The truth is they do. Adam Grant writes about this in his book Originals. He explains that entrepreneurs are not less sensitive to risk, rather they are better at risk assessment. Entrepreneurship makes me happy and the chances of me ever being employed are fairly small, so not having a degree was never an unmanageable risk for me.
Why I became fascinated by diplomas, certification, and all that other jazz, was because I was looking for peers. Even though I loved not being confined to the walls of an educational institute, I also missed having classmates. But how were those real-world classmates ever going to find me if I didn’t make visible what I was doing? That’s why I started the Emma’s College blog.
Slowly I started working more with Open Badges and got a chance to consult the first high school in the Netherlands actively using them. Although the technology of Open Badges offers a lot of opportunities, just the tool is just... well a tool. And that tool can also be used by traditional schools and universities to do what they have been doing for hundreds of years, only now digital.
Digital innovation needs some guidance, a school of thought that defines how the innovation should be used. Open Recognition resonated with me.
Open Recognition has one goal: to increase collective knowledge through the democratization of recognition. The idea is that if one individual recognizes another individual’s skills/knowledge, we all win three times:
The individual that gets recognized gets lit under a spotlight that is the key to reward, referral, and growth of skill.
The individual that recognizes reaffirms their own expertise because it takes one to know one.
Society wins as we have grown in collective metaknowledge, all the knowledge we have about what we can and know as mankind.
I have been saying this same list in lectures for years. Today in conversation with Sol Bee Jung (who is doing amazing work with her company for children with a developmental delay in South Korea) I realized I had never put it on paper.
So here’s the deal:
It takes expertise, to be able to recognize expertise.
The whole discussion about peer-to-peer recognition, social validation of skills, and the idea that we have transitioned into a ‘society navigated by likes and reviews’ has a danger to become a surface-level game of head nodding. Of course, we are awesome at sharing our recognition of masters. We are a collaborative species and need each other.
If I ask you if you know a good baker, probably you can recommend me a bakery. In this instance I am using your ability to recognize the expertise level of a customer, to gain a new experience on the same level of expertise. Simply said: we both just want to buy bread and know very little about how it’s made. If we want to talk about recognition beyond the level of mere recognizing we need a theoretical framework. Just as the emergence of the concept of emotional IQ, or EQ has helped to develop the discourse and academic research on what emotional intelligence exactly is, I propose we start taking recognition intelligence seriously.
I’ll start with a little piece I’ve been thinking about:
Recognition IQ has different dimensions:
Recognition from layman to master.
E.g. ‘Erin is a kick-ass wedding planner, you should hire them’
Recognition from student to student.
E.g two brand new hires who help each other find their way at their new job.
Recognition from master to student.
E.g. A mentor writing you a reference letter for a college application.
Recognition from master to master.
E.g. An scientist peer-reviewing a fellow researchers’ work.
In our lives, we all need to learn how to navigate those dimensions. Some are implicit and can even be nonverbal. Remember the teacher winking at you when they saw you explain something to the kid next to you? And others are very formal and written, such as a diploma or public endorsement.
More soon, for now - have an amazing week.
PS: yes I’m back and missed you like crazy.
I absolutely love this! I am a huge fan of Open Badges and the digital credential movement, but I haven't heard it described in quite this way before. I am not totally sold on using the language of "master" to represent the pinnacle of expertise, but that may just be my hang up. Please keep writing in this area. I think you have so much to offer!