Cisco Systems Inc. specializes in networking and communications products and services. The company is probably best known for its business routing and switching products, which direct data, voice, and video traffic across networks around the world. However, Cisco also offers storage networking, applications for unified communications, telepresence and collaboration (WebEx), and an array of services from simple product support to complete solutions for data centers and cloud management.
To ensure that IT professionals have the skills and knowledge necessary to support Cisco products and solve customers’ technology problems on many fronts, the Cisco Career Certification program is all-embracing. That is, it begins at the entry level, then advances to associate, professional, and expert levels, and (in some certification areas) caps things off at the architect level.
Each level offers one or more credentials. Obtaining a credential usually involves passing one or more certification exams. Most Cisco exams are delivered by Pearson VUE. For higher-level credentials, candidates must also prove they meet necessary prerequisites. The higher the level of certification, the more credentials and prerequisites one needs to meet those requirements.
Certifications within Cisco’s portfolio include the following credentials:
There are many certifications and paths one can take in Cisco’s career program. That said, its two main paths cover network operation and network design. A typical Cisco networking certification ladder begins with the entry-level CCENT credential, moves up to the CCNA, onto the CCNP and culminates with the CCIE. The design-oriented might instead consider starting with the CCENT, moving up to the CCDA, then the professional-level CCDP, followed by the CCDE, and finish the program with the CCAr.
The Cisco Career Certification program also includes a number of specializations. These certifications acknowledge a professional’s skills in a specific Cisco technology, such as data center application services, voicemail and messaging or rich media. Cisco specializations are organized into two primary categories: one targeting technical certified and another targeting digital transformation specialists. Between these two categories, there are currently 15 specializations among which IT pros can choose.
The Technical Specialist category includes specializations across six subcategories:
Digital Transformation certified includes credentials geared to Business Architecture and Customer Success.
Achieving a specialist credential generally requires passing one or two exams. Some credentials also impose prerequisites.
Entry-, associate- and professional-level credentials are valid for three years, CCIE and specialist certifications are valid for two years and the CCAr is valid for five years. To keep certifications current, Cisco professionals need to recertify by passing a recertification exam or advancing to a higher level in Cisco’s certification hierarchy.
Cisco has two entry-level credentials: the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) and the Cisco Certified Technician (CCT). No prerequisites are needed to obtain either the CCENT or CCT credential, and candidates must pass a single exam to earn each credential.
CCENT certified professionals install, maintain and troubleshoot small networks or a branch of an enterprise network, and implement basic network security. The CCENT credential is a prerequisite for some associate-level CCNA solution track credentials and the CCDA.
CCTs work onsite at customer locations, diagnosing issues and repairing or replacing network-related equipment. A CCT can choose one of several specialty tracks, which currently includes Data Center and Routing and Switching.
Certification Exams Number of Questions Time to Complete CCENT 100-105 ICND1 45-55 90 minutes CCT Data Center 010-151 DCTECH 65-75 90 minutes CCT Routing & Switching 640-692 RSTECH 60-70 90 minutes
Cisco’s associate-level certifications include the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and the Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA). One must pass one or two certification exams to achieve a CCNA or CCDA credential, depending on the track you choose.
The CCNA recognizes basic skills in installing, supporting, and troubleshooting wired and/or wireless networks. One can choose from several tracks, including Cloud, Collaboration, Cyber Ops, Data Center, Industrial, Routing and Switching, Security, Service Provider and Wireless. The CCNA is a prerequisite for the professional-level CCNP certification. Prerequisites for the CCNA vary depending on the solution track chosen as do the number of required exams. All solution tracks require either one or two exams.
Cisco created the CCDA to identify individuals who can design basic wired and wireless networks, and incorporate security and voice solutions. The CCDA is a prerequisite for the CCDP certification. To obtain the CCDA, candidates must possess either a valid CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switching (or any CCIE certification), and pass a single additional exam.
|Certification||Exams||Number of Questions||Time to Complete|
|CCDA||200-310 DESGN||55-65||75 minutes|
|CCNA Cloud||210-451 CLDFND||55-65||90 minutes|
|210-455 CLDADM||55-65||90 minutes|
|CCNA Collaboration||210-060 CICD||55-65||75 minutes|
|210-065 CIVND||55-65||75 minutes|
|CCNA Cyber Ops||210-250 SECFND||55-60||90 minutes|
|210-255 SECOPS||60-70||90 minutes|
|CCNA Data Center||200-150 DCICN||55-65||90 minutes|
|200-155 DCICT||65-75||120 minutes|
|CCNA Industrial||200-601 IMINS2||65-75||90 minutes|
|CCNA Routing and Switching**||200-125 CCNA||60-70||90 minutes|
|100-105 ICND1||45-55||90 minutes|
|200-105 ICND2||55-65||90 minutes|
|CCNA Security||210-260 IINS||60-70||90 minutes|
|CCNA Service Provider||640-875 SPNGN1||65-75||90 minutes|
|640-878 SPNGN2||65-75||90 minutes|
|CCNA Wireless||200-355 WIFUND||60-70||90 minutes|
**Candidates for the CCNA Routing and Switching may take exam 200-125 OR exam 100-105 plus 200-105.
Cisco’s professional-level credentials include two main programs: the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and the Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP). To obtain the CCDP, one must pass three certification exams and possess both the CCDA and CCNA Routing and Switching credentials or any Cisco CCIE or CCDE certification.
All CCNP solution tracks, except Routing and Switching, require candidates to pass four exams. Only three exams are required for the CCNP: Routing and Switching credential. Prerequisites for all CCNP solution tracks include either the lower-level CCNA credential or any CCIE credential. The CCNP: Service Provider credential also accepts the Cisco Certified Internet Professional (CCIP) credential as a prerequisite (which retired in 2012).
The CCNP credential recognizes professionals who plan, deploy, and troubleshoot local networks and wide area networks. The CCNP tracks are the same as those for the CCNA, except for Industrial and Cyber Ops, which are not offered in the CCNP track. The CCNP is recommended to climb up to the next step on the cert ladder – the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert.
The CCDP identifies proficiency in designing and deploying scalable networks and multilayer-switched networks. From the CCDP, you can move on to the Cisco Certified Design Expert.
|Certification||Exams||Number of Questions||Time to Complete|
|CCDP||300-101 ROUTE||45-65||120 minutes|
|300-115 SWITCH||30-40||120 minutes|
|300-320 ARCH||60-70||75 minutes|
|CCNP Cloud||300-460 CLDINF||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-465 CLDDES||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-470 CLDAUT||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-475 CLDACI||55-65||90 minutes|
|CCNP Collaboration||300-070 CIPTV1||65-75||75 minutes|
|300-075 CIPTV2||50-60||75 minutes|
|300-080 CTCOLLAB||55-65||75 minutes|
|300-085 CAPPS||55-65||75 minutes|
|CCNP Data Center**||300-175 DCUCI||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-165 DCII||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-170 DCVAI||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-160 DCID||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-180 DCIT||70-80||90 minutes|
|CCNP Routing and Switching||300-101 ROUTE||45-65||120 minutes|
|300-115 SWITCH||30-40||120 minutes|
|300-135 TSHOOT||15-25||120 minutes|
|CCNP Security||300-208 SISAS||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-206 SENSS||65-75||90 minutes|
|300-209 SIMOS||65-75||90 minutes|
|300-210 SITCS||65-75||90 minutes|
|CCNP Service Provider||642-883 SPROUTE||65-75||90 minutes|
|642-885 SPADVROUTE||65-75||90 minutes|
|642-887 SPCORE||65-75||90 minutes|
|642-889 SPEDGE||65-75||90 minutes|
|CCNP Wireless||300-360 WIDESIGN||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-365 WIDEPLOY||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-370 WITSHOOT||55-65||90 minutes|
|300-375 WISECURE||55-65||90 minutes|
**CCNP Data Center may take either the 300-160 or 300-180 exam.
Cisco’s expert-level credentials embrace two primary certifications: the coveted Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and the Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE). Neither certification imposes prerequisites, but one must pass a written exam and a rigorous practical exam to earn either of these credentials.
Beginning in July 2016, Cisco updated its expert-level exams to include an evolving technologies domain. This new domain targets cloud, network programmability and the IoT, and it accounts for 10 percent of the total exam score. Cisco may change the syllabus included in this domain to reflect emerging technologies as they reach strong enough commercial interest, potential and presence to make them examworthy. The company describes this mechanism as a way to help future-proof its certifications so that employers may assume that those who hold current credentials are also up to speed on important new networking technologies.
For many network-track professionals, achieving the CCIE is the highlight of their careers. A CCIE has expert technical skills and knowledge of Cisco network products and solutions in one of the CCIE technical tracks, which currently include Collaboration, Data Center, Routing and Switching, Security, Service Provider, and Wireless.
The CCDE identifies experts who design infrastructure solutions for large enterprise environments, which include technological, operational, business and budget aspects of a project.
For persons seeking positions such as network architect or data center architect, a smart move is to acquire the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) certification. The CCAr is like the Ph.D. of the Cisco Career Certification program – it’s the highest level of certification that Cisco offers. This credential validates the skills of a senior network infrastructure architect, someone who can plan and design IT infrastructures based on business strategies. Many people consider the CCAr the most difficult tech certification to achieve.
To earn the CCDE certification, you must design a network solution to implement an assigned strategy; then, you must appear before a Cisco-appointed panel to explain and defend that solution.
Cisco maintains a comprehensive list of training and self-study resources. These resources include various forms of online learning, practice exams, learning labs, links to which appear on each certification’s web page. The Cisco Learning Network offers candidates a free basic membership that includes access to exam topics, live seminars, IT training videos, study groups, forums, study materials and much more. The subscription-based Cisco Platinum Learning Library provides professionals with on-demand learning and access to more than 400 courses, hands-on vLabs, the support library, and more. Additional training materials are also available from Cisco Press.
In an area outside Hyderabad, India, between the suburbs and the countryside, a young woman—we’ll call her Shanti—fetches water daily from the always-open local borehole that is about 300 feet from her home. She uses a 3-gallon plastic container that she can easily carry on her head. Shanti and her husband rely on the free water for their drinking and washing, and though they’ve heard that it’s not as safe as water from the Naandi Foundation-run community treatment plant, they still use it. Shanti’s family has been drinking the local water for generations, and although it periodically makes her and her family sick, she has no plans to stop using it.
Shanti has many reasons not to use the water from the Naandi treatment center, but they’re not the reasons one might think. The center is within easy walking distance of her home—roughly a third of a mile. It is also well known and affordable (roughly 10 rupees, or 20 cents, for 5 gallons). Being able to pay the small fee has even become a status symbol for some villagers. Habit isn’t a factor, either. Shanti is forgoing the safer water because of a series of flaws in the overall design of the system.
Although Shanti can walk to the facility, she can’t carry the 5-gallon jerrican that the facility requires her to use. When filled with water, the plastic rectangular container is simply too heavy. The container isn’t designed to be held on the hip or the head, where she likes to carry heavy objects. Shanti’s husband can’t help carry it, either. He works in the city and doesn’t return home until after the water treatment center is closed. The treatment center also requires them to buy a monthly punch card for 5 gallons a day, far more than they need. “Why would I buy more than I need and waste money?” asks Shanti, adding she’d be more likely to purchase the Naandi water if the center allowed her to buy less.
The community treatment center was designed to produce clean and potable water, and it succeeded very well at doing just that. In fact, it works well for many people living in the community, particularly families with husbands or older sons who own bikes and can visit the treatment plant during working hours. The designers of the center, however, missed the opportunity to design an even better system because they failed to consider the culture and needs of all of the people living in the community.
This missed opportunity, although an obvious omission in hindsight, is all too common. Time and again, initiatives falter because they are not based on the client’s or customer’s needs and have never been prototyped to solicit feedback. Even when people do go into the field, they may enter with preconceived notions of what the needs and solutions are. This flawed approach remains the norm in both the business and social sectors.
As Shanti’s situation shows, social challenges require systemic solutions that are grounded in the client’s or customer’s needs. This is where many approaches founder, but it is where design thinking—a new approach to creating solutions—excels.
Traditionally, designers focused their attention on improving the look and functionality of products. Classic examples of this type of design work are Apple Computer’s iPod and Herman Miller’s Aeron chair. In latest years designers have broadened their approach, creating entire systems to deliver products and services.
Design thinking incorporates constituent or consumer insights in depth and rapid prototyping, all aimed at getting beyond the assumptions that block effective solutions. Design thinking—inherently optimistic, constructive, and experiential—addresses the needs of the people who will consume a product or service and the infrastructure that enables it.
Businesses are embracing design thinking because it helps them be more innovative, better differentiate their brands, and bring their products and services to market faster. Nonprofits are beginning to use design thinking as well to develop better solutions to social problems. Design thinking crosses the traditional boundaries between public, for-profit, and nonprofit sectors. By working closely with the clients and consumers, design thinking allows high-impact solutions to bubble up from below rather than being imposed from the top.
Jerry Sternin, founder of the Positive Deviance Initiative and an associate professor at Tufts University until he died last year, was skilled at identifying what and critical of what he called outsider solutions to local problems. Sternin’s preferred approach to social innovation is an example of design thinking in action.1 In 1990, Sternin and his wife, Monique, were invited by the government of Vietnam to develop a model to decrease in a sustainable manner high levels of malnutrition among children in 10,000 villages. At the time, 65 percent of Vietnamese children under age 5 suffered from malnutrition, and most solutions relied on government and UN agencies donations of nutritional supplements. But the supplements—the outsider solution—never delivered the hoped-for results.2 As an alternative, the Sternins used an approach called positive deviance, which looks for existing solutions (hence sustainable) among individuals and families in the community who are already doing well.3
The Sternins and colleagues from Save the Children surveyed four local Quong Xuong communities in the province of Than Hoa and asked for examples of “very, very poor” families whose children were healthy. They then observed the food preparation, cooking, and serving behaviors of these six families, called “positive deviants,” and found a few consistent yet rare behaviors. Parents of well-nourished children collected tiny shrimps, crabs, and snails from rice paddies and added them to the food, along with the greens from sweet potatoes. Although these foods were readily available, they were typically not eaten because they were considered unsafe for children. The positive deviants also fed their children multiple smaller meals, which allowed small stomachs to hold and digest more food each day.
The Sternins and the rest of their group worked with the positive deviants to offer cooking classes to the families of children suffering from malnutrition. By the end of the program’s first year, 80 percent of the 1,000 children enrolled in the program were adequately nourished. In addition, the effort had been replicated within 14 villages across Vietnam.4
The Sternins’ work is a good example of how positive deviance and design thinking relies on local expertise to uncover local solutions. Design thinkers look for work-arounds and improvise solutions—like the shrimps, crabs, and snails—and they find ways to incorporate those into the offerings they create. They consider what we call the edges, the places where “extreme” people live differently, think differently, and consume differently. As Monique Sternin, now director of the Positive Deviance Initiative, explains: “Both positive deviance and design thinking are human-centered approaches. Their solutions are relevant to a unique cultural context and will not necessarily work outside that specific situation.”
One program that might have benefited from design thinking is mosquito net distribution in Africa. The nets are well designed and when used are effective at reducing the incidence of malaria.5 The World Health Organization praised the nets, crediting them with significant drops in malaria deaths in children under age 5: a 51 percent decline in Ethiopia, 34 percent decline in Ghana, and 66 percent decline in Rwanda.6 The way that the mosquito nets have been distributed, however, has had unintended consequences. In northern Ghana, for instance, nets are provided free to pregnant women and mothers with children under age 5. These women can readily pick up free nets from local public hospitals. For everyone else, however, the nets are difficult to obtain. When we asked a well-educated Ghanaian named Albert, who had recently contracted malaria, whether he slept under a mosquito net, he told us no—there was no place in the city of Tamale to purchase one. Because so many people can obtain free nets, it is not profitable for shop owners to sell them. But hospitals are not equipped to sell additional nets, either.
As Albert’s experience shows, it’s critical that the people designing a program consider not only form and function, but distribution channels as well. One could say that the free nets were never intended for people like Albert—that he was simply out of the scope of the project. But that would be missing a huge opportunity. Without considering the whole system, the nets cannot be widely distributed, which makes the eradication of malaria impossible.
IDEO was formed in 1991 as a merger between David Kelley Design, which created Apple Computer’s first mouse in 1982, and ID Two, which designed the first laptop computer, also in 1982. Initially, IDEO focused on traditional design work for business, designing products like the Palm V personal digital assistant, Oral-B toothbrushes, and Steelcase chairs. These are the types of objects that are displayed in lifestyle magazines or on pedestals in modern art museums.
By 2001, IDEO was increasingly being asked to tackle problems that seemed far afield from traditional design. A healthcare foundation asked us to help restructure its organization, a century-old manufacturing company wanted to better understand its clients, and a university hoped to create alternative learning environments to traditional classrooms. This type of work took IDEO from designing consumer products to designing consumer experiences.
To distinguish this new type of design work, we began referring to it as “design with a small d.” But this phrase never seemed fully satisfactory. David Kelley, also the founder of Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (aka the “d.school”), remarked that every time someone asked him about design, he found himself inserting the word “thinking” to explain what it was that designers do. Eventually, the term design thinking stuck.7
As an approach, design thinking taps into capacities we all have but that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. Not only does it focus on creating products and services that are human centered, but the process itself is also deeply human. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as being functional, and to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols. Nobody wants to run an organization on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky. Design thinking, the integrated approach at the core of the design process, provides a third way.
The design thinking process is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. There are three spaces to keep in mind: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Think of inspiration as the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions; ideation as the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas; and implementation as the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives.
The reason to call these spaces, rather than steps, is that they are not always undertaken sequentially. Projects may loop back through inspiration, ideation, and implementation more than once as the team refines its ideas and explores new directions. Not surprisingly, design thinking can feel chaotic to those doing it for the first time. But over the life of a project, participants come to see that the process makes sense and achieves results, even though its form differs from the linear, milestone-based processes that organizations typically undertake.
Although it is true that designers do not always proceed through each of the three spaces in linear fashion, it is generally the case that the design process begins with the inspiration space—the problem or opportunity that motivates people to search for solutions. And the classic starting point for the inspiration phase is the brief. The brief is a set of mental constraints that gives the project team a framework from which to begin, benchmarks by which they can measure progress, and a set of objectives to be realized—such as price point, available technology, and market segment.
But just as a hypothesis is not the same as an algorithm, the brief is not a set of instructions or an attempt to answer the question before it has been posed. Rather, a well-constructed brief allows for serendipity, unpredictability, and the capricious whims of fate—the creative realm from which breakthrough ideas emerge. Too abstract and the brief risks leaving the project team wandering; too narrow a set of constraints almost guarantees that the outcome will be incremental and, likely, mediocre.
Once the brief has been constructed, it is time for the design team to discover what people’s needs are. Traditional ways of doing this, such as focus groups and surveys, rarely yield important insights. In most cases, these techniques simply ask people what they want. Conventional research can be useful in pointing toward incremental improvements, but those don’t usually lead to the type of breakthroughs that leave us scratching our heads and wondering why nobody ever thought of that before.
Henry Ford understood this when he said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said ‘a faster horse.’” 8 Although people often can’t tell us what their needs are, their actual behaviors can provide us with invaluable clues about their range of unmet needs.
A better starting point is for designers to go out into the world and observe the actual experiences of smallholder farmers, schoolchildren, and community health workers as they improvise their way through their daily lives. Working with local partners who serve as interpreters and cultural guides is also important, as well as having partners make introductions to communities, helping build credibility quickly and ensuring understanding. Through “homestays” and shadowing locals at their jobs and in their homes, design thinkers become embedded in the lives of the people they are designing for.
Earlier this year, Kara Pecknold, a student at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, British Columbia, took an internship with a women’s cooperative in Rwanda. Her task was to develop a Web site to connect rural Rwandan weavers with the world. Pecknold soon discovered that the weavers had little or no access to computers and the Internet. Rather than ask them to maintain a Web site, she reframed the brief, broadening it to ask what services could be provided to the community to help them Excellerate their livelihoods. Pecknold used various design thinking techniques, drawing partly from her training and partly from ideo’s Human Centered Design toolkit, to understand the women’s aspirations.
Because Pecknold didn’t speak the women’s language, she asked them to document their lives and aspirations with a camera and draw pictures that expressed what success looked like in their community. Through these activities, the women were able to see for themselves what was important and valuable, rather than having an outsider make those assumptions for them. During the project, Pecknold also provided each participant with the equivalent of a day’s wages (500 francs, or roughly $1) to see what each person did with the money. Doing this gave her further insight into the people’s lives and aspirations. Meanwhile, the women found that a mere 500 francs a day could be a significant, life-changing sum. This visualization process helped both Pecknold and the women prioritize their planning for the community.9
The second space of the design thinking process is ideation. After spending time in the field observing and doing design research, a team goes through a process of synthesis in which they distill what they saw and heard into insights that can lead to solutions or opportunities for change. This approach helps multiply options to create choices and different insights about human behavior. These might be alternative visions of new product offerings, or choices among various ways of creating interactive experiences. By testing competing ideas against one another, the likelihood that the outcome will be bolder and more compelling increases.
As Linus Pauling, scientist and two-time Nobel Prize winner, put it, “To have a good idea you must first have lots of ideas.” 10 Truly innovative ideas challenge the status quo and stand out from the crowd—they’re creatively disruptive. They provide a wholly new solution to a problem many people didn’t know they had.
Of course, more choices mean more complexity, which can make life difficult, especially for those whose job it is to control budgets and monitor timelines. The natural tendency of most organizations is to restrict choices in favor of the obvious and the incremental. Although this tendency may be more efficient in the short run, it tends to make an organization conservative and inflexible in the long run. Divergent thinking is the route, not the obstacle, to innovation.
To achieve divergent thinking, it is important to have a diverse group of people involved in the process. Multidisciplinary people—architects who have studied psychology, artists with MBAs, or engineers with marketing experience—often demonstrate this quality. They’re people with the capacity and the disposition for collaboration across disciplines.
To operate within an interdisciplinary environment, an individual needs to have strengths in two dimensions—the “T-shaped” person. On the vertical axis, every member of the team needs to possess a depth of skill that allows him or her to make tangible contributions to the outcome. The top of the “T” is where the design thinker is made. It’s about empathy for people and for disciplines beyond one’s own. It tends to be expressed as openness, curiosity, optimism, a tendency toward learning through doing, and experimentation. (These are the same traits that we seek in our new hires at IDEO.)
Interdisciplinary teams typically move into a structured brainstorming process. Taking one provocative question at a time, the group may generate hundreds of ideas ranging from the absurd to the obvious. Each idea can be written on a Post-it note and shared with the team. Visual representations of concepts are encouraged, as this generally helps others understand complex ideas.
One rule during the brainstorming process is to defer judgment. It is important to discourage anyone taking on the often obstructive, non-generative role of devil’s advocate, as Tom Kelley explains in his book The Ten Faces of Innovation.11 Instead, participants are encouraged to come up with as many ideas as possible. This lets the group move into a process of grouping and sorting ideas. Good ideas naturally rise to the top, whereas the bad ones drop off early on. InnoCentive provides a good example of how design thinking can result in hundreds of ideas. InnoCentive has created a Web site that allows people to post solutions to challenges that are defined by InnoCentive members, a mix of nonprofits and companies. More than 175,000 people—including scientists, engineers, and designers from around the world—have posted solutions.
The Rockefeller Foundation has supported 10 social innovation challenges through InnoCentive and reports an 80 percent success rate in delivering effective solutions to the nonprofits posting challenges. 12 The open innovation approach is effective in producing lots of new ideas. The responsibility for filtering through the ideas, field-testing them, iterating, and taking them to market ultimately falls to the implementer.
An InnoCentive partnership with the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development sought a theoretical solution to simplify the current TB treatment regimen. “The process is a prime example of design thinking contributing to social innovation,” explained Dwayne Spradlin, InnoCentive’s CEO. “With the TB drug development, the winning solver was a scientist by profession, but submitted to the challenge because his mother—the sole income provider for the family—developed TB when he was 14. She had to stop working, and he took on the responsibility of working and going to school to provide for the family.” Spradlin finds that projects within the InnoCentive community often benefit from such deep and motivating connections.13
The third space of the design thinking process is implementation, when the best ideas generated during ideation are turned into a concrete, fully conceived action plan. At the core of the implementation process is prototyping, turning ideas into actual products and services that are then tested, iterated, and refined.
Through prototyping, the design thinking process seeks to uncover unforeseen implementation challenges and unintended consequences in order to have more reliable long-term success. Prototyping is particularly important for products and services destined for the developing world, where the lack of infrastructure, retail chains, communication networks, literacy, and other essential pieces of the system often make it difficult to design new products and services.
Prototyping can validate a component of a device, the graphics on a screen, or a detail in the interaction between a blood donor and a Red Cross volunteer. The prototypes at this point may be expensive, complex, and even indistinguishable from the real thing. As the project nears completion and heads toward real-world implementation, prototypes will likely become more complete.
After the prototyping process is finished and the ultimate product or service has been created, the design team helps create a communication strategy. Storytelling, particularly through multimedia, helps communicate the solution to a diverse set of stakeholders inside and outside of the organization, particularly across language and cultural barriers.
VisionSpring, a low-cost eye care provider in India, provides a good example of how prototyping can be a critical step in implementation. VisionSpring, which had been selling reading glasses to adults, wanted to begin providing comprehensive eye care to children. VisionSpring’s design effort included everything other than the design of the glasses, from marketing “eye camps” through self-help groups to training teachers about the importance of eye care and transporting kids to the local eye care center.
Working with VisionSpring, IDEO designers prototyped the eyescreening process with a group of 15 children between the ages of 8 and 12. The designers first tried to screen a young girl’s vision through traditional tests. Immediately, though, she burst into tears—the pressure of the experience was too great and the risk of failure too high. In hopes of diffusing this stressful situation, the designers asked the children’s teacher to screen the next student. Again, the child started to cry. The designers then asked the girl to screen her teacher. She took the task very seriously, while her classmates looked on enviously. Finally, the designers had the children screen each other and talk about the process. They loved playing doctor and both respected and complied with the process.
By prototyping and creating an implementation plan to pilot and scale the project, IDEO was able to design a system for the eye screenings that worked for VisionSpring’s practitioners, teachers, and children. As of September 2009, VisionSpring had conducted in India 10 eye camps for children, screened 3,000 children, transported 202 children to the local eye hospital, and provided glasses for the 69 children who needed them.
“Screening and providing glasses to kids presents many unique problems, so we turned to design thinking to provide us with an appropriate structure to develop the most appropriate marketing and distribution strategy,” explained Peter Eliassen, vice president of sales and operations at VisionSpring. Eliassen added that prototyping let VisionSpring focus on the approaches that put children at ease during the screening process. “Now that we have become a design thinking organization, we continue to use prototypes to assess the feedback and viability of new market approaches from our most important customers: our vision entrepreneurs [or salespeople] and end consumers.” 14
Many social enterprises already intuitively use some aspects of design thinking, but most stop short of embracing the approach as a way to move beyond today’s conventional problem solving. Certainly, there are impediments to adopting design thinking in an organization. Perhaps the approach isn’t embraced by the entire organization. Or maybe the organization resists taking a human-centered approach and fails to balance the perspectives of users, technology, and organizations.
One of the biggest impediments to adopting design thinking is simply fear of failure. The notion that there is nothing wrong with experimentation or failure, as long as they happen early and act as a source of learning, can be difficult to accept. But a vibrant design thinking culture will encourage prototyping—quick, cheap, and dirty—as part of the creative process and not just as a way of validating finished ideas.
As Yasmina Zaidman, director of knowledge and communications at Acumen Fund, put it, “The businesses we invest in require constant creativity and problem solving, so design thinking is a real success factor for serving the base of the economic pyramid.” Design thinking can lead to hundreds of ideas and, ultimately, real-world solutions that create better outcomes for organizations and the people they serve.
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Taking an exam is the final step to earning an ISA certification. Upon paying the exam fee, the application process is complete, and you have acknowledged that you meet the requirements listed below in numbers 1–3.
All ISA certification exams are closed book and have multiple choice questions. The CCST Specialist—Level 2 certification exam is three hours long and all other certification exams are four hours long. See the information below for the number of questions in each exam.
|Certified Automation Professional® (CAP ®)||175|
|Certified Control System Technician® (CCST®) Level 1||150|
|Certified Control System Technician (CCST) Specialist—Level 2||125|
|Certified Control System Technician (CCST) Master—Level 3||150|
Submit payment to apply for the chosen certification when you can confirm that you meet the certification requirements to sit for the exam and can test within the deadline of the exam window of your choosing. You will be notified by email with the next steps to schedule your exam.
Register for one of the CCST review courses and apply for certification for no additional fee. The following courses qualify: Level I Review Course (TS00), Level II Review Course (TS02) or Level III Review Course (TS03). You will automatically receive an exam invitation once you start the course. By paying for the review course, you are confirming that you are aware of, have met and can document the requirements for the certification level for which you are applying.
ISA accepts payment for exam fees by check, certified check, money order, PayPal payment, wire transfer in US Dollars, or credit card. Make checks payable to ISA. For wire transfer account information, please contact ISA Customer Service. The following credit cards are accepted: AMEX, Discover card, Master Card, and VISA. Purchase orders are not accepted.
Fees are nonrefundable. It is your responsibility as the applicant to thoroughly review the requirements of the certification for which you are applying. No refunds will be made for applicants who do not appear for testing on the appropriate exam date. There are no group discounts for certification application fees.
After you pay your exam fee to complete the application process, you will receive an exam invitation (Notice to Schedule Exam) email from firstname.lastname@example.org 15 days before the beginning of your assigned exam window with steps to schedule the exam. Follow the instructions in the email to schedule your exam—online or at a test center—through the online exam scheduling system. You can get more information about your exam window deadline by accessing the “My Credentials” tab in your ISA account.
If you have not received your exam invitation within that time frame, please check your spam or junk folder for an email from email@example.com, as some server firewalls may block the receipt of the email. If you still are unable to find your exam invitation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
See further related details on the Exam Procedures page.
If you are applying for CAP or CCST certification, you have a twelve-month exam window. You may take the exam at a Test Center or online during one of three exam windows (see chart below). Each exam window will have a deadline for applications to be submitted. Eligible candidates will only be able to take the exam during the following exam windows.
|Exam Window||Application Submission Deadline|
|2023 Window 3:
1 November 2023 – 31 October 2024
|15 September 2023|
|2024 Window 1:
1 March 2024 – 28 February 2025
|15 January 2024|
|2024 Window 2:
1 July 2025 – 30 June 2025
|15 May 2024|
|2024 Window 3:
1 November 2025 – 31 October 2025
|15 September 2024|
Review Course Testing: If you have attended a review course (paid for by you or sponsored by a company), you will receive your exam invitation near the end of your review course and have a twelve (12) month exam eligibility period based on the date of your review course.
After passing the CAP or CCST certification exam, you will earn a digital badge. To access, manage, and/or share your secure digital badge, use your email address and password to enter your BadgeCert portfolio. If it is the first time accessing your portfolio, click “Request new password?” on their login page to create your password. More information about using your digital badge can be found here.
If you feel you were wrongly denied certification, either original or renewal, from the CAP or CCST programs, then you have the right to appeal. Review the Grievances Appeal Process.
Candidates who request special test accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (or a similar international standard) must submit their test scheduling requests at least 30 days prior to their preferred test dates. Note that some special test accommodations may not be available for online testing.
If you have a request, email email@example.com.
You can contact Meazure Learning by phone at +1 919-572-6880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meazure Learning's business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, excluding holidays. Voice mail will accept candidate inquiries outside of these business hours.
Note: Meazure Learning, Scantron, and ProctorU are all one-and-the-same organization.
Important update: Scantron is changing to Meazure Learning. The names Scantron, Examity, and ProctorU may be continue to be used in communications from Meazure Learning during the transition period.
The cost of personal trainer certification programs varies, ranging in price from $400 to $2,000, according to American Fitness Professionals and Associates. Prices fluctuate depending on the organization providing the certification, the certification level, the study materials and support offered, and the price of the certification exam itself. While many programs offer payment plans to help with financing, some may not include the cost of earning a CPR/AED certification, which is required for most programs and can add about $75 to the total cost of certification.
Minton also recommends considering the costs of personal training once one obtains a certification. For instance, self-employed personal trainers may need to rent space in a gym or fitness club to work with clients. Many trainers also invest in liability insurance, which costs an average of $1,735 per year for small businesses. Equipment, such as hand weights, kettlebells, yoga mats, resistance bands or portable speakers for music, can also add to potential costs should a trainer need to purchase equipment for client use.
Lastly, many CPT certifications require trainers to participate in continuing education courses, keep their CPR/AED certification up to date and pay certification renewal fees every few years, all of which can add significantly to the total cost of maintaining their certification. Some continuing education courses can cost several hundred dollars, and recertification fees can exceed $400.
Evidence of appropriate major, minor, license, registry, apprenticeship or Michigan Occupational Competency Assessment Center completed in the requested CIP code field. This requirement must also match the work experience and is in addition to the required Workforce Education and Development course work. Official copies of all verifying documents must be on file at the university (transcripts) or in the certification office (other documents). Candidates for the Education General (Teacher Cadet) CIP 13.0000 certification will meet this requirement with their active elementary or secondary continuing teaching certificate, professional teaching certificate, or standard teaching certificate.
Certified anesthesiologist assistants are highly skilled healthcare professionals who work under the direction of licensed anesthesiologists to implement anesthesia care plans. CAAs work exclusively within the anesthesia care team, as defined by the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
All certified anesthesiologist assistants possess a premedical background, a baccalaureate degree, and a master’s degree from an accredited anesthesia program. CAAs are trained extensively in the delivery and maintenance of quality anesthesia care as well as advanced patient monitoring techniques.
Both CAAs and CRNAs are anesthetists, and are recognized by the Medicare and Medicaid Services section of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The scope of certified anesthesiologist assistants’ clinical practice is generally the same as that of a nurse anesthetist on the anesthesia care team and is typically defined by the directing anesthesiologist, the hospital credentialing body, the state’s board of medicine, and any applicable state statute or regulation.
According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, certain aspects of anesthesia care may be delegated to other properly trained and credentialed professionals. These professionals, which include certified anesthesiologist assistants, are directed by the anesthesiologist and comprise the anesthesia care team.
Within the anesthesia care team, an anesthesiologist and CAA work together to provide anesthesia care. The foundation of this collaboration is the shared belief that the interests of patient safety are best served with an anesthesiologist’s involvement in the delivery of every anesthetic.
The care team statement, which was last amended in 2019, notes that “such delegation and direction should be specifically defined by the anesthesiologist director of the Anesthesia Care Team and approved by the hospital medical staff. Although selected functions of overall anesthesia care may be delegated to appropriate members of the Anesthesia Care Team, responsibility and direction of the Anesthesia Care Team rests with the anesthesiologist.”
In addition to certified anesthesiologist assistants, the care team may also include anesthesiology residents and nurse anesthetists.
Graduates or second-year students in their final semester of the MSA program may apply for initial certification from the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA), which consists of commissioners representing the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants, physicians, and certified anesthesiologist assistants. Initial certification is awarded to a CAA who has successfully completed the Certifying Examination for Anesthesiologist Assistants, which is administered by the NCCAA and PSI Services.
The content for the certifying exam is based on knowledge and skills required for anesthetist practice. A test committee, comprised of anesthesiologists and certified anesthesiologist assistants, is responsible for writing and evaluating test questions for the examinations as well as for an item bank containing material that will be used in future years.
The NCCAA publishes an annual list of certified anesthesiologist assistants. This public document is made available to state boards of medicine and other bodies responsible for credentialing healthcare professionals.
To maintain licensure, CAAs must submit documentation to NCCAA every two years indicating that they have completed 40 hours of continuing medical education. In addition, every six years they must pass the Examination for Continued Demonstration of Qualifications. Failure to meet any of these requirements results in withdrawal of certification.
In a handful of jurisdictions, CAAs practice under the license of an anesthesiologist under the principle of delegation in addition to holding their own certification. In these instances, anesthesiologists may delegate tasks or duties involved in the practice of anesthesiology to CAAs as long as the anesthesiologist is immediately available, and the anesthesiologist retains ultimate responsibility for the care of the patient.
In all states, CAA practice falls under the auspices of the board of medicine. The exact details regarding delegation and licensing of CAAs vary from state to state, and an anesthesiologist seeking to employ CAAs should consult the board of medicine of the state in which he or she practices for more details.
In the 1960s, three anesthesiologists—Joachim S. Gravenstein, John E. Steinhaus, and Perry P. Volpitto—were concerned with the shortage of anesthesiologists in the United States. Each held an academic department chair, and used their departments to analyze the spectrum of tasks required during anesthesia care. The tasks were individually evaluated based on the level of professional responsibility, required education, and necessary technical skill.
The result of this anesthesia workforce analysis was to introduce the concept of team care and to define a new mid-level anesthesia practitioner linked to a supervising anesthesiologist. This new professional practitioner, the certified anesthesiologist assistant or anesthetist, had the potential to partially alleviate the shortage of anesthesiologists.
This new type of anesthetist was envisioned to function in the same role as the nurse anesthetist under the direction of an anesthesiologist. An innovative educational paradigm for anesthetists was created, built on premedical coursework in undergraduate studies and more rigorous exploration of anesthesia care at the graduate level.