Is 70:20:10 the Norma of the L&D world?

Norma is a statue that was designed in 1943 to represent the ideal female form. It was based on measurements collected from 15,000 young adult women. A Cleveland newspaper soon announced a contest co-sponsored by the Cleveland Health Museum, the Academy of Medicine of Cleveland, the School of Medicine, and the Cleveland Board of Education. To enter, a women had to submit her body dimensions. The person that most closely matched the “typical woman,” as represented by Norma, would be the winner.

The judges believed the contest would be close, however, less than 40 of the almost 4,000 contestants were average size on just five of the nine dimensions and none of the contestants came close on all nine dimensions.

While the Norma Look-Alike contest demonstrated that average-size women did not exist, a study conducted by the U.S. Air Force at about the same time revealed there was no such thing as an average-size pilot (men). Note: the full story for both Norma and the pilots can be read at, When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages (thank you Stephen Downes for the link).

70:20:10 is similar to Norma and the Air Force pilots in that they are classifying groups according to their averages on certain measures (known as typing). The 70:20:10 study was conducted in the 1980s by asking successful executives how they learned (and we can pretty much conclude from this that the study was mostly composed of white men whose ambitions were to climb the hierarchical ladder to a top executive position).
Form ever follows function. - Louis Henri Sullivan in 1896.
Sullivan's quote implies NOT that there is a greater importance of function over form, but rather that the two are intricately linked together. In addition, function is decided before form. For example, an office chair with a straight back used form first; otherwise, the back would be curved to fit the human spine (function). Once you know the function, the form can then be designed to fit it.

Thus, designers who use the 70:20:10 model are designing for form first (how white men before the Internet thought they learned). And to make it worse, there is no function in the 70:20:10 model as the model does not tell you where you are or what to do. . . it only tells you three numbers that stand on their own.
Design communicates on every level. It tells you where you are, cues you to what you can do, and facilitates the doing. - Jeffrey Zeldman
Now compare the 70:20:10 model to the Full-Spectrum Learning model. The 70:20:10 model points you to the past, while the second gives you two heuristics to guide you in your design and points you towards the future.

Do you design for the past or the future?


The 70:20:10 Learning Model: A Path to the Past

This post arose from Tom Spiglanin's post and comments on Revisiting 70:20:10.

70:20:10 has been good in that it has inspired instructional designers to create broader learning experiences, rather than just courses. The major problem is that it is based on how a very small group of one profession believed that is how they learned in the past. Thus, we know the outcome they achieved, 70:20:10, but not how that particular ratio equates to our particular situation.

In addition, we know that 70:20:10 is the goal, but we also know that we don't really have to match the ratio exactly. However, there is no real means that informs us if our percentage is correct or not. For example, if my design is 50:20:30, is it correct for the situation, or did I put too much Training and not enough Experience in it?

Thus, 70:20:10 is predictive in that it tells where or near (it's not exact) we should be, but since it is unstructured, it is impossible to use as a means for getting there. By unstructured, I mean it does not rely on relationships to track it in an environment. The percentages are only related to each other, thus we cannot associate them with other entities in order to check if our percentage make sense.

In addition, two of the percentages (training and experience) are more closely related to the environment or domain; while the third one, learning from others (social) is more of a learning method, rather than a learning environment. That is, most organizations have different environments for training and working (experience), but none for social learning because it's ubiquitous — it happens all over the place. Thus, the three terms are difficult to align in relationship to each other. And if we can't align them, we cannot structure them.

Structuring the Environments

Training allows us a safe and structured place to learn, while experience allows us to master a task through experiential and experimental methods in the real world. But is there another environment? What about the future? Training and experience gives us the skills and knowledge for performing in today's work environment, but not tomorrow's.

In a rapidly changing world, learning through formal and/or nonformal environments is a required environment if an organization wants to remain competitive. Various elements of VUCA affect all organizations to one degree or another. Not only do organizations have to be prepared for the elements of VUCA, they must identify future jobs and tasks in order to rapidly meet new and often unexpected challenges. For example, during our latest recession, companies dumped thousands of people in mass layoffs. Now they are whining that they cannot find people who have the education and training that they require. Good organizations should always be planning a path towards the future by educating people to build that path.

What would we call this domain or environment that prepares us for the future? One large organization calls it Education. In Human Resource Development, education means learning for a future job. There are actually three terms:

  • Training is learning that is provided in order to improve performance on the present job. (Full evaluation of the results can be determined when the performer returns to the job)

  • Education is helping people to do a future or different job. (Full evaluation of the results can only be performed when the performer starts the new job)

  • Development is helping people to acquire new horizons, technologies, or viewpoints. (Full evaluation of results is often difficult to determine because of extensive ambiguity)

  • Thus, from this frame of reference, the term Education and Development would be the best fit — Education covers future jobs, while Development covers the VUCA aspect.

    This is not to downplay social learning, as again, it is ubiquitous in all three environments. However, if you really don't like Education or Development, then perhaps the term Social Learning (learning from others) does fit somewhat as this is what a large majority of the learning is in this type of environment.

    Note that the Education environment is similar to Training in that it is often conducted in the classroom, however it differs in two big aspects, 1) the learners choose the objectives and 2) the learning is highly ubiquitous.

    So now, we have three domains or environments: Training, Experience, and Education.

    Responsibility and Ambiguity

    Now we need some type of heuristic to guide us in the selection of the three environments. We do know at least two things about learning:

    Responsibility: While learners are responsible for the learning, we at times want to limit the responsibility of how and what they learn because of safety or other concerns that may harm the organization. For example, some mistakes only have minor consequences, while others cause major consequences, thus you want the learning to be more formal in order to eliminate the possibility of that type of mistake, which means you place more of the responsibility on someone who fully understands the task. Thus, responsibility is based a lot on the amount of harm a mistake may cause. This includes such impacts as safety, hits to the organization’s reputation, cost of the mistake, and how it affects others, both inside and outside the organization.

    Ambiguity: Some tasks are structured, such as a step-by-step process or procedure; while others are partially or totally ambiguous in the way they are performed. Tasks that have low ambiguity are often shaped that way for a purpose. For example, processes and procedures are often created to ensure compliance or the company has discovered it’s the most effective and efficient way to accomplish a task. Processes and procedures require they be performed correctly, which means you don't want to leave it to chance. Since training relies upon clear objectives as found in processes and procedures, it becomes much harder to train an ambiguous task, thus the Experience environment often works best for learning tasks that are quite ambiguous.

    Responsibility and Ambiguity provide two good heuristics because they are about two of the most important entities in a learning situation — the learner and the content that must be mastered.

    Full-Spectrum Learning

    Now we have three environments, Training, Experience, and Education; and two heuristics, the Responsibility and Ambiguity continuums to build our model. However, we are in luck because the U.S. Army has already built such a model:
    Full-Spectrum Learning

    Integration of the Three Environments

    One of the major criticisms of 70:20:10 is that the three environments stand on their own, that is, the three numbers of 70, 20, 10 are normally shown as silos, rather than being integrated. In the model shown above, each of the three environments are shown as being a major domain or environment, depending on where it lies within the matrix, in addition, each major domain is composed of a cluster of blocks that represent the other two environments but to a much lesser extent.


    Training is performed when there are low levels of Responsibility and Ambiguity. This is shown in the first cluster of blocks (bottom, left corner) in the above model — a large block of Training, with smaller blocks of Experience and Education.

    For example, a forklift can cause serious injury or death, plus extensive damage, thus it needs to be initially learned in a safe environment. Even though you may know the learners are highly responsible, you want to remove some of the responsibility from the learners because of safety. In addition, the basic operations of the forklift are pretty much procedural, rather than ambiguous. Thus, the learning is placed in a training environment.

    Once they master the basics, you move them to the next environment — Experience. This allows them to advance from beginner to performer by allowing them to work in an environment that has more ambiguity.

    In addition, you might add a small amount of Education, such as also training them on a similar piece of equipment that they might use in the future, such as a cherry picker.

    Note that the example was based on safety, but if a task can damage or harm the organization in any manner, then training should be considered as the primary environment. Equally important, if the task requires a set procedure or process (non-ambiguous), then it also makes a good Training candidate because the task must be performed correctly and not left to chance.


    When the Responsibility of learning is higher for the performer and there is higher Ambiguity in the learning environment, then people often learn best from Experience. However, the learning is still not isolated from Training and Education. This is shown in the second cluster of blocks (middle) in the above model — a large block of Experience, with smaller blocks of Training, and Education.

    For example, new supervisors are normally hired because of their success with engaging others. Learning to counsel people has a lot of ambiguity in it, thus while most counseling sessions have a few things in common, the performance of the task is mostly drawn from experience because you cannot rely on set processes to complete the task. Note that in VUCA, the element of ambiguity is largely dealt with by using experimental methods so that cause and effect can be understood. Thus, the majority of their learning is going to come from Experience.

    However, since most HR departments will not let you dismiss a person if the paperwork is not correct, then this suggests Training in small amounts, as you do not want to leave it up to chance that the new supervisor learns this process. Another example is that the organization might have a culture in which they look at mistakes as mostly learning opportunities, thus the type of counseling they want to take place may different greatly from the learners' past experiences. This suggests some type of formal learning might be provided to highlight this.

    Learning Processes vs Learning Patterns

    In the above example, the new supervisors learned a few processes in a training environment to help them perform counseling in an Experience based learning environment. However, there is another learning method that can be used in a training environment if there are no or few processes — pattern learning.

    For example, you have a new hire and ask her to create a report. She might make a mistake or two, but there is no real harm to the organization, so she learns it through experience and others. Next, you ask her to create another report, but she has to get the information by joining several tables from a major database that is used throughout the organization. However, if she joins too many tables together at once it could severely slow down the system and affect hundreds of people throughout the organization.

    In this case there are no processes to ease the ambiguity of the task, thus this suggests practicing pattern recognition. For example, having the learners practice by solving a number of scenarios so that they start to learn the good patterns from bad ones.


    When both Responsibility and Ambiguity are at their highest, they mostly learn from Education, however, the learning is still not isolated from Experience and Training. This is shown in the third cluster of blocks (top, right corner) in the above model — a large block of Education, with smaller blocks of Experience and Training.

    As noted earlier, Education is about learning to address the elements of VUCA and prepare for future jobs. This very high degree of Ambiguity marks a significant difference between it and Experience and Training — feedback. With Experience and Training, you get two-way feedback on the actual performance and how it should be performed. Education does not provide the opportunity for feedback until you actually meet one of the challenges (address an element of VUCA or perform a new task or job).

    Full-Spectrum Career

    Full-Spectrum Learning is not only for the managers and learning designers, but also for the entire workforce to understand:

    - The responsibility for learning falls on everyone to varying degrees.
    - If they are not seeking and being provided feedback in the Training and Experience environments, then they are not learning. . . they are simply performing and it might be a bad performance.
    - Feedback is two-way:
       - they are given information about their performance
       - they seek answers and resources
    - Education is not just for the elites. If you value your employees, then give them opportunities for the future.


    The Full Spectrum Learning model is from Army Learning Policy and Systems (PDF, pp21-23). The manual only gives a short blurb on the model, so many of the concepts I discussed are my own personal thoughts, thus I would be happy to hear your thoughts on the subject.


    The Seven Principles of Thinking Like a Leader

    1. Keep a focus on the mission and higher intent

    Never lose sight of the mission, purpose, and results you need to achieve. Due to the complexity of their duties, leaders are often drawn toward unusual and critical events that force them in different directions. While these difficulties need to be attended to, don't lose sight of the higher intent of the organization.

    2. Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals

    Almost anyone can achieve easy goals, but do you really believe that is what your competitors are aiming for? It's tempting to simplify your competition by treating them as rigid or simply reactive. Good leaders use their visioning skills to set BHAGs with a thorough understanding of how to reach them... not with reckless abandon.

    3. Coach your followers

    There are a few things that you need to keep a pulse on because they can have real damaging effects on your organization, but the vast majority of objectives and details can be handled by your followers. Yes, they will make mistakes. Bad leaders chew their buttocks off; good leaders know that mistakes provide one of the most valued learning opportunities there is.

    4. Combat complexity and change with learning

    Not only must you coach your followers, you must also change the culture to a mindset of a learning organization. You cannot be the only coach — the entire organization needs to know the skills, have the technologies, and be in climates that allow's them to help develop others through both formal and informal experiences.

    5. Set the example: Be, Know, Do

    You are a role model of the organization who sets the standard by being a person of good character, knowing your job, and doing all that matters.

    6. Flatten the organization by replacing hierarchies with networks

    While it might be comforting to think that information should flow smoothly up to you, and in return, you reply with commands, the world is simply too complex and moving too fast.
    Vertical leadership are organizations where leaders are in a formal positions of power at the top of the hierarchy and whose commands typically run down the hierarchy, while information flows up it. In simple environments, this can work quite well.
    However, if we view leadership as being a total system, rather than lying in individual power, then we have horizontal or flat leadership that are networks of people where information and commands flow in all directions so that change and complexity are rapidly mastered.

    7. Create and sustain diversity and inclusion

    Having biases against people who are different greatly hinders your ability to gain new insights. Diversity is about empowering people. It makes an organization effective by capitalizing on all of the strengths of each employee. It is not EEO or Affirmative Action — these are laws and policies. Diversity is understanding, valuing, and using the differences in every person. Mastering diversity leads to inclusion where all people feel they are highly valued for their uniqueness. In turn, the organization benefits from the synergistic effects of a cohesive team who bring an array of experiences to the table.
    If you would like to learn more, see The Seven Principles of Thinking Like a Leader, which provides links to in-depth articles on the various concepts


    The Six Deadly Sins of Training

    While there are dozens of ways to lessen the positive impact of training, these six failures are often the worst offenders.

    1. Failing to align Training Goals with the Business Goals

    When Training Magazine (2004) surveyed senior executives about the most important training initiatives,

    • 77% cited, “aligning learning strategies with business goals”
    • 75% cited, “ensuring learning content meets workforce requirements”
    • 72% cited, “boosting productivity and agility”

    However, as the chart below shows (Trolley, 2006), most training activities spend very little of their time investigating and showing their customers how their efforts add value to their clients (see Performance Analysis):

    Percent of time spent on training

    Percentage of time spent on designing training

    The failure of Instructional Designers to meet the business unit's expectations is normally not a lack of time, but rather a mentality of, “build it and they will come” rather than, “identify the opportunities to improve the business.”

    2. Failing to Identify the Type of Performance Problem

    Customer often perceive that all performance problems are training problems, and it turn, Instructional Designers fail to question if the problem is really a lack of training. Thus, there is a real need to fully analyze the problem in order to determine its root cause. When facing a performance problem, two questions need to be asked:

    • “Do the employees have adequate job knowledge and skills?”
    • “Do the employees have the proper attitude (desire) to perform the job?”

    Their answers will place the employees in one of four performance quadrants in the chart below:

    Performance Analysis Chart

    The quadrant that they land in informs you of the performance initiative required:

    • Quadrant A (Motivation): If the employee has sufficient job knowledge, but has an improper attitude, this may be classed as a motivational problem. The consequences (rewards) of the person's behavior will have to be adjusted. This is not always bad as the employee just might not realize the consequence of his or her actions.
    • Quadrant B (Resource/Process/Environment): If the employee has both job knowledge and a favorable attitude, but performance is unsatisfactory, then the problem is out of control of the employee. Some examples are, a process or procedure needs to be improved, lack of resources or time, or the work station is not ergonomically designed.
    • Quadrant C (Selection): If the employee lacks both job knowledge and a favorable attitude, that person may be improperly placed in the position. This may imply a problem with employee selection or promotion, and suggests that a transfer or discharge be considered.
    • Quadrant D (Training): If the employee desires to perform, but lacks the requisite job knowledge or skills, then learning needs to occur, such as performance aids, training, coaching, etc.

    3. Failing to get Support from the Leadership Team

    Customers often view outside activities as meddlers who interrupt their daily flow of work. These clients are often on the defensive and hide their true feelings and facts. During the planning and analysis phase you must bring the leaders in on the learning design activities and make them part of the solution (this collaboration is often called a matrix team or cross-functional team). The customers of a proposed learning/training initiative must be extensively involved in the construction of any new project. Besides introducing the customers and the training activity to each other, the other major benefit is that the customers will accept and benefit from a system that they themselves helped to define and solve. Often, nobody knows the system's learning requirements better than the people who own and work in it... and it often it takes the help of your guidance to draw this information out. This collaborative process does not mean agreeing with everything others say as this leads to group-think or the Abilene Paradox. You want the team members to not only disagree, but also share information and compromise.

    In addition, it is important that the learners see the real worth of the learning program. If their managers cannot convince them that they need to learn and perform correctly, then they will probably never learn to perform or once they complete the learning program, they will probably not put their newly learned skills and knowledge to full use. People will most often perform what their managers expect them to do, while forgetting what the managers least emphasize.

    Thus, you must have the leaders in on not only the initial planning and analysis stage, but also have them discuss the proposed solution with their followers in order to get their buy-in.

    4. Failing to Identify the Correct Setting for the Learning Process

    One of the major misconceptions of ADDIE or ISD is that it was created to only build classroom training environments, yet the reality is that it emphasizes other solutions first — you should too. A few of the guidelines for choosing instructional settings are:

    • Use a Performance Aid (mLearning, job aid, electronic performance support system) if:
      • close supervision is not required
      • the task follows a set procedure, has a flow to it, or contains information that does not need to be memorized
      • the performance aid can be followed while performing the task

      • do not use if:
        • bad consequence may occur if inadequate performance is high
        • employees lack prerequisite skill
        • the task requires high psychomotor skills

    • Use elearning or social learning if:
      • close supervision is not required
      • the task can be self-learned by an individual or group
      • the material required for training can be adequate designed as a stand-alone package

      • do not use if:
        • task failure would result in injury or damage
        • special facilities or equipment is required
    • Use On-the-Job-Training (OJT) if:
      • close supervision is required
      • task can be learned by individual or groups in the workplace
      • task decay rate is very high

      • do not use if:
        • sufficient equipment is not available for learners to practice on
        • workplace cannot absorb the learners adequately
        • training would be disruptive to normal operations
    • Use Mentoring or Job Experience if:
      • basically the same as OJT, except close supervision is not required
      • do not use if
        • coaching and some supervision cannot be provided on an as-needed basis
    • Use Classroom if:
      • a large group must be taught the same thing
      • task difficulty requires a high state of training (task is difficult and requires time to acquire skills through practice)
      • learner interaction is required (such as team training)
      • material required for training cannot economically be placed in the field
      • essential the employee be able to perform upon job entry (high consequence if employees are inadequate performers)

      • do not use if:
        • task may be adequately trained elsewhere

    5. Failing to Include Enough Activities and Practice Time to Reinforce Skills

    Instructional designers often spend an enormous amount of time on creating a learning process or program, but fail to realize how much time and energy it actually took them to learn the task, so they end up building beautiful programs... except for one minor detail — the learning process lacks enough activities and practice to adequately build skills.

    Too much practice builds over-learning, which is a good thing (it's what the U.S. military does to ensure warriors can perform in highly complex situations). Too little practice causes major gaps in performance. Which one do you prefer?

    6. Failing of the Learning and Development Team to Learn from Their Successes and Failures

    Instructional designers often attend several conferences or workshops a year and learn from others through reading or social networks, yet fail to evaluate their projects to determine the level of success or failure. Thus, while they may be learning, they have no idea if they are learning the right things. One of the best tools for this is the After Action Review. At the very least, evaluate your training and learning processes by waking-around the workplace and see how the learners (who should be performers by now) are actually performing and if their supervisors are satisfied with the results. And use Chris Argyris' Double Loop Learning to maximize your learning opportunities.

    What are your deadly sin for training?


    Show Your Work

    Jane Bozarth's Show Your Work beautifully describes how we need to rethink teaching and learning. It's perhaps one of the best designed Learning & Development books published—it is well written and artfully filled with numerous examples and illustrations. When I first heard about the book I thought it would be only about showing your work to others so they can learn from you. While it does do that, it goes beyond—such as showing your work to others to receive critical feedback, or laying out your work so that you can talk about it to yourself and reflect upon it in order to gain a deeper understanding on what else needs to be done.

    While the learning and development craft has become very good at instructing explicit knowledge and skills, training tacit knowledge and skills often fall short of delivering expert performance because it fails to place the learning in the context of workflow. Thus, Show Your Work is the bridge that crosses over from the explicit to the tacit by using great examples, such as showing the steps, lessons learned, and managing exceptions that help people learn the more difficult task through a series of photos, video, posting on a blog, etc. that people can easily find and relate to.

    What is interesting is how Jane's book fits into Nonaka and Takeuchi's Four Modes of Knowledge Creation (from the The Knowledge Creating Company):

    • Socialization: from tacit to tacit - Sharing experiences to create tacit knowledge, such as making a video of how you learned something.
    • Internalization: from explicit to tacit - “Learning by doing.” By following the examples in Show Your Work you can learn to create short learning experiences that can be easily followed by others.
    • Externalization: from tacit to explicit - Using explicit concepts such as metaphors, analogies, concepts, hypothesis, or models to provide the big picture.
    • Combination: from explicit to explicit - People exchange and combine knowledge through various media, such as documents and conversations.

    For more on the Four Modes of Knowledge Creation, see Knowledge and The Knowledge Spiral.

    I highly recommend putting Jane Bozarth's Show Your Work on your reading list.


    Bloom's Revised Taxonomy: Cognitive processes and levels of knowledge matrix

    Bloom's Revised Taxonomy (Remember - Understand - Apply - Analyze - Evaluate - Create) not only improved the usability of it (using action words), but perhaps also made it more accurate. However, probably the best feature — the matrix — is often left unnoticed. While Bloom's original cognitive taxonomy did mention three levels of knowledge or products that could be processed (shown below), they were not discussed very much and remained one-dimensional. The three levels are:

    • Factual - The basic elements students must know to be acquainted with a discipline or solve problems.
    • Conceptual – The interrelationships among the basic elements within a larger structure that enable them to function together.
    • Procedural - How to do something, methods of inquiry, and criteria for using skills, algorithms, techniques, and methods.

    In Krathwohl and Anderson's revised version, the authors combine the cognitive processes with the above three levels of knowledge to form a matrix. In addition they added another level of knowledge - metacognition:

    • Metacognitive – Knowledge of cognition in general, as well as awareness and knowledge of one’s own cognition. 

    When the cognitive and knowledge dimensions are arranged in a matrix, as shown below, it makes a nice performance aid for creating performance objectives:

    The Cognitive Dimension

    The Knowledge Dimension Remember Understand Apply Analyze Evaluate Create

    However, others have identified five contents or artifacts (Clark, Chopeta, 2004; Clark, Mayer, 2007):

    • Facts - Specific and unique data or instance.

    • Concepts - A class of items, words, or ideas that are known by a common name, includes multiple specific examples, shares common features. There are two types of concepts: concrete and abstract.

    • Processes - A flow of events or activities that describe how things work rather than how to do things. There are normally two types: business processes that describe work flows and technical processes that describe how things work in equipment or nature. They can be thought of as the big picture, of how something works.

    • Procedures - A series of step-by-step actions and decisions that result in the achievement of a task. There are two types of actions: linear and branched.

    • Principles - Guidelines, rules, and parameters that govern. It includes not only what should be done, but also what should not be done. Principles allow one to make predictions and draw implications. Given an effect, one can infer the cause of a phenomena. Principles are the basic building blocks of causal models or theoretical models (theories).

    Thus the matrix might look similar to this:

    The Cognitive Dimension

    The Knowledge Dimension Remember Understand Apply Analyze Evaluate Create

    An example matrix that has been filled in might look something like this:

    The Knowledge Dimension Remember Understand Apply Analyze Evaluate Create
    Facts list paraphrase classify outline rank categorize
    Concepts recall explains demonstrate contrast criticize modify
    Processes outline estimate produce diagram defend design
    Procedures reproduce give an example relate identify critique plan
    Principles state converts solve differentiates conclude revise
    Metacognitive proper use interpret discover infer predict actualize

    For more on Bloom's Taxonomy, see:


    A to Z of Learning

    aLearning (Alpha Learning) - To begin to understand, but not fully comprehend (has not groked or gLearned)

    bLearning - (Blended Learning) - A mixture of media, such as cLearning and eLearning (brick and click)

    cLearning - (Classroom Learning) - Learning in a classroom or formal setting

    dLearning - (distance Learning) - Learning from an electronic device, such as eLearning, mLearning, or pLearning. May also include other media that is sent to the learner, such as mail

    eLearning - (Electronic Learning) - Learning from the Internet (part of dLearning)

    fLearning - (Formal Learning) - The learning goals are determined by instructional designers (learners may provide input)

    gLearning - (Grok Learning) - To understand profoundly and intuitively (also see aLearning)

    hLearning - (Horizontal Learning) - Learning something based on a horizontal continuum (there is no one right answer). It can best be learned in an collaborative learning environment (also see zLearning)

    iLearning - (Informal Learning) - The learning goals are determined by the learner (organization may provide input)

    jLearning - (Just in Time Learning) - Learning something at the moment of need and it sticks (not easily forgotten, also see qLearning)

    kLearning - (Kindergarten Learning) -The basic skills Learned in Kindergarten that carry you throughout life

    lLearning - (Laptop Learning) - Learning from a laptop computer

    mLearning - (Mobile Learning) - Learning while away from home or office with a smart phone (may include pLearning or lLearning)

    nLearning - (nonformal Learning) - The learning goals are determined by the business unit, such as manager or supervisor, normally used with oLearning (OJT)

    oLearning - (OJT Learning) - Learning on the job through the direction of others (also see vLearning)

    pLearning - (Pad Learning) - Learning from an electronic pad, such as an iPad or Galaxy

    qLearning - (Quick Learning) - Learning something at the moment of need and it does not stick or is never used again (also see jLearning)

    rLearning - (Redundant Learning) - Learning until one has thoroughly mastered a skill (trying to learn more will be useless). Sometimes call over-learning. Security and medical teams often use this method so it becomes second-nature

    sLearning - (Social Learning) - Learning with or through other people (see uLearning for opposite)

    tLearning - (Team Learning) - Used when two or more members of a team must learn different tasks that must be coordinated so that it increases the effectiveness of the team

    uLearning - (Unilateral Learning) - Learning without the help of others (see sLearning for opposite)

    vLearning - (Various Learning) - Learning various perspectives by gaining experience (normally on the job). Differs from oLearning in that vLearning is directed by the learner rather than a manager

    wLearning - (Walking Around Learning) - Learning while walking around, normally through observation (adapted from Tom Peters' managing by walking around)

    xLearning - (Xenodochial Learning) - Learning from others, especially in a diverse group of people who know little about each other, and they expect nothing in return

    yLearning - (Yeoperson Learning) - Learning something that will promote the good of the common people or people in need

    zLearning - (Zebra Learning) - Learning that is monochrome in nature (has only one correct answer or shade). May be easily learned through a cooperative learning environment (see hLearning for opposite)


    Simplicity Combats Complexity

    James Murphy, a former F-15 fighter jet pilot and now CEO of a team building company, notes in a recent article that “complexity is the mortal enemy of good execution, and our world is nothing if not increasingly complex.” Thus, in order to execute in an ever increasing complex word, we need to break it down in simple steps:

    • Planning: If your planning process tries to run the whole gauntlet of complexity then you will simply get beat up by it, so use short-tem timelines.
    • Briefing; Get everyone on the same page.
    • Executing: Just do it.
    • Debriefing. The purpose of the debrief is to make adjustments ... to discover lessons learned. This can best be accomplished by performing an After Action Review:
      • What were our intended results?
      • What were our actual results?
      • What caused our results?
      • What will we sustain or improve?
    • Repeat process so that you are refining and continually improving.


    Col. John Boyd, USAF (Ret) has a similar process called the OODA Loop:

    • Observe: Scan the environment and gather information from it.
    • Orient: Use the information to form a mental image of the circumstances and place it into context.
    • Decide: Consider options and select a subsequent course of action.
    • Act: Just do it.
    • Repeat process so that you are refining and continually improving.

    Both Murphy and Boyd say that no matter how complex the environment is, when you do this, you stay at the same rate of competitive change in the complex environment or slightly ahead of it ... thus you win. Murphy also notes that confidence leads to courage, and courage leads to a bias towards action. This planning process gives people that courage regardless of the situation.

    Probe, Sense, Respond

    David Snowden of Cognitive Edge also has a similar tool for dealing with complexity in his Cynefin model:

    • Probe: Make a change (prototype) in the environment in order to test it.
    • Sense: Review it by determining the impact of the probe.
    • Respond: Depending upon the result you achieve you either amplify the probe or suppress it, and then repeat.

    Agile Design

    And the last one for dealing with complex environments — Agile Design:

    • Select the project and develop the vision.
    • Initiate the project by obtaining stakeholder participation, funding, and build team.
    • Deliver small working iterations that meet the changing needs of the stakeholders. Continue this step until:
      • Release (End Game) by deliver the final package.
      • Production: operate, maintain and support the system.

    There are four other design models beside Agile that you can use depending on the complexity of the environment.

    These tools, Murphy's Process, AAR, OODA, Cynefin, and Agile Design are designed for working in complex environments. What other processes or models do you use for dealing with complexity?


    Full Spectrum Learning

    The U.S. Army has developed its answer to the 70-20-10 Learning model and Dan Pontefract's 3-33 Pervasive Learning model. However, they did a couple of twists by:
    • dumping the percentages
    • combining Experience with Social Learning
    • adding Education
    • adding two continuums - Responsibility and Ambiguity
    Full Spectum Learning


    70-20-10 has been problematic in at least two ways. As Dan Pontefract notes in his book, Flat Army, it is based on leaders who were in charge of hierarchical, command and control cultures that were prevalent in the 1980s. While the U.S. Army does have a hierarchical command and control culture due to its nature, it is also composed of flat or horizontal teams (large and small) that operate alone and with each other in complicated environments that often border on the edge of chaos. Thus, it is both a hierarchical and flat organization that not only approximates how most successful organizations operate today, but is also based on all people, rather than just senior leaders.

    Secondly, the use of percentages or ratios, such as 70-20-10 and 3-33, imply that they are predictive models, rather than reference models. In fact, the creators of 70-20-10 wrote that it is a predictive model. This can be noted in dozens of blog posts in which some very smart authors note 70-20-10 is a predictive model model and then are told in the comment sections that it is a reference model. If you do a image search on Google for the term "reference model" (may NSFW as it shows a couple of nude models) you will notice that none of the images are based on percentages or ratios.

    Experience has Social Learning in a Learning Environment

    The Full Spectrum Learning model realizes that if you are gaining experience to learn, then it is implied that you will be using plenty of informal and social learning, along with smaller amounts of training and education. In order to build skills and knowledge via experiences, the environment must contribute to peer-based learning through blogs, wikis, micro-blogs, and other social based media. It leverage these social tools to build dynamic vertical and horizontal social networks for formal and informal information sharing in order to foster critical thinking and problem solving skills needed for operational adaptability.

    The Addition of Education

    In Human Resource Development, training is normally associated with learning to perform a present job or task, while education is normally associated with learning to perform a future job or task. Thus, in a rapidly changing world, education through formal and/or nonformal environments is a required component if an organization wants to remain competitive. For example, during our last recession, companies dumped thousands of people in mass layoffs. Now they are whining that they cannot find people who have the education and training that they require. Good organizations should always be building a path towards the future by educating people to walk that path.

    The Responsibility and Ambiguity Continuums

    Rather than build a learning model that focuses on one fixed point, the U.S. Army created the Full Spectrum Learning model on two continuums based on the degree of responsibility of the learner and the degree of ambiguity of the learning environment to give it depth.
    What are your thoughts on the three models?