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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Member Blog - 70/20/10: the [learning] revolution will not be televised

By Phil Aspden - Director, eGenius Ltd
Learning and development is no longer optional. For most companies survival in a fast paced, competitive marketplace depends on the ability of the people at all levels in the company to learn; to innovate and to take responsibility.

The majority of learning and development spend will go on learning that takes place outside of the workplace but does that neglect the most active and effective area of learning and development? - the work that everyone does every day.

The 70/20/10 model, based on sound research, has brought this area into sharp focus. It describes the proportions in which we learn and develop at work and they are:

● 70% from doing the job and problem solving
● 20% from people - often a significant person at work - could be your boss, but might be someone else
● 10% from formal training such as courses however delivered
Whether you sign up to the idea that we learn and develop in those exact proportions or not - most people will instinctively agree that if they review their own learning and development then most of it has taken place in the workplace.

Let’s be clear - these proportions relate to quantity NOT importance. If I am being operated on by a surgeon I want to know for sure that she has had the 10% of formal training! However I also want to know that she has lots of experience of doing the operation I am having and has learned a great deal through her practice

Add to this the fact that other studies clearly show that we retain much more learning from doing [90% recall] rather than say - reading [typically 10% recall ]. So the majority of learning and development at work mainly takes place during the time that you are doing your job and you retain a significantly higher proportion of that learning. What is clear is that earning and work are only separate activities if you design them that way. 

It feels like we all knew that anyway and yet it has taken us a long time to act on it.

In the formal 10% of learning and development the usual approach is to set out the available formal training and people are mandated to attend or opt to attend . We can describe these as the ‘Learn2’ sources.

Learn2 learning is for knowledge and complex concepts that require assimilation. These will frequently require time out of the workplace but not always.. Knowledge gained must be put into practice as soon as possible to improve retention.

The 20% that comes from a significant person at work our ‘persuaders’ are the line managers; mentors and buddies. An ideal setting is in a performance management session. L&D managers need to target these significant people and put resources within reach of them. Not all of this will be formal - in fact the majority of it will simply be delivered direct in those ad-hoc workplace conversations and resulting reflections - the best hope is that this can be captured in some way.

So the major ‘chunk’ of learning and development in your organisation will be happening in the messy 70%. A space where employees  at all levels are problem solving, finding fixes, exploring and discovering. In this space, trying to exert some control will be like trying to pick a jelly up with your hands - it will run through your fingers, fragment and just become increasingly more difficult to control.
So don’t try - instead the approach you need here is to curate the right environment and facilitate natural and instinctive routes to learning - a social approach. Observe what is happening, identify patterns of behaviour and the natural ‘Go2’ sources of information. Go2 learning is the quick fix, heuristic* approach to problem solving in the workplace and it needs either assistance from a colleague or resources such as short videos; how-to guides; top tips, etc. The major challenge is to store resources for retrieval that can be accessed very easily at the speed of work. When it comes to matching people and information we should look at the facilitating and curating that Google do. In the 70% learning needs to be ‘agile’.

Technology has a real role to play here and we will see this increase rapidly over the next few years. Virtual and augmented reality will start to appear in the workplace as will greater application of 3D along with accessible video and animation banks.

We are likely to see people using their own devices to access work based information quickly. At the moment there is a false divide between what we characterise as information and what we describe as learning. Give someone the right information at the right time and  not only do they solve the problem but they learn in the process.

The learning revolution will not be televised - but it is likely to be on Youtube!

* Heuristics: experience based technique for problem solving, discovery and learning that give a solution that may not be optimal

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