50 suggestions for implementing 70-20-10 (2)

50 suggestions for implementing 70-20-10

Part 2 (Here’s Part 1)

The 70 percent: learning from experience

People learn by doing. We learn from experience and achieve mastery through practice.

Apprenticeship & peer learning

Apprenticeship is a time-honored method of learning by experience, but I suspect that it didn’t go down like the history books tell us. Imagine being an aspiring sculptor in the studio of Michelangelo. Most of the time, the master is away painting the Sistine Chapel or executing a commission at some nobleman’s palazzo. In the meantime, junior apprentices learn from senior apprentices. Nothing new there: we learn more from our peers than from our superiors.

A master craftsman makes sure the people she’s developing work and learn from a wide group of people. She rotates them through novel assignments. She assigns challenges and celebrates what people learn from their mistakes. She goes along with Picasso’s sentiment that “I do things I do not know how to do in order to learn how to do them.” She tolerates their fumbles.

Apprenticeship isn’t the master and the apprentice sitting together in the studio. There are journeymen, senior folks, camp followers, groupies, newbies, politicians, young and old in this workscape, everyone helping one another to figure out how to do things and get better at doing them.

John Seely Brown is married to an architect. He notes that architecture students know precisely what’s up with their studio mates. The faculty conducts the equivalent of the hospital intern’s grand rounds. Everyone sees examples and assessments of her peers. Your work is in plain site on your board. JSB’s lovely wife predates computer-aided drawing. I wonder if architects even have studios any more. All you need is a workstation and the cloud. Or, more optimistically, you could eavesdrop on critiques by true masters, recorded for posterity in the bitstream.

Experience is a difficult task master. We learn more from making a mistake than from getting it right the first time. That’s why wise managers throw team members into stretch assignments. It accelerates learning. Being ejected from one’s comfort zone is why some say that the only thing worse than learning from experience is not learning from experience.



Stretch assignments

Experiential learning is the gold standard. Matching the most appropriately challenging experience to the developmental stage of the worker is the most powerful lever in the manager’s toolbox.

Those were the two most importance sentences in this mass of verbiage. Let this one sink it. It’s a game changer.

As a reminder, what I said was “Matching the most appropriately challenging experience to the developmental stage of the worker is the most powerful lever in the manager’s toolbox…” Forget what the other guys told you. This is it. Embrace experiential learning. Craft a great mix of challenging assignments. Let them learn. Don’t teach. People are amazingly adept at rising to a challenge and figuring things out.

experienced4One more time, what’s the most common way we learn? EXPERIENCE. Replace jobs with experiences if you must move quickly.

Making the match requires knowledge of the work and the worker. The manager’s judgment in making the best match is what creates transformative learning experiences. Here’s a list of potential learning assignments that may lie just outside of the worker’s comfort zone.


Expand the scope of the work

  • Increase the worker’s responsibilities.
  • Increase span of control.
  • Increase decision-making authority.
  • Participate in a group to solve a real business problem.
  • Fill in for the manager or someone else.
  • Take on managerial responsibilities (e.g. budgeting, interviewing).


Change and adversity

  • Work in a situation with rapidly changing circumstances.
  • Handle a crisis.
  • Work in a situation where something goes wrong or fails.
  • Work on new initiatives.
  • Build a new team from scratch.
  • Champion a new product or service.
  • Turn around a troubled project.


Enter challenging relationships

  • Work with people from other business units or functions.
  • Work with multiple people with contradictory and competing view.
  • Work with customers or a customer service group .
  • Interact with senior management (e.g. meetings, presentations).
  • Lead a cross-functional team.


Persuade, teach and observe

  • Persuade senior managers to take a specific action.
  • Teach coworkers how to do a component of their jobs.
  • Volunteer as a mentor for new hires.
  • Reverse-mentor a senior person on social networking or technology.
  • Introduce new productivity or organization techniques to the team.
  • Shadow a coworker to see how he or she conducts his or her work.
  • Work with a recognized expert.
  • Do a front line job for a while (e.g. answering calls in the call center, loading suitcases onto the airplane, flipping burgers)


Make work visible and discuss it with others

  • Narrate your work, share what you’re doing with colleagues.
  • Write a process-oriented blog.
  • Be active in social networks in the workplace and in the industry.
  • Curate information and share with others.

Charles Jennings reports that performance inevitably improves when managers ask their team members these three simple reflective questions:

  1. What are your reflections on what you’ve been doing since we last met.
  2. What would you do differently next time?
  3. What have you learned since we last met?



My next post will deal with the improving the 20%: Learning with others.



When the Internet Time Alliance gives one- and two-day master classes in 70-20-10 implementation, we always field a lot of questions. If you have a question, please ask it in the Comments. We’ll post an answer for all to see. If you want to explore putting this philosophy in place at your company, let’s chat on the phone. You can reach me at 1.510.528.3105.

The 70:20:10 Forum will soon be out of stealth mode. Watch out for it. I’ll leave a notice here when the Forum debuts.


This paper draws heavily on the work of Charles Jennings, a leading thinker and practitioner in human development, change management, performance improvement and learning. Charles is senior director of the Internet Time Alliance. He has deep experience in both the business and learning practitioner sides of learning and performance. He knows what works in the world of strategic talent and effective performance and productivity approaches.chas

Charles is the Founder of The 70:20:10 Forum, a global membership portal helping professionals implement the 70:20:10 framework to maximize performance and productivity. The Forum offers a vast repository of practical information and connects members with a vibrant global community of fellow practitioners. As part of its social responsibility, the Forum supports projects at Sreepur Village, a refuge in rural Bangladesh for destitute women as well as trafficked or abandoned children.


Another source of inspiration is Heather Rutherford, founder of Blended, an organizational learning solutions company. With a philosophy centered on the 70-20-10 framework, Blended supports clients in implementing a simple and powerful architecture supported by best-practice tools and resources to increase engagement, improve productivity, efficiency and performance.


About the Internet Time Allianceita

The Internet Time Alliance helps clients understand and embrace complexity and adopt new ways of working and learning. We ask the tough questions and explore the underlying assumptions of how they do business. Then we work with them to develop strategies and plans for transformation and improvement. Email me for information on working with the Alliance.


About GoToTraining


Online Training Made Easy™Citrix GoToTraining is an easy-to-use online training service that allows you to move your entire training program online for more efficient customer and employee training. Hold unlimited online training sessions with up to 200 attendees from around the world right from your Mac or PC. Reach more trainees, collect real-time feedback, record and store your training sessions and more – all while slashing travel costs. To learn more, visit www.gototraining.com.

Citrix sponsored the research and writing of much of the material in this set of posts. Please visit CitrixOnline to see the original paper in its entirety.


About the authorjcc

Jay Cross is an author, advocate and raconteur who writes about workplace learning, leadership, organizational change, innovation, technology and the future. His educational white papers, articles and research reports persuade people to take action.

Jay has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix. A champion of informal learning and systems thinking, Jay’s calling is to create happier, more productive workplaces. He was the first person to use the term eLearning on the web. He literally wrote the book on Informal Learning. He is currently researching the correlation of psychological well-being and performance on the job.

Jay works from the Internet Time Lab in Berkeley, California, high in the hills a dozen miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge and a mile and a half from UC Berkeley. People visit the Lab to spark innovation and think fresh thoughts.He is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School.

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