The 70:20:10 model – how fair dinkum is it in 2015?

by John Hilton24 Nov 2015
L&D Professional is currently running a poll which poses the question: Is the 70:20:10 model still relevant today? 

At the time of writing, 59% of participants responded that the model is not relevant today.

But before we go deeper into that, let’s look at the original survey where the actual model originated. 

Back in the 1980s, around 200 successful managers were asked in a survey how they learned so effectively.

The results found that lessons learned by this group came about approximately in the following way.

•    70% from learning through tough jobs
•    20% from informal learning through peers and bosses
•    10% from formal courses and reading

It has since been considered a framework for many L&D professionals to consider when putting together their people development strategies.

Moreover, many practitioners use it to justify the significance of informal learning and social learning, going beyond the traditional classroom experience. 

However, its relevance has been called into question as a practical model today, particularly since it was created decades ago before the internet and mobile technology were widespread.

This is especially the case given millennials have grown up with these technologies and are consequently very good at accessing information to assist their own learning and development.

David Boud, Emeritus Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney told L&D Profession that he doesn’t think there is proper evidence available for the effectiveness of the 70:20:10 model. 

For one, he argued that there isn't an empirical foundation for it.

“You don’t want to look at it too hard because if you do it starts to fall apart,” he said.

“If all you have got is five minutes to explain something to a group then it’s a nice little illustration. But you don’t want to take it too seriously,” he said. 

Boud added that the 70:20:10 model is similar in a way to David Kolb’s learning cycle. 

“That learning cycle illustrates the fact that one can enter learning at different points. That’s good, but if you want to build a whole program on it then that’s going too far.” 

Do you think the 70:20:10 model has relevance? Vote in our poll by clicking here.