In the Debunker Club, a couple of folks went off on the 70:20:10 model, and it prompted some thoughts. I thought I’d share them.
If you’re not familiar with 70:20:10, it’s a framework for thinking about workplace learning that suggests we need to recognize that the opportunity is about much more than courses. If you ask people how they learned the things they know to do in the workplace, the responses suggest that somewhere around 10% came from formal learning, 20% from informal coaching and such, and about 70% from trial and error. Note the emphasis on the fact that these numbers aren’t exact, it’s just an indication (though considerable evidence suggests that the contribution of formal learning is somewhere between 5 and 20%, with evidence from a variety of sources).
Now, some people complain that the numbers can’t be right, no one gets perfect 10 measurements. To be fair, they’ve been fighting against the perversion of Dale’s Cone, where someone added numbers on that were bogus but have permeated learning for decades and can’t seem to be exterminated. It’s like zombies! So I suspect they’re overly sensitive to whole numbers.
And I like the model! I’ve used it to frame some of my work, using it as a framework to think about what else we can do to support performance. Coaching and mentoring, facilitating social interaction, providing challenge goals, supporting reflection, etc. And again to justify accelerated organizational outcomes.
The retort I hear is that “it’s not about the numbers”, and I agree. It’s just a tool to help shake people out of the thought that a course is the only solution to all needs. And, outside the learning community, people get it. I have heard that, over presentations to hundreds of audiences of executives and managers, they all recognize that the contributions to their success came largely from sources other than courses.
However, if it’s not about the numbers, maybe calling it the 70:20:10 model may be a problem. I really like Jane Hart’s diagram about Modern Workplace Learning as another way to look at it, though I really want to go beyond learning too. Performance support may achieve outcomes in ways that don’t require or deliver any learning, and that’s okay. There’re times when it’s better to have knowledge in the head than in the world.
So, I like the 70:20:10 framework, but recognize that the label may be a barrier. I’m just looking for any tools I can use to help people start thinking ‘outside the course’. I welcome suggestions!
I note that Charles Jennings has written quite a bit about his take on the model, and here’s a good post about what’s important in the 70:20:10 framework (disclaimer: Charles is a colleague in the ITA): http://charles-jennings.blogspot.nl/2015/01/702010-above-all-else-its-change-agent.html
Mark Sheppard says
I think 70:20:10 is suffering the same malaise as Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom himself is reputed to have said that his book was one of the most referenced and least read texts in Education. It’s a symptom of our rapid-in-your-face-information-age that we tend to glom onto something at a superficial level without taking the time to engage in critical thinking about whether or not it’s even right for what you need. Then, of course, people are “surprised” that it doesn’t work or look like the whole numbers in its title.
Perhaps you’re right and it shouldn’t be called a model after all. Of course, we have been saying that about ADDIE and it’s as zombie-like as Dale’s Cone.
Marty King says
I like it too. I’ve used it to help managers and employees understand the role of the training department. 70:20:10 kind of reminds me of the 80/20 Rule.
Chris Rogers says
It would be interesting to see polls on the formal/informal/trial-and-error question taken under different methods: face-to-face interviews; anonymous surveys; and observations. To the point: These methods have been shown to net disparate results because of their varying levels of objectivity, personal bias, and pride, and this could be the case whether you’re asking them for their political voting records or their favorite soft drink. If someone is interviewing me personally, I may be inclined to tell them what I *want* them to hear from me and think about me as opposed to what my true answer might be. It’s deep in the American cowboy spirit (and yes, I’m an American, I love America, and I love cowboys) to make a stand on “I did it myself,” or in this case, “I learned it myself, not from some class my boss made me attend.”
So … Might the survey methods have some influence on the numbers?
Mark, I think the pushback is different than with Bloom’s. Bloom’s has been discredited (see Brenda Sugrue’s evisceration). The attacks on 70:20:10 are more about the numbers than the substance. They like the concept, hate the labeling (as I understand it).
Chris, yes, self-report is dodgy, but there’re a variety of converging studies that show roughly the same thing (Jay Cross documented a number in his book Informal Learning). But the numbers are the wrong focus! The point is that formal learning is valuable (when done right, ahem) *in the right place*: novices who don’t know what’s important or why. But L&D could and should also look at facilitating social interaction, performance support, coaching/mentoring, etc, and many don’t (see Towards Maturity’s latest report). So the source and accuracy of the numbers aren’t as important as the perspective to go beyond the course. And the fact that the scope is big, regardless of accuracy, is what we should be paying attention to, for the sake of our organizations.
Amir Elion says
I understand what you’re saying about the numbers maybe causing uncomfort for people.
However, I actually think it’s good to use that title to get people’s attention. Otherwise they may dismiss the main assertion behind the model that we’re barking up just one tree when there’s a whole wood out there…
I am running a special session on 70-20-10 next month in a learning conference, trying to make it less of a 10% experience as of itself and waiting to see the reactions and understanding of participants who are less familiar with it.