My Encounter With 70-20-10

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a Fortune 500 company about their learning strategy. Like many companies, they adapted their strategy from an existing model and used it to fit their organization. One of those models was the 70-20-10 rule of thought. While I did like their use of the model I didn’t like the misconceptions the model gave.

It wasn’t the first I had heard of it, but the first time that I saw it being used in an actual organization. As I discovered more about it I realized that I liked the recognition of all the available learning means to a learner and not necessarily the model itself. I decided to do some more research about it just to back up my own opinion.

There is a whole backchannel of articles and information that I found on 70-20-10 from Guy Wallace that you might find insightful.

Basically what I found was that 70-20-10 is really a prescriptive remedy for managers to be developed into senior managers & executives. But I don’t see it useful for daily learning workflows. It really separates each modality into sections and pushes the use of staying in line with those numbers. I don’t think that you should follow this as a rule of thumb with today’s learning strategies. To conform to these numbers would be, in the words of Will Thalheimer, making it more bogus and dangerous.

Another interesting thing that I didn’t think of was the Amplifier Effect which says that formal training actually clarifies and boosts the 90% of informal training. Then I think of the role performance support plays in this. I think that it supports that boost and clarification to translate to actual use of the training on the job (formal training should also relate to the context of the job if you have designed it effectively, but that is another story). To me it seems that this is more of a reflective trend in learning versus the go-to model to follow. All three work together, it doesn’t make one more important than the other. Is it simply the state of learning or is it an actual validation?

I will end this post with a quote from Michael Stanford in his article, Curse of 70-20-10.

“70-20-10? How about 100. Every learning experience, whether it takes place in a structured setting or in the chaos of every day work, should apply a disciplined learning mindset to real-world challenges.”

I agree with this statement because now more than ever learning should be embedded into the context of the actual work that is being done. I also think that learning in an organization, as we know it is still evolving more and more each year as we are discovering new ways to make learning more nimble for the workforce.


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