Flat Army: 3-33 Learning Model Verses 70-20-10

I have been reading Dan Pontefract's new book Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization, and can honestly say it is an excellent and insightful book for developing a collaborative and open leadership organization. The part that grabbed my attention the most is the section in chapter 9, Learning at the speed of need, which discusses the 70-20-10 learning model (while I have a great interest in all of Dan's topics in his his book, learning is my primary field of interest).

Dan notes that there is no empirical evidence that learning maps to the 70-20-10 model, even though practitioners often cite it as a fact. It was developed in the 1980s when command and control was at the heart of leadership—think of Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch, and Roger Smith who more than likely thought that Learning/Training Departments were solely for their bidding and could offer very little for them personally. Thus the model is based on the the very thing that many learning and development practitioners are trying to get away from—hierarchy organizations. In addition, the model was developed before the Internet, thus it does not account for the numerous technologies that have aided formal learning, such as just-in-time learning, elearning, virtual learning.

I would also add that while some have pointed to Where did the 80% come from? as further proof that the 70-20-10 learning model is valid, when I researched the listed references on the page that give low percentages to formal learning, such as Raybould who proclaims that formal learning only accounts for 10% of the learning, I discovered that the authors provided no evidence at all. Such citations seam to imply, “I saw it on the Internet so it most be true.” On the other hand, the references that provide higher ratios for formal learning are the most evidence based.

The 3-33 Model

Dan provides what I see is a closer approximation of the learning ratios: 3-33, which stands for 33% the learning is formal, 33% is informal, and 33% is social. What is most interesting is that the research behind his model revealed that when the learners were asked to give the percentages on how they thought they learned, the numbers were very different than when the researchers actually discovered how the learners did indeed learn. This coincides with other research that indicates what learners are able to judge about their learning experiences (see Learner Self-Assessment Ratings).
3-33 Learning Model
graphic by Dan Pontefract

One of the other major errors of the 70-20-10 model is that it places reading in formal learning. Since when did reading a book become formal learning? Dan of course places it under the correct type of learning in his 3-33 model... informal. The 70-20-10 error seems to again coincide with the command and control culture that was most prevalent in the 1980s—the top leaders viewed writers as part of the elite who they could trust and learn from, while the learning/training functions were viewed as something to command and control, rather than trusted partners.

All in all, Flat Army is a very good book that deserves a special spot in in anyone's library who is interested in collaboration, leadership, and learning.

DISCLAIMER: While Dan and I have exchanged comments via blogs, I have no other interests in the book.

NOTE: While I seem to be kind of harsh on “command and control” it is mostly because of the audience I write for. I'm retired military so my real view of command and control follows the military view, which vastly differs from layman's and others point of view. See my writings on Leadership, Management, Command, & Control.

What are your thoughts on the two models?


In Memory of My Loving Wife

Kyong Cha Clark
As you probably noticed I have not wrote any new blog posts or tweeted for quite some time. My wife passed away last November. I knew this would come sooner or later as she had an advance stage of cancer that was diagnosed in January of last year. I thought I was better prepared, but Kyong and I have been married for over 39 years and soul mates for over 40 years  (it was both our first marriage). Thus it came as a bigger shock than I thought it would.

Kyong was willing to fight the cancer as long as she could maintain a certain quality of life, but said when it was time to go, she wanted to go. On November 6th she came down with pneumonia and was taken to the hospital with a low blood oxygen  level. They gave her forced oxygen and antibiotics, which quickly brought her oxygen level up to normal; however, the next day it started dropping again to an unsafe level and we decided it was time to put her on comfort care. Our daughter and I were both at her side when she passed peacefully away.

I had to drop off the virtual social grid as I was quite busy taking care of her, our home, and running my business during the last few months of her illness and then it took me quite some time to get over the grief of losing her. It's time to reenter the grid.