As long ago as 1996 Lombardo & Eichinger were talking about the ‘70:20:10’ model of learning and development. This model has many features in common with the ‘Exponential-way’.
The assumption is that generally people at work learn through a combination of on-the-job learning (70 percent), relationship based learning or learning from others (20 percent) and through formal, structured learning (10 percent). Lombardo & Eichinger’s 70:20:10 model is an observation of how people learn rather than a theory of learning. What it tells us is that for a formal training intervention to result in good learning outcomes it must be supported by opportunities to apply or incorporate the new skills and knowledge in situ with appropriate support and coaching from others. The three dimensions of learning combine broadly in the ratio of 70:20:10, resulting in a more powerful, sustainable learning experience.
What does this mean in practice?
It means that in the ‘real world’ people learn and develop predominantly through experience (70 per cent),through interacting with and from other people (20 per cent) and just 10 per cent from formal or structured learning and development events. When learning and development combines all three, the quality of the learning and development and the impact on performance is usually very impressive.
At it’s best, it supports people to collaborate, solve problems, converse, share ideas, brainstorm, learn, relate to others, talk, explain, communicate, conceptualize, tell stories, help one another, teach, serve customers, keep up to date, meet one another, forge partnerships, build communities, and distribute information.
Since learning is continuous, it is a never-ending process. People learn continuously and discover a ‘ah-ha moment’ for themselves most days. Learning is no longer confined to an event-driven experience such as a training course and learning suddenly becomes a bite-size habit that drives and sustains small, incremental improvements in personal and organisational performance. Training events are less important than ever. Today, greater leverage comes from building on-going, largely self-sustaining learning processes such as subscriptions to keep up-to-date technically, persistent online meeting rooms for collaboration, and knowledge bases that support self-service learning. Corporate learning used to be based on the proposition that knowing how people did things in the past was adequate preparation for doing well in the present. This worked when there was generally one way to do a task, and it remained the same for decades. This is no longer the case. High-quality learning is that which enables a worker to turn in an exemplary performance. This is a moving target. Pragmatic learning involves continually acquiring knowledge, deciding how to do things and keeping abreast of change.
The product of learning is not something a person receives a certificate for; the true outcome of learning is successful adaptation to the ever-changing environment. In the industrial era, workers operated machinery to produce goods. You could see what they were doing and touch the goods they produced. Time-and-motion studies identified the one best way to do a job; training taught workers how to do it. Successful workers followed instructions. “You’re not paid to think.” Outcomes were predictable. Work was mechanical. Today, workers apply knowledge to deliver services. You can’t see most of what they’re doing, and their output is largely intangible. There’s always a better way to do a job; learning stretches minds to cope with new situations. Successful knowledge workers are rewarded for innovation and ingenuity. These workers are paid to think.
Change is rampant and unpredictable. Not so long ago, knowledge itself was thought to reside in people’s heads. The new view is that knowledge is collective intelligence, a shared consensual reality that lives among us rather than inside us. We are no longer just consumers of knowledge; we are contributors as well. This is the ‘Exponential-way’.