connecting work, learning, and life

The 70:20:10 reference model states that, in general, what we learn at work comes 70% from experience, 20% from exposure to new work, and 10% from formal education. At the 70:20:10 Institute [disclosure: I am a service partner], the basic approach is to start with the 70 (experience) because this is where learning and working are most connected. When we learn as we work, at the moment of need, then we learn in context and we remember what we have learnt.

“70:20:10 uses the performance paradigm to achieve working = learning in the context of the workplace and thus to contribute to the desired organisational results. In our practice we have seen many applications of the learning paradigm in 70:20:10, which is not the intention. The paradigm starts from the idea that skills need to be developed so it begins with the 10 and uses these to flesh out the 20 and 70.

This is a back-to-front approach. In 70:20:10, it’s not learning or the 10 that are central, but rather the principle of working = learning. Here again it is about achieving the desired performance improvement in the context of the individuals or teams who want to work better together.

70:20:10 is about performance enhancement: the performance paradigm starts with the desired organisational results and uses performance consulting to establish what interventions are needed in the 70, 20 and 10 to improve individual and organisational performance. This should not be confused with the learning paradigm approach in which learning is added to working. In the performance paradigms, working = learning is achieved using such models as performance support, microlearning and social learning. This makes it possible to learn at the speed of performance.” — 70:20:10 Institute

While the 70:20:10 reference model provides us with a good rule of thumb of where to support workplace learning, it should always be in consideration that important learning happens outside the workplace. The reference model originates from the work of Bob Eichinger and Mike Lombardo at the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL). Jessica Glazer of the CCL recently noted that the original research did not come out to 70, 20, 10.

“I noticed one particular pie chart: “70-20-10” it said at the top of the page, but below, the chart had 5 different areas: “challenging assignments” took up just under 50% of the circle, with roughly 40% split between “other people” and “hardships.” A final 10% was split between “formal coursework” and “personal life.” I was confused.

“What is this?” I asked Cindy [McCauley], only to have her confirm my suspicions: These were the original results from the CCL research question, “Where do key development learnings come from?” That data found that “hardships” were equally important to “other people,” and that lessons from one’s personal life aided development in an essential way. And yet, I’d never heard of the 50-20-20-5-&-5 model.

Cindy explained: the originators of the model dropped hardships and personal life events because organizations had little control over them. Coursework could be replicated, mentors could be assigned, but who could guarantee hardships? Or more importantly, who would want to? After dropping those 2 pesky categories and doing some simple recalculations, the model shook out at the now-trusty 70-20-10 breakdown.” —CCL 2017-11-28

This is the original breakdown of how and where we learn in order to do our work:

Here is the 70:20:10 reference model seen in the context of the entirety of our learning:

We should not forget that important learning happens outside of work and perhaps even in spite of work. We are multi-faceted social beings. Therefore it is not just what happens in our work teams, or even our professional communities of practice, but all of our experiences, hardships, and social connections that makes us who we are. Understanding those complex relationships may help us design better workplaces that promote a holistic approach to learning. Many of our hardships happen outside the control of the workplace. These are often our deepest moments of learning. All of our learning is connected. The 70:20:10 reference model has been a step in the right direction for workplace learning. Connecting learning inside and outside our workplaces is the next challenge.

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