50 suggestions for implementing 70-20-10 (3)

50 suggestions for implementing 70-20-10

Part 3 (Here’s Part 1 and Part 2)

The 20 percent: learning through others


Learning is social. People learn with and through others.

Conversations are the stem cells of learning. Effective managers encourage their team members to buddy up on projects, to shadow others and to participate in professional social networks. People learn more in an environment that encourages conversation, so make sure you’re fostering an environment where people talk to each other.

Several years ago, the local paper in Ottawa carried a story about voter betrayal. The politicians had gone back on their promise to provide every elementary student with a computer. It would be 2 kids per machine. I smiled. The kids will learn a lot more this way. Companies need to take advantage of the social nature of learning. Have two or three people go through eLearning together, before a single screen. Encourage them to talk. Retention will skyrocket, and conversation will mitigate the boredom of most eLearning.

Communities of practice

A Community of Practice (CoP) is a social network of people who identify with one another professionally (e.g. designers of logic chips) or have mutual interests (e.g. amateur photographers). Members of CoPs develop and share knowledge, values, recommendations and standards. What’s really great is that most CoPs are self-perpetuating.

Chefs and workers in the kitchen who aspire to be chefs are a community of practice. Newcomers learn the ropes from working alongside veterans.


Respected senior chefs add to the knowledge base; that fuels the evolution of the chef community. All take pride in membership, as one would in a guild.

An effective community of practice is like a beehive. It organizes itself, buzzes with activity and produces honey for the markets.

Silicon Valley is chock-full of communities of practice. Professionals there consider themselves programmers or chip designers or semiconductor engineers first and employees of HP or Intel or AMD second.

Etienne Wenger4, who with Jean Lave coined the term community of practice in 1987, notes that there “is hardly a Fortune 500 company today that does not have somewhere an initiative to cultivate communities of practice.” And it is not just business but also non-governmental organizations and government that are cultivating communities. Nonetheless, Etienne sees the need to continue building learning capacity.

An effective internal community of practice requires:

  • A common practice and shared enterprise
  • Active interaction and participation
  • Mutual interdependence
  • Overlapping histories, practices and understandings among members
  • Respect for diverse perspectives and minority views5

The manager may get the ball rolling for a new community, nurture an existing one or ask an engaged and willing team member to kick-start the community. It’s vital to respect the autonomy of the community. The manager may free up people’s time to participate or make a meeting space available, but she should not try to shape the community’s agenda, for over-management stifles a community’s effectiveness.6

What worked at Google

coachWhen Google sought to find out what makes managers successful, far and away the most important factor was being a good coach7. Google says a good coach “provides specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive.” A good coach “has regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employee’s specific strengths.” That’s great context for talking about personal growth.

Coaching provides8:

  • Individual attention and personal support
  • Rapid resolution of conflicts
  • Improved communication among team members
  • Discovery, development and leveraging of strengths and potential
  • Catalyst to support acceleration and maintenance of positive change
  • Peek performance as individuals and teams
  • Set high-outcome goals and eliminate obstacles

Coaching is not always one on one. Managers employ what’s known as Action Learning to guide teams that explore real organizational challenges to resolve work issues and gain skills in reflective questioning and listening. The practice originated in the 1940s with English coal miners working on mining issues9. Mary Broad suggests what it takes for Action Learning to be successful:

  • A pressing, complex organizational problem that’s clearly worth solving
  • A coach who guides the group’s learning (not necessarily the team manager)
  • Four-to-eight diverse individuals assigned to problem-solving teams
  • A process that values reflective questioning and listening more than making statements.
  • The group’s ability to take action to solve the problem


There’s a fine line between coaching and mentoring. Mentoring is the deliberate pairing of an experienced person (the mentor) with a less experienced one (the protégé or mentee). Mentees are not always direct reports of their mentors10. Mentoring takes the form of tutoring, counseling, modeling and giving feedback.

Facilitated mentoring — planned, guided and evaluated — is typically more successful than informal sessions. Effective mentoring requires11:

  • Decision-maker support for identified needs, goals, opportunities and readiness
  • Planning and design that are aligned with other performance interventions
  • Criteria for matching mentors and mentees are agreed on by stakeholders
  • Development plan in place


My next post will deal with the improving the 10%: Learning from curriculum.


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. Here’s my informal take on what’s going on:


Initial launch of the 70:20:10 Forum will take place in the first quarter of 2013.

Founded and curated by Charles Jennings it has been designed to be the complete online resource for professionals using the 70:20:10 framework to maximise performance and productivity throughout their organisation. The Forum provides a repository of practical information at your fingertips and connects you with a vibrant global community of fellow practitioners.

The Forum gives members benefits including: the latest research, papers and case studies, thought-leader webinar events, selected publications and an insight-rich newsletter, making it the most useful and up-to-date 70:20:10 information source available.

If the 70:20:10 learning strategy is something you are using, or intend to use, the 70:20:10 Forum will save you time, bring you in contact with the best and brightest thinking, and most importantly, help you implement it effectively.

The Forum is committed to supporting a charity in Bangladesh that Charles has been working with for some time.


The 70:20:10 Forum supports Sreepur Village, Bangladesh.

The Sreepur Village project was established in 1989 by British Airways stewardess, Pat Kerr.

It is a small non-religious, non-political organisation based rural Bangladesh. The project supports destitute mothers and abandoned children to give them the health, knowledge and skills they need to function independently in society. There are currently about 100 mothers and 450 children at Sreepur. The project provides safety, a loving environment, food, clothing, education, and vocational training so that the woman and children can look forward to independent lives in their communities.



About the Internet Time Alliance

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.

Does your company need substantive white papers and webinars like this? Get in touch.