Informal learning - The systems thinking and training blog - Bryan Hopkins

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Why I like 70:20:10

Published by in Informal learning ·
I have just finished reading the report "70+20+10=100: The Evidence Behind The Numbers", produced by Charles Jennings and Towards Maturity. A most interesting and worthwhile read.

For clarity, the 70:20:10 model refers to an observation that 70% of what people learn comes from real life and on-the-job experience, 20% from working with other people and 10% from formal training. These figures came from observations on leadership in a largely male target group, and, as the report acknowledges, different figures have been derived for female groups. Other research, not referred to in the report, discusses how 80% of what people learn comes from 'informal' means.

So there is some disagreement about the numbers, but this is largely because of the difficulties of actually defining what these categories of learning mean: what is the difference between 'on-the-job experience' and 'working with others'. What exactly is 'informal' learning?

But really, the numbers are not important. Why 70:20:10 is such a useful concept is that it provides a simple model around which people can conceptualise the importance of integrating formal and informal learning, which is something which the training industry has struggled with for many years. As the report says, its value is in helping people to realise that learning is a complex, multi-faceted activity, but that taking steps to facilitate non-formal learning opportunities and integrating them with formal training can bring rich rewards to organisations.

As I read the report I felt a strong sense of vindication that my own systems-based approach to analysing performance issues and developing training strategies is completely justified. Using a systems approach automatically means that we develop an understanding of each part of the 70:20:10 triad, about the dynamics of the workplace, how people work with each other and share information, what barriers and enablers may exist to implementing new knowledge and skills and so on. This can help us to design training which explicitly helps people to integrate their informal learning opportunities with training. Definitely a good thing!

Using workshops to promote informal learning

Published by in Informal learning ·
For the last 12 months I have been working on the dissertation for my Master's programme in systems thinking. That is a long time to be working on a relatively small area of knowledge, so it needs to be something about which you are interested!

As I was thinking around for a topic to examine, I reflected on how people attending training workshops always comment on how useful it is to meet other people who do the same work, and I often wondered if people chose to stay in touch with each other after the event, or if they were just 'ships that passed in the night'. So for my dissertation I started to do a lot of reading around the subject of social learning networks and communities of practice, to see if there were any lessons which could be learned which were of relevance to the process of workshop design.

Quite a few factors seem to be relevant. Official support is important, in terms of encouraging people to take time out to share knowledge and information and in providing practical, logistical support. Learning networks need to motivate their participants so that they continue to engage with the network, and this will often require injections of energy from some organising committee. People need to trust each other, to feel that it is okay to ask questions which might be seen as revealing ignorance.

So in my research I distributed on-line surveys to people in 22 different workshops, and asked them to assess various aspects of how the workshop had been run and to describe how they had stayed in contact with other participants after the workshop. The results showed that the key factor in making it more likely that people will stay in touch with each other after the workshop is trust: if the workshop is designed so that people get to know each other through discussions and other activities designed to promote social learning, the chances are much greater that they will stay in touch.

Staying in touch means enhancing informal learning, and this can be a powerful tool for enhancing the value of a workshop, but one which we rarely ever measure. Systemic approaches to evaluation is a subject I will return to on another day.

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