The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development means that we obtain 70 percent of our knowledge from job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with others, and 10 percent from formal educational events.What an asterisk and hands-on experience can teach us about adult learning, development and the 70:20:10 model.

If you’ve ever worked with a training professional or been a part of a team-building event, then you might have heard of or participated in something called the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development. It’s a tried-and-true method for facilitating optimum learning, and has been a staple for people like me since the early 1980’s. But thanks to a recent presentation I attended, I’m realizing how adult learning is shifting – and for companies, that’s big news.

What Exactly Does 70:20:10 Mean?

The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development is a commonly used formula to describe the the best way for business professionals, managers and leaders to learn.  Basically, it means that we obtain 70 percent of our knowledge from job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with others, and 10 percent from formal educational events. Let’s break it down even further:

Job-related experience. Model creators indicate that hands-on experience (the 70 percent) is the most beneficial for employees, because it enables them to discover and refine their job-related skills, make decisions, address challenges, and interact with influential people – such as bosses and mentors within work settings. They also learn from their mistakes and receive immediate feedback on their performance.

Interactions with others. Employees learn from others (the 20 percent) through a variety of activities that include social learning, coaching, mentoring, collaborative learning and other methods of interaction with peers. Encouragement and feedback are prime benefits of this learning approach.

Formal educational events. The formula holds that only 10 percent of professional development optimally comes from formal traditional courseware instruction and other educational events – a position that typically surprises practitioners from academic backgrounds.

So where does the asterisk come in?

The Power of an Asterisk*

A colleague of mine and I recently attended a team-building presentation with a client, and it was no surprise that this familiar formula was referenced. What did surprise and intrigue me, however, was that one of the visuals used for the event included an asterisk at the end of the formula. What did it mean? Adult learning is changing.

The Rise of Nontraditional Learning

Throughout the day, my client commented more than once how her team enjoys and benefits the most from being involved in the development process. In other words, there is high value in experience-based learning.  For anyone in the training industry, this is not anything new; we know that adult learners thirst for active, hands-on learning.

But what I see shifting, and why the asterisk is so significant, is that while we have held this traditional 70:20:10 model so near to dear to our hearts, it doesn’t fully account for two important things: just how effective and powerful (and long-lasting) hands-on, experiential learning can be; and the increase (and availability) of informal learning.

The most glaring example of informal learning – which is constantly happening all around us – is our access to the Internet. Online and mobile learning opportunities are everywhere, and offer a continuous supply of informal learning resources. This unlimited access, combined with our need for hands-on learning, is exactly why adventure-based team building experiences are so valuable. They combine each category of adult learning (job-related, interaction, formal and informal), and bring them together in a powerful learning environment that is relevant and effective.

What Does This Mean to You?

Teams and individuals benefit the most from the development process, experiential and hands-on learning, and the growing influence of informal learning. While the traditional model still has value, it’s changing. The way we learn has shifted, with informal learning on the rise. By participating in team-building events (hands-on learning with experiential interaction), combined with access to informal learning, your teams will learn and retain information better.

What Do You Think?

Were you already familiar with the 70:20:10 model? Do you feel like it is applicable to the way you learn and retain knowledge, and how experiential or informal learning influenced your personal or professional growth? We’d love to hear your thoughts – please leave your comments below.

A passionate coach, facilitator and speaker with nearly 20 years in Corporate America, Deseri implements creative, experiential and personalized programs that challenge, motivate and transform clients. Her tireless pursuit of possibility gets results – tangible, solid, proof-of-purchase outcomes.