Learn what you need!


Anyone with recent experience of working in Learning and Development will be familiar with 70:20:10. The ratio suggests that only 10 percent of what we learn at work is through formal training, 20 percent from working with others and 70 percent from ‘on-the-job’ experience. This is a theoretical model – not a magic formula for designing learning as some might have you believe – but has been hugely useful in moving on the conversation from ‘delivering training’. A colleague once succinctly described the difference between training and learning in this way:  training is something done to you, learning is something you do for yourself.
Acknowledging learning as personal to each individual has helped the L&D industry take a huge leap forward: training (in the form of e-learning or face-to-face) is no longer sold as a standalone solution but as one part of a wider strategy of employee engagement.
This poster, created for the U.S. Works Progress Administration in 1929 demonstrates that the thinking behind the 70:20:10 isn’t new. We learn best from each other and from experience. 

Picture credit:  WPA

Picture credit: WPA


However, something about the simplicity of 70:20:10 seemed to catch the collective imagination. People love a formula. I have sat in many learning design workshops where different tactics are assigned to ‘the 10’ or ‘the 20’ – with ‘the 70’ often considered something over which there is no control.


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At Toffee Hammer, we take a holistic approach to Learning Design which focusses on desired outcomes and the specific context of the learner profile (or, more simply, on purpose and audience). During the discovery phase of a project we strive to remain open to all possibilities and are careful not to close down discussion based on pre-conceived ideas or what we’ve done before. There is tyranny in conventional wisdom, and we challenge both ourselves and others to be as imaginative as possible. Some ideas will inevitably be dismissed as impractical, unsuitable for the audience… or for being too silly – but a little playfulness during the early stages of design often leads to genuine innovation. Especially if all ideas are explored, built on and challenged. If nothing else, being willing to be vulnerable by offering up alternative ideas builds trust between team members. If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got.  Learning is all about change; to provoke learning in others you need to think about ways to capture their attention and stimulate their thinking.

We all learn, all the time. Often, as Learning Designers, we are asked to put together training on a specific topic or to support specific skills development. What we inherently understand is that, no matter how good the training, skills are only truly mastered when applied to real-life situations. This impacts on what we produce – our goal is not to demonstrate the transfer of knowledge, but to provide the right level of ongoing support to truly affect change. Take the example of people skills – it is not enough for a leader to simply pass a test to prove they know what to do; the value should be measured through evidence of improved interaction with colleagues and staff. Training is only ever one part of a learning design – we also consider resources and tools that can be used at the point of need, and how to foster a culture where learning is recognised and valued.