Jay Cross says that “The 70-20-10 model is more prescriptive. It builds upon how people internalize and apply what they learn based on how they acquire the knowledge.”
The 70:20:10 in context
Based upon research that took place in the 1980s and 1990s, the 70:20:10 was the summary of activities in the process of developing leadership (then management) skills. In the 80s and 90s we need to remember that business culture and style was very different from today. Often in large organizations, with a “command and control” style of management. According to CCL’s Meena Surie Wilson “The underlying assumption is that leadership is learned”.
What the 70:20:10 suggests is that learning happens:
- 70% from real life and on-the-job experiences, tasks and problem solving. This is the most important aspect of any learning and development plan.
- 20% from feedback and from observing and working with role models.
- 10% from formal training.
Where organizations make mistakes with 70:20:10
Many organizations take the 70:20:10 and apply it as a universal training or learning strategy. On the surface this looks to make sense. But we know from experience that learning technical skills is different from learning the skills of leadership. The feedback loop is faster, there are physical as well as emotional feedback mechanisms. The results are often more tangible in a shorter time frame.
So what has changed?
Since the deduction that the 70:20:10 reflected “good practice” for leadership development a number of things have changed:
- Command & control culture is no longer prevalent
- The focus has moved from management to leadership
- Employee attitudes are different
- Most people now have PDPs (they did not exist before the early 1990s)
- Social learning in one form or another is central to everyone
- Shift from “training” to “learning”, changing the responsibilities and dynamics
One of the biggest changes in learning in recent years has been the advent and massive growth and adoption of social connectivity. The start of web 2.0 (2000-2005) allowed not just reading of content, but interaction. This caused the adoption and growth of online forums (for particular professionals and interest groups). Forums would encourage people to ask questions or seek advice, and other members would share their experiences. This cross pollination of learning from one person to another ignoring any organizational boundaries was a turning point for “informal” based learning. The position of “knowledge is power” was changed for ever. Of course individuals that answered questions were seen as “go to” people, people that could be trusted. So the “knowledge is power” was to some extent true, but so was the fact that these people with knowledge not just applied it, but shared it. The challenge then of course for these individuals was not just to sit back and earn from their previous knowledge, but to maintain a momentum of self-learning and development.
The world of social sharing never looked back. First with larger communities like LinkedIn, Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook and now in the post 2010 era, with a growing range of internal networks to encourage social learning within organizations or alumni. Tools such as Jive and Yammer provide the same connectivity as LinkedIn or Twitter. It is not the tools that make social learning a success, but the culture which surrounds their implementation and use.
Social changes impacting the validity of the 70:20:10 model
The 70:20:10 approach is no longer valid with the advent of social tools and attitudes. Indeed some would argue the ratio was always “wrong” as it was based on the development of managers and not a generalised development strategy. In addition reading (as an example) was originally considered as a “formal” learning activity, and not an informal one. Reading could be “formal” if part of a program or plan, but equally reading professional journals and picking up random learning is indeed informal and part of the 70% or “on the job”.
Pervasive learning – a different perspective 3:33
- 33% of the learning is formal
- 33% is informal and
- 33% is social learning
The Pervasive Learning model is one where learning is a collaborative, continuous, connected, and community-based growth and development attitude. Certainly those that have entered the freelance market over the last 5 years will agree with this statement, for this approach has ensured their sustainability longer than market averages for self-employed people. If it can work for this community (where competitors are collaborating to learn), why not everyone else?