70-20: Ignite the flame to drive learning outcomes

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As Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

Picture it this way: a leaky bucket sits underneath a faucet. Eventually, the bucket starts overflowing with water. Now imagine carrying that bucket and, as it continues to leak all over the floor, attempting to pour its contents into a glass. Not such an effective method, is it?

Instead, think of the learning process like gathering firewood and encouraging the student to light their own fire.

When it comes to the 70-20-10 learning model, the 20 and 70 portions (developmental relationships and challenging assignments) are messy buckets with holes in them that leak across the learning journey. These are not so neatly packaged into a single silo.  (See part 1 of this series on 70-20-10 here and part 2 here)

On a recent project with a leading mobile carrier, the client wanted to see all the learning interventions placed into their respective 70-20-10 silos.  The result was a mish-mash of learning interventions.

While it was helpful to categorize and quantify the modality percentages being recommended, it didn’t do anything to convey the learner experience. That’s because people don’t learn by taking their leaky pails and trying to conform within silos along their developmental journeys – they need to light their own fire.

While the 20 component of the 70-20-10 model will happen organically, the real challenge is in the implementation of the 70 component of challenging assignments.  For 70 to work, employees need leaders who embed learning into the way they manage and how everyday work occurs. Also, the abilities to allow for mistakes and talk about them as a natural part of learning and growth are essential.

Overall, the 70-20 portions of the model are great in theory, but if organizations don’t talk about what they are learning from their projects and everyday work, they just become numbers that have no substance. Take a page from Yeats’ book: create an environment that allows learners to ignite their own flame!

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