Today, half of the most senior military leadership in safety has (at least) an ASP. An average of two BCSP exams are passed every month by Airmen.
In 2010, not a single active-duty Airman held an ASP or CSP.
We sought buy-in: Senior leaders care about Airmen and the Air Force. We connected education and credentialing with this value, knowing our Air Force would be better off with highly-skilled professionals and Airmen would have better futures with advanced certifications.
We created a vision: Senior management drew a map. A career path map where certification was a path to better jobs in the military and highly desirable careers in the civilian work force. We knew that every future certificate would go through the five idea adoption stages (knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation).
We crafted a new environment: We took the vision and changed the landscape. Every safety student in every safety course would hear about credentialing. They would begin to see the certification as a normal part of career progression. Something that anyone really serious about the work would of course accomplish.
We made it aspirational: Every time an Airman took the exam (pass or fail) they were celebrated in public. We celebrated their courage to step up to the challenge, their desire to excel and develop professionally, and the example they set for others.
We knew the tipping point: Economists and Pareto says it’s 20 percent. Malcolm Gladwell even wrote a book about the threshold for critical mass in a movement. And, with credit to Gladwell, we used connectors, mavens, and salespersons to create enough innovators and early adopters to encourage the early majority (Diffusion of Innovation). Once the tipping point is reached, the adoption of the idea is self-sustaining.
We were honest: We had no idea if this would work at first. There are still doubts that linger as to the longevity of the idea. But we do know that, given the right tools and education and leadership, American Airman can accomplish amazing things. We don’t know if the tipping point is reached. We were honest about the credentialing too. It’s not really about the CSP. No certification can make a below-average professional suddenly outstanding (just like 30 years of experience doesn’t automatically create wisdom nor genius and the MBA doesn’t wake up as Warren Buffet). But the journey to the CSP does this: it breaks paradigms. It takes the courageous ones who pick up the challenge and makes them believe in themselves and see a further horizon. It tells the world that you’re ready for that opportunity of a lifetime. It sets an example for continuing education. It drives out the hypocrisy of “do as I say, not as I do”. It shows the boss that you are ready for more and subordinates that you set high goals for yourself as well.
That’s the plan.
I see it work a little every day.
I trust in the plan because just 30 years ago, an associate’s degree was unusual in the Air Force. Today, 85% of the safety career field holds an associates or higher. So I know that a change this significant is not only possible, but highly probable. And the best part? There are soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines safer around the world because of our highly-qualified Airmen. The Airmen who choose to pursue excellence and never settle for good enough.
Proud to serve with you.