Note: This blog was published in 2012 and people featured in this blog have moved jobs/companies.
“I have a question relating to this webinar, that I’d love answered, and that is really to substantiate the rigour behind the 70-20-10 model”. This was one of the questions raised about the Learning Cafe theme for March 2012 – “70-20-10 – Approach Is it New? Is it different this time?”, The theme has generated a lot of debate in our coffee catch ups. Our webinar discussion on 29 March, Thurs is also proving popular with over 50 participants registered. In this blog some our panellists answer this fundamental question raised by Greg.
The Question – Greg Palmer, Senior Manager Leadership Development, Westpac Group
I have a question relating to this webinar, that I’d love answered, and that is really to substantiate the rigour behind the 70-20-10 model. My experience to date is that it is held up by learning professionals in particular almost in an evangelical way yet there is very little empirical research that backs this approach. I’d like to have that as a question – why do we follow (blindly at times) this model – what empirical research supports that this approach is right?
Here is what some our panellist have to say. Register for our webinar discussion on this topic on Thursday, 29th March 2012, 12 noon Sydney time.
I am not aware of any empirical research on this, but based on my experience it works. The proportions of 70:20:10 may be arbitrary but the philosophy seems right. I’ve trained project management methodology then mentored junior/new PMs while they applied this on projects, and seen how the discussion of their experience has led to a deeper understanding, especially when they are struggling with tailoring to their own project.
I’ve trained business analysts in six sigma then managed them on the job, providing opportunities for them to apply the learning and discussing with them their challenges and results. It has also worked for behavioural skills. I’ve trained self-leadership skills and then managed staff in projects and in line management plus mentored others who did the training. Again, the application and discourse enabled people to make sense of the learning. The feedback enriched their understanding of the concepts.
Taking another approach, I’ve rolled out methodology training where there was a disconnect between training, application and feedback and seen large parts of the knowledge forgotten. We then had to run ‘refreshers’ and workshops to reinforce. So based on my experience this model seems to work well:
1 Provide a knowledge baseline e.g. through face to face group training,
2 Allow opportunity for skills practice on the job in the ‘real world’,
3 Ensure feedback is provided and a 2-way conversation to enrich understanding.
This is an interesting point that Greg raises and has also been explored recently by the Deakin Prime White Paper 2012 – Demystifying 70:20:10. This paper also agrees with the point Greg raises and presents a pragmatic perspective.”From our review it is clear that there is a lack of empirical data supporting 70:20:10 and, while the above mentioned sources are frequently credited, there is also a lack of certainty about the origin. Despite the lack of empirical evidence and agreement on its origin, what cannot be denied is that the 70:20:10 model has gained significant momentum, and organisations are increasingly subscribing to the principles that learning takes place through a combination of formal and informal situations and through others. “
I attended the Thunderbird Global Mindset Institute “Developing leaders for global roles summit” last week in the US and many organisations from across the world who spoke at the conference demonstrated a systematic approach to development based on the principles of 70:20:10.
When the first research was published about 70:20:10 and its relevance to education, this was a point in time when the value of informal learning may not have been as clearly evident. Since then we know organisations such as Google, Coca Cola and McKinsey have related this formula to innovation, content excellence and marketing investment.
Today, it appears many organisations use 70:20:10 as a guideline in taking a systematic approach to learning and development. This is achieved by:
1. Being clear about your business strategy/talent strategy and how it relates to development
2. Defining the competencies/capabilities/expectations that you need from your people in different roles
3. Identifying your definition of “performance” and “potential”
4. Assessing and reviewing your talent through clear and consistent conversations
5. Understanding the needs in different parts of the world and the best fit for people working in global roles
6. Implementing holistic development planning for a range of roles that connects formal learning to experiences and coaching
7. For developing global mindset, providing deep experiences that change the mind from a psychological perspective
8. One size fits none – customised and differential investment for different groups
9. Investment is key so being clear that ROI with this approach will be over time (eg 3 – 4 years) and the competitive advantage is in the output of your people, innovation and leadership.
The following is based on some original inquiry by Nick Howe:
If you Google “70:20:10 you get about 6.9 Million hits. Hits are split between the education model, and the business resource management model of the same name. Informal learning” now gets you 12,500,000 hits, or thereabouts. 70:20:10 was the subject of the 2009 ASTD study, “Tapping the Potential of Informal Learning”. Informal learning has been covered in just about every training publication and in the mainstream media, including the Harvard Business Review but has been covered more in the last 2 years than at any other time in history.
The problem is that almost no-one, cites the original research for 70:20:10 applied to education. This backs up Greg’s original point. So what does the research have to say on 70:20:10?
If you step away from the mainstream, you get 3.24 million hits with in Google Scholar. If you drill down to what might be called ‘authoritative sources’, things get a little narrower. There are a grand total of 106 (Peer reviewed) Articles in the recognised databases. If you examine the peer reviewed articles, there is still not one single empirical study that gets close to validating 70:20:10 as an applied scientific model.
The issue here is the same thing we do all the time in our profession. We allow our work schedules to excuse the proofing of the models we hold up as religious and unequivocal and do not come back to the premise of education in the workforce… enlightenment that enables performance improvement.
I am not suggesting that the model does not make sense. What I am suggesting however is these models only need an ”enlightened executive” to challenge and shoot holes and the integrity of L&D is shot.
My bigger question is, if we hold on to the PHILOSOPHY that 70% of learning is informal, how do we know that the learning acquired is quality? How do we know that the competence of the surrounding individuals and systems in a workplace is what we know the organisation wants to be taught/passed on?
My guess is that if you changed the model around somewhat and asked a question: “of the 70% of informal learning that takes place on the job, what percentage would we evaluate as quality learning?” Then you might obtain some very different answers. This is where Anne’s response is also important. I would advocate that if the model was turned around and suggested a workplace learning flow…. 10:20:70…. Then as a philosophy I think we are getting nearer to what should be a robust model that could be empirically researched.
In summary, it is a philosophy at best or a gut feel model but is not a scientific learning model that stands up to the scrutiny of most management science.
I tend to be a bit of a pragmatist. If a model feels right even if the evidence base is shaky I tend to support it and use it. 70:20:10 fits this category. At the very least it provides a common metric, language and baseline which intuitively makes sense. Learning is an inexact science unlike something like physics and science; hence I think there should be a bit of allowance for inexactitude and gut feel.
70:20:10 Learning Framework – Where did those numbers come from ?