The 70/20/10 principle
Stop attending training courses that don’t produce any results. The kind of courses where you spend the whole day sitting at a U-shaped table, with the trainer overwhelming you with his knowledge and insights, accompanied by stunning graphics, wonderful films and spicy one-liners, and where you take down notes on the deluxe notepad you’ve been given. At the end of the day you’re encouraged to put your new knowledge into practice at the earliest opportunity. Because the theory was explained so quickly, you can hardly remember it. And because the following day is filled with deadlines you need to make, you end up breaking the promise you made to yourself to apply your new knowledge. After a few days, you’ve forgotten most of what you’ve learned. What a waste of time, money and effort!
Is this some scenario from a bad movie? I’m afraid not! This is the way a lot of training courses are still being given today. Which means that there are employers out there who are still following this scenario. Why? Stop it!
I’d like to make a case for experiential learning, a system where the whole learning process is designed according to the 70/20/10 principle. What this comes down to is that 70% of what we learn occurs in practice as a result of the experiences we go through. Instead of talking about it, you ‘just do it’ and experiment. 20% of our learning is achieved in conversations with others, with feedback being given in an informal setting, and space being created so that backgrounds and knowledge can be shared, and where we can give each other assistance. The manager’s task is to actively facilitate this 90% of the learning process by, amongst other things, trusting their employees more, by ‘encouraging’ them to make mistakes, and to consciously think about which employees will work best together on an assignment. So that knowledge transfer is achieved in a natural way. And then there’s the last 10%, where knowledge is acquired in a more traditional setting. And not all in a single day, but in more regular doses. So that, for example, the essence of a theme is explained in an hour and the attendees are challenged to put this new knowledge immediately into practice and to discuss it with colleagues (the 90% of the learning process we mentioned earlier). Watch this video featuring Charles Jennings for a good introduction to this concept.
The 70/20/10 principle has a lot in common with the model that American psychologist David Kolb developed in the 1970s. He proposed that to be able to master complete and more complex learning processes that incorporate new insights for the learner, the learning process you will need to undergo is always made up of four phases. The learning cycle – that Kolb calls ‘experiential learning’ – consists of the following four phases: 1) concrete experience, 2) reflective observation, 3) abstract conceptualisation and 4) active experimentation. The immediate experience in the ‘here and now’ forms the basis for the observation and reflection (what went well, what went wrong?). These observations are collated, and then translated into a theory (laws, models, ideologies). From here, hypotheses or new plans and ideas are derived, which are again tested through actions in practice. This testing leads to the acquisition of new skills.
Ideally, everyone should possess four different abilities so that they can undergo an optimal learning process. They should move alternately between specific involvement (concrete experience) and analytical detachment (abstract conceptualisation), and between observer (reflective observation) and participant (active experimentation). However, from his research, Kolb concluded that people differ in their preference for, and abilities in, the various activities of the learning process. People are good at, or have a preference for, two sequential activities of the learning cycle.
- The diverger learns predominantly via concrete experience and reflective observation. His main abilities lie in being able to view concrete situations from different perspectives.
- The assimilator learns predominantly via reflective observation and abstract conceptualisation. His main abilities lie in being able to place a wide range of observations within the context of a single overarching explanation or conceptualisation.
- The converger learns primarily via abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation. His main abilities lie in being able to quickly get to the essence of the matter and applying those ideas in practice.
- The accomodator learns primarily via active experimentation and concrete experience. His main abilities lie in getting things done, carrying out plans.
Each combination of preferences leads to what Kolb refers to as a ‘learning style’, in other words, four ways of how you initially ‘tackle’ something. This implicitly states that different people start from different phases in the learning cycle. Kolb does not attach any value judgement to this. It’s just another starting off point in the learning cycle. The essential thing is that the whole cycle is allowed to run its course. In other words, make sure that someone starts the learning process in a way that most appeals to them, but also ensure that they run through the other three phases of the cycle.
This was a simple introduction about how to design learning processes more effectively within an organisation. If you would like more insights, then contact us and allow yourself to be surprised by our approach and the impact we can achieve in your organisation.
Enjoy your powerful learning experiences!