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Martin Baker

Clear Lessons & The Charity Learning Consortium


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70:20:10: It’s not about the numbers!


What’s in a name? Martin Baker urges practitioners to get over their resistance to 70:20:10, as he reveals it’s changed the learning landscape, whilst also delivering better business results.

There’s been a massive surge in popularity for the 70:20:10 learning model – even though the concept itself is not at all new. But just as many people seem to love it as loathe it. And one of the main problems they seem to have is in the name. Well, despite it being known as 70:20:10, it really isn’t about the numbers!

Where’s the proof?

Towards Maturity carried out ground-breaking research into the effectiveness of the 70:20:10 model, and they came up with some interesting findings.

They looked at the different tactics employed by more than 600 learning professionals and came up with three measurements - a workflow index, a social index and a formal index - to dig deeper into what was happening on the ground when it came to 70:20:10.

This revealed a real balance between all three areas, rather than a focus on any one. But what caught my eye in particular is that L&D professionals who said they weren’t interested in pursuing the 70:20:10 approach were in reality doing a lot of the same things as those that were, simply because it’s just common sense to do so. Although those practitioners that had intentionally embraced the model were achieving far greater results.

Learning professionals that approached 70:20:10 intentionally appeared far better at analysing the problems they were facing before jumping to solutions, or ‘solutioneering’ as Nigel Harrison calls it.

So they’re thinking differently about their roles as learning professionals - something which Nigel, and the likes of Charles Jennings, Laura Overton and Donald Taylor have been saying needs to happen for years.

Expect the unexpected

I love it when unexpected results come out of research, and this was it for me – that much needed change within learning and development is actually all around us already, if you know where to look for it.

Although I am not for one minute suggesting that we sit back and rest on our laurels just as we’ve begun.

According to Towards Maturity’s results, those intentionally embracing the 70:20:10 model are:

  • Twice as likely to analyse problems before designing a solution
  • Four times more likely to engage directly with managers
  • Eight times more likely to encourage staff to collaborate online to solve their own problems
  • Three times more likely to get end users involved in designing solutions

According to the research, organisations using the 70:20:10 approach were also more agile, their staff were more satisfied and motivated, and not surprisingly, they reported greater increases in productivity as a result.

This is the first time that anyone, to my knowledge, has carried out research into how effective the 70:20:10 model really is, so these are really promising results.

If you want these kind of business results yourself, my advice is to get over any resistance to the numbers and take a long hard look at 70:20:10.

If necessary, give it a different name, such as the three Es - Experience, Exposure and Education - or as Michelle Parry Slater refers to it as, Learn, Share, Grow. But whatever you call it, embrace the change.

Six myths about 70:20:10

  • There is no evidence for the benefits of 70:20:10 – well, there is now
  • L&D should try to achieve an absolute ratio of 70:20:10 – no, and even thinking that is just plain silly
  • 70:20:10 implies formal courses don’t work – no, but it does encourage avoidance of ‘solutioneering’, and courses are not always the answer
  • 70:20:10 is a rule and the numbers are fixed – not at all, in fact it’s more about using common sense
  • Adapting or building courses to include social and workplace learning is ‘doing’ 70:20:10 –  no! 70:20:10 is a holistic approach, first identify your needs
  • 70:20:10 is just a way to cut costs – no it isn’t, although the 70:20:10 approach might well cut costs if you avoid often wasteful ‘solutioneering’

One Response

  1. An excellent summary of some
    An excellent summary of some key points from the Towards Maturity study report. Thank you.

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