Warning, Will Robinson! The 70:20:10 model is failing!

Another great post from Sukh

Thinking About Learning

I’ve been considering the 70:20:10 model of learning. The basics of it suggest the following: 70% of what we learn is done on the job / via our own methods. This has been galantly called ‘social learning’ or ‘informal learning’. 20% of what we learn is via coaching/mentoring/good management. 10% of what we learn is via formal learning methods inlcuding learning sessions, e-learning and online learning.

It’s a pretty damning indictment of the state of L&OD. It suggests that the focus of the corporate L&Der should be about supporting and finding ways to enable the social learning that people are already doing.

It suggests that all the coaching programmes we invest heavily in as corporate entities are a waste of money because people aren’t really learning that much through that method anyway.

It suggests that the formal learning activities we engage in are useless.

And I have a fundamental problem…

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About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

3 Responses to Warning, Will Robinson! The 70:20:10 model is failing!

  1. Hi Paul,

    I shared the below on Sukh’s post and thought you might be interested:

    I think you are right to interrogate the 70:20:10, but I don’t agree with many of the assumptions you have made about the framework.

    70:20:10 is not pro-informal or anti-formal. The framework simply suggests that our most significant learning generally happens in the workplace through challenging experiences and the people around us. Formal or structured learning still has an important role, but it is not a solution in and of itself.

    You’ve suggested that 70:20:10 is a formula, but Charles Jennings is the first to say that the framework is a reference model, not a recipe. Learning is contextual and the specific balance of experiential, social and formal development will be different for each situation/context. The numbers simply serve to prompt us to focus our efforts on where most learning occurs and to create performance solutions, rather than training solutions.

    I like the simplicity of 70:20:10 and that when you talk to people about it, they pretty much agree with idea. They will tell you it fits with their own experiences. Although the numbers might be useful for L&D, they can be a distraction or cause unnecessary contention/confusion. For these reasons, I like the idea that many people have taken, to remove reference to the numbers and speak instead of:

    3E – Experience, Exposure, Education
    3P – Practice, People, Programs
    Experience, Relationships, Formal

    I also believe in a broader view of the framework. Experiential learning covers a range of solutions that support new experiences, challenging experiences, and reflective practice. Social Learning of course includes coaching and mentoring as you’ve mentioned, but extends to line leaders developing others, the role of communities and sharing and of course, feedback.

    Formal development is not removed from the equation, but instead is a key element and enabler of workplace learning and performance.

    I agree with you that experiential and social learning is already happening every day. The reality however, is that it is often left to chance. This means it is not as efficient or effective as it needs to be. L&D has an exciting role as you’ve suggested in supporting a more holistic view of how employees learn, perform and improve. The 70:20:10 helps organisations make informal learning intentional and deliberate.

    L&D can’t and shouldn’t manage informal learning the way it manages formal learning (training calendars, LMS etc.). Our role instead is to build the scaffold that guides, enables and supports it in practice and makes it deliberate.

    There is no such thing as the perfect model, but 70:20:10 has been the most holistic and simplest one I have found to work with. We do however, need to challenge ourselves to adopt a broader view of how it can be applied as a strategic framework.

    I would very much recommend Charles Jennings’ publication, ’70:20:10 Framework Explained’. It is an easy read and explores many of the issues you have raised. You can explore the publication here:


    Thanks for your post and for prompting me to review my own thoughts around the framework.

  2. Ryan Tracey says:

    Thanks for drawing my attention to this, Paul. I’ve left my 2-cents’ worth on Sukh’s blog.

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