Tuesday, August 21, 2007

70:20:10 Rule - Works for me

UPDATE: I originally published this post August 2007. Today I received an invitation from Charles Jennings to join his 70 20 10 Forum.  I would encourage you to check it out and join in the conversation.

A good friend and colleague from Intel reminded me of the 70:20:10 rule.

Okay...wait a minute. Maybe this actually was the first time I was hearing of this. I feel so out of it.

A quick Google search on it turns up this article about Charles Jennings, Global Head of Learning for Reuters.
He calls this the 70:20:10 rule. "About 70 per cent of organizational learning takes place on the job, through solving problems and through special assignments and other day-to-day activities.

"Another 20 percent occurs through drawing on the knowledge of others in the workplace, from informal learning, from coaching and mentoring, and from support and direction from managers and colleagues. Only 10 percent occurs through formal learning, whether classroom, workshop or, more recently, e-learning.
And reminders of Jay Cross (@jaycross) ring in my head with this quote...
"But most organisations invest at least 80 per cent of their training budgets in formal learning, where little of the learning takes place. And formal learning is also generally less effective than informal learning."
I love the part about "the conspiracy of convenience". What a beautiful picture this article paints of the reality training professionals live in. You GOT to read this one.


    Michele Martin said...

    Great article, Brent--thanks for sharing this.

    My 19 year-old digital native daughter is a prime example of the new kind of learner. She is increasingly impatient with the 65 year-old boss at her summer job who gives her things to do, one at a time. "Mom," she said to me yesterday, "Why can't he just give it to me all at once so I can get it done and then come back when I need more?" She also can't understand why he thinks it's so difficult to find information---she knows exactly where to go to get what she needs when she needs it.

    The generational differences are interesting, as are the implications.

    Sharon Boller said...

    Where is the empirical data to support the 70/20/10 rule? The Center for Creative Leadership did a study of leaders several years ago in which leaders SELF-REPORTED that about 70% of their leadership skills were acquired through on-the-job experiences, 20% came through mentoring and coaching relationships, and 10% came from formal training. Since then, the 70/20/10 rule seems to have permeated general culture...with no quantifiable data to support its validity. Some very technical jobs that are highly proceduralized are likely to require much more than 10% of someone's skill to come from informal OJT experiences. I'm not denigrating the very high value of experiential learning...but I am concerned that folks are misinterpreting 70/20/10.

    Brent Schlenker said...

    So, this is cool! I'm commenting on a comment posted almost exactly 1 year ago on a blogpost I wrote almost exactly 3 years ago.

    But I digress...

    Sharon, I completely respect your concern for the validity of the data. I often question it myself. Actually i find it fun to "play" with data to help make points, but rarely do I put too much stock into it. My academic career mixed with a short career in broadcast media has jaded my view of data. It can be twisted and turned into so many different directions.

    I don't claim to know the exact percentages nor should anyone, because it simply depends upon your current learning situation, need, and own learning personality. Technical topics may require more formal training up front but over time I think the rule comes into play.

    I like to just "eye-ball" things based on my personal experience and pinging my network. And in this case it simply "works for me".

    Thanks for the comment!

    Charles Jennings said...

    Even more enjoyable to respond yet a further year on, Brent :)....

    Sharon, I understand your concerns. The work that Morgan McCall and his colleagues reported has been taken by many as if it were the output of some well designed controlled experimental study. As you point out, it wasn't.

    Subsequently some people present the 70:20:10 framework as a recipe. It's not that either. It's a reference model, a set of guidelines, a tool that learning professionals can use to help de-focus all their time, efforts and budgets from formal L&D-led classes, courses and curricular and re-focus at least some of those efforts to where most of organisational learning really happens - self-directed in the workplace.

    There are plenty of very useful reference models in use that did not emerge from peer-reviewed academic papers, but on the back of surveys, empirical observation and, sometimes, just 'gut feelings' that they make sense. If they work it makes them no less useful or valid.

    As a former academic I'd be very happy to use a reference model with absolutely no backing data if it achieved what I wanted it to achieve.

    I implemented the 70:20:10 framework in a global Fortune 500/FTSE 100 organisation six years ago. It proved a successful way to embed workplace learning, increase manager-led development, improve overall learning, and reduce cost (yes, it tends to do that, although few L&D professionals like to talk about cost reduction for fear of losing their jobs).

    I find I regularly need to tell people to 'get over' the figures. Of course the ratio of 'learning through experience and practice in the workplace', 'learning through others', and 'formal learning' will vary depending on context.

    All that said, there is plenty of evidence outside the McCall et. al. study that indicated:
    - people learn more about their work informally (most of the '70' and '20' parts) than they do formally
    - that people new to a role or organisation will learn a greater percentage formally than 'veterans'
    - that 'veterans' will rely more on informal learning
    - that formal works best with explicit information/knowledge
    - that informal works bets with tacit information/knowledge

    Incidentally, Prof Alan Tough's more 'academic' research work with adult learners around 15 years before McCall's survey 'showed the70:20:10 split' (as he told me a few months ago).

    Eric Hunter said...

    Funny to leave a comment on such an old post, but I love the 70:20:10 rule. Like you, it "feels" right to me.

    I stumbled upon some research related to it. Just thought I would share.


    Scroll down to the Examples section and you will see a reference to a study and a diagram.

    Great blog, Brent. I enjoy catching up on your current thinking.