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Learning and the 70-20-10 theory:

How the 10 informs the 20 and the 70

By In 70-20-10, breaking the glass ceiling, Uncategorized On May 19, 2015


Life experience still represents the most significant portion of learning. But intentional learning engagements enable us to get the most from on-the-job and social learning. (Photo: David Marcu.)

Life experience still represents the most significant portion of learning. But intentional learning engagements enable us to get the most from on-the-job and social learning. (Photo: David Marcu.)

Our colleagues from the Center for Creative Leadership developed the 70-20-10 theory of learning and development some decades ago. It’s integral to two works of the day, both Lessons of Experience: How Successful Executives Develop on the Job, by Morgan W. McCall, Michael M. Lombardo and Ann M. Morrison and Breaking The Glass Ceiling: Can Women Reach The Top Of America’s Largest Corporations? by Randall P. White, Ann M. Morrison and  Ellen Van Velsor.

It’s applied globally and recently one observant executive MBA student of ours in Doha, Qatar shared this feature on the theory from Gulf Times:

“The premise of this theory is that for best learning to occur:
• 70% of learning must come from job assignments and challenges. This is informal
learning (learning which does not occur formally in classrooms or in training sessions)
• 20% of learning should be delivered socially. This refers to the learning employees glean
from social interactions with their peers in the company and within the industry. It also
refers to communication and/or feedback the employees have with their managers as well
as subordinates.
• 10% of learning comes from formal learning systems. These of course refer to formal
learning systems such as classroom training and other training methods, which involve
face-to-face interactions.”

This doesn’t diminish the role of learning professionals. It makes it more sophisticated. Because the 10% allocation for formal education not only has to impart new knowledge and skills, it also has to develop executives so they can effectively reap the benefits of the 20% social learning and 70% on-the-job learning. Executives have to be aware of themselves as constant learners in order to be receptive to the new insights and skills they pick up in their day-to-day activities and social interactions.

So while 10% is a small sliver in organization’s calendar, it’s a vital investment to make the most of the remaining 90%.

Seventy-twenty-ten remains the popular model, but we’ve also done work that suggests it’s a little more complicated and probably closer to 50-20-20-10. The idea being half of learning is on-the-job, while 20% is the result of life hardships, 20% is social learning and 10% results from just-in-time courseware.

In either model, the important point is that we all need to prepare ourselves to be learners in all modes of our work and life.

 


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