The Importance of Experiential Learning and the 70:20:10 Model
The 70:20:10 model is a strategic learning framework originally developed by theorists Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger, with the rationale first expressed in their publication, 'Career Architect Development Planner Book' in 2020.
In the decades since, this model has been increasingly adopted by organisations as an alternative approach to structured learning. As you will find in this article, the model can also be applied to bolster self-directed learning to enrich personal growth and development.
The 70:20:10 model suggests a weighted ratio of the three learning types in order to holistically support each type of learning and maximise their respective impact.
The three types of learning are as follows:
- Experiential learning (70%) — Learning through completion of daily tasks, resolving issues, regular practice.
- Social learning (20%) — Lessons from interaction with, and observation of others. This could be through mentoring, coaching or observing colleagues.
- Formal learning (10%) — Structured learning via face-to-face lessons or an online (LMS) platform.
The Lombardo and Eichinger's theory proposes that 70% of our knowledge is accrued from experiential learning, 20% from social learning, and 10% from formal learning, and that training investment within an organisation should reflect this ratio.
However the 70:20:10 model is also open for interpretation. In practice, some organisations or individuals may adjust the ratio based on the employee and circumstance (for example a junior employee may require more formal learning than their managerial counterpart).
With an emphasis on experiential learning, the 70:20:10 model supports and maximises the impact of what is already taking place. Following this approach an organisation need not uproot HR and introduce a complicated training structure. Similarly, an individual shouldn’t need to attend workshop after workshop to amass substantial knowledge in their pursuit of personal growth.
It is about enriching the existing, everyday learning experience. We learn by doing and experimenting, not just reading, watching and listening.
As described by Deakin University, “organisations using the 70:20:10 principles might learn through conversations, sharing, searching, reporting, reflecting, hacking, creating, watching, and reading.” This is the doing.
According to Olivia McGarry for eLearning Industry in addition to doing, experiential learning entails facing challenges, asking questions, learning from mistakes and seeking performance feedback.
Whilst the opportunities for experiential learning are innumerable and dynamic, unless the individual documents, reflects upon and puts into practice what they have learnt it is as good as forgotten.
Ultimately when experience is had and reflection ensues, that is when real learning occurs.
What are the benefits of the 70:20:10 model?
The 70:20:10 model assimilates into an organisation’s existing structure, tapping into latent opportunities for knowledge and learning. It can be therefore more effective and efficient than formal learning.
The model also provides greater autonomy and responsibility to the high performing individuals with a propensity for self-directed learning, goal setting and self management. This equates to more staff engagement and satisfaction.
This autonomy also allows for a more grassroots and collaborative approach to problem-solving as employees have agency to face challenges, explore solutions, and learn from their findings. This alleviates issues before they escalate, whilst fostering resilience and innovation within a team.
In addition to this, within the model learning types are not mutually exclusive and as such beneficial learning synergies occur. For example, social learning informs experiential learning while improving formal learning.
How can we maximise experiential learning for impactful outcomes?
As we explore in our article Experience, Reflection and Action for Lifelong Learning, educational theorist David Kolb suggests that effective learning occurs when a person progresses through a cycle of four learning stages from (1) concrete experience, (2) to reflective observation, (3) to abstract conceptualisation, (4) to active experimentation.
In the case of experiential learning (the 70% within the 70:20:10), this could be understood as (1) learning on the job by completing daily tasks, (2) reflecting upon what you’ve learnt from said tasks, identifying skills gaps or opportunities to improve (3) through self-directed learning theorise how the gap could be filled and tasks optimised, (4) try the task again with a different approach.
Kolb writes “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience”.
Imagine if we could find lessons amidst the minutiae of everyday life?
A study featured in HBR by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats, found that employees who spent just 15 minutes at the end of each workday reflecting about lessons learned performed 23% better than their colleagues who did not reflect.
Especially when it comes to experiential learning, reflection is critical.
Jennifer Porter writes on self-reflection for HBR, “Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions. For leaders, this “meaning making” is crucial to their ongoing growth and development.”
Founded by two consultants with extensive experience working within and advising some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, myhaventime was built upon the insight that high-performing individuals accrue invaluable knowledge through experiential learning everyday… and yet most organisations and individuals lack the time or resources to reflect upon, store, expand upon, or utilise this knowledge over time.
myhaventime provides a simple, efficient and secure space to gather and make sense of the invaluable knowledge we gain through experiential learning. We call this knowledge ‘gems’.
The platform allows for unlimited rooms - one for every professional and personal topic - which can be filled with an unlimited number of gems. Gems can be uploaded in any filetype, from bulleted journal entries to hyperlinks to files.
To find, as Porter describes ‘an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos’, myhaventime is advertising free with an intentionally simple interface. For those who need a prompt, you can choose to activate a learning coach to prompt daily documentation.
Over time with myhaventime you will harvest great kernels of insight, learning and knowledge as you continue to document and reflect upon your experiential learning.