The 70-20-10 Rule: A Guide to Effective Learning

Explore the 70-20-10 rule, a learning framework developed in the 1980s by researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership. This rule posits that 70% of learning derives from on-the-job experiences, 20% from interactions with others, and 10% from formal education and training. Our blog post delves into how this model encourages individuals to engage actively in real-world tasks, seek mentorship and collaborative opportunities, and enhance their skills through structured courses. By adopting this holistic approach, learners can maximize their personal and professional growth, becoming more adaptable and skilled in navigating today's dynamic environments.

Josh Ether

1/6/20248 min read

The 70-20-10 rule is a guide to effective learning that suggests that individuals acquire 70% of their knowledge through on-the-job experiences, 20% through interactions with others, and 10% through formal training and education. This framework was developed by researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership in the 1980s and has since been widely adopted by organizations and individuals alike.

According to the 70-20-10 rule, the majority of learning occurs through hands-on experiences in real-life situations. This means that individuals learn best when they are actively engaged in their work and given opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills. Whether it's tackling challenging projects, taking on new responsibilities, or solving complex problems, these experiences provide valuable learning opportunities that cannot be replicated in a classroom setting.

In addition to on-the-job experiences, the 70-20-10 rule emphasizes the importance of interactions with others in the learning process. This includes collaborating with colleagues, seeking feedback and guidance from mentors, and participating in communities of practice. By engaging in meaningful conversations and sharing ideas with others, individuals can broaden their perspectives, gain new insights, and learn from the experiences of those around them.

While on-the-job experiences and interactions with others make up the majority of learning, the 70-20-10 rule also recognizes the value of formal training and education. This includes attending workshops, seminars, and courses that provide structured learning opportunities. While formal training may not make up the largest portion of learning, it can still play a crucial role in building foundational knowledge, developing specific skills, and staying up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.

By understanding and embracing the 70-20-10 rule, individuals can take a more holistic approach to their learning journey. They can seek out opportunities to learn from real-life experiences, actively engage with others to expand their knowledge and perspectives, and supplement their learning with formal training and education. By doing so, they can enhance their personal and professional growth, become more adaptable and resilient, and ultimately achieve their goals.

Understanding the 70-20-10 Rule

The 70-20-10 rule suggests that individuals tend to learn in three different ways: 70% from experiences and "doing" the work, 20% from developmental relationships and mentors, and 10% from coursework and training. This rule provides a guideline for allocating time and resources to maximize learning outcomes.

When it comes to learning, experience is often the most effective teacher. By actively engaging in tasks and projects, individuals gain practical knowledge and develop skills that can be applied in real-world situations. This hands-on approach allows for experimentation, problem-solving, and learning from mistakes. Whether it's through trial and error or through the successful completion of a task, the experience is a valuable source of learning. However, experience alone may not be sufficient for optimal growth and development. This is where the 20% comes into play. Building relationships and seeking guidance from mentors can provide valuable insights, feedback, and support. Mentors can share their expertise, offer guidance on navigating challenges, and provide a different perspective on various situations. These developmental relationships can significantly enhance learning by providing a safe space for reflection, discussion, and learning from others' experiences. While experience and developmental relationships are crucial, the 10% allocated to coursework and training should not be overlooked. Formal education and structured training programs provide individuals with foundational knowledge, theoretical frameworks, and best practices. These resources can help individuals gain a deeper understanding of concepts, acquire new skills, and stay updated with the latest industry trends and developments. Whether it's attending workshops, seminars, or online courses, investing time in formal learning opportunities can complement and reinforce experiential and relational learning. The 70-20-10 rule is not a rigid formula but rather a guideline to help individuals and organizations create a balanced and holistic approach to learning and development. By recognizing the importance of experiential, relational, and formal learning, individuals can make informed decisions about how to allocate their time and resources for maximum learning impact. Embracing this rule can lead to continuous growth, improved performance, and increased adaptability in today's rapidly changing world.

70%: Learning from Experiences

The majority of our learning comes from hands-on experiences and actively engaging in tasks. Whether it's through challenging projects, real-world problem-solving, or taking on new responsibilities, experiential learning allows us to apply theoretical knowledge in practical situations. This hands-on approach helps to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

To make the most of the 70% learning component, individuals should seek out opportunities that push them out of their comfort zones. Embracing new challenges and taking calculated risks can lead to valuable insights and personal growth. Reflecting on these experiences and extracting key learnings is equally important for reinforcing knowledge and enhancing future performance.

One way to maximize the learning potential of experiences is through deliberate practice. Deliberate practice involves setting specific goals, receiving feedback, and making adjustments to improve performance. By intentionally focusing on areas that need improvement and seeking feedback from mentors or experts in the field, individuals can accelerate their learning and development.

Another aspect of experiential learning is the concept of learning by doing. This approach emphasizes the importance of actively engaging in tasks and applying knowledge in real-life situations. For example, instead of simply reading about how to code, a software developer would learn more effectively by actually writing code and troubleshooting errors.

Experiential learning also encourages individuals to take ownership of their learning journey. Rather than relying solely on formal education or training programs, individuals can actively seek out opportunities to learn and grow. This could involve volunteering for challenging projects, participating in internships, or joining professional communities where knowledge sharing and collaboration are encouraged.

Furthermore, experiential learning promotes a growth mindset, which is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. This mindset encourages individuals to embrace challenges and view failures as learning opportunities. By reframing setbacks as stepping stones to success, individuals can maintain motivation and resilience in the face of obstacles.

The 70% learning component emphasizes the importance of experiential learning in our personal and professional development. By actively engaging in tasks, embracing challenges, reflecting on experiences, and seeking feedback, we can maximize our learning potential and acquire the skills necessary for success.

In today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, learning has become a lifelong pursuit. It is no longer enough to rely solely on formal education or individual efforts to acquire knowledge and skills. Instead, we must actively seek out opportunities to learn from others who have already walked the path we aspire to tread. Developmental relationships play a crucial role in this process. Mentors, coaches, and colleagues who have more experience and expertise can provide invaluable guidance and support. They can offer insights into their own journeys, share lessons learned from their successes and failures, and provide constructive feedback to help us grow and improve. One of the key benefits of developmental relationships is the opportunity to gain new perspectives. When we interact with individuals from different backgrounds, industries, or cultures, we are exposed to a wealth of knowledge and experiences that can broaden our understanding and challenge our assumptions. This exposure to diverse perspectives can enhance our problem-solving abilities, foster creativity, and enable us to approach challenges from multiple angles. Moreover, developmental relationships can also help us acquire new skills. Mentors and coaches can provide targeted guidance and resources to help us develop specific competencies. They can share best practices, recommend relevant books or courses, and provide hands-on training or shadowing opportunities. By leveraging their expertise, we can fast-track our learning and avoid common pitfalls. Building and nurturing developmental relationships requires effort and intentionality. It involves actively seeking out mentors and role models who align with our goals and values. It also requires us to be open to feedback and willing to invest time and energy into the relationship. However, the rewards are well worth the effort. In addition to accelerating our learning, developmental relationships can also open doors to new opportunities. Mentors and colleagues who believe in our potential may introduce us to their networks, recommend us for new roles or projects, or provide references that can boost our professional credibility. These connections can help us navigate the complexities of the job market, expand our horizons, and unlock doors that may otherwise remain closed. In conclusion, the 20% learning component emphasizes the importance of developmental relationships in our personal and professional growth. By seeking out mentors, coaches, and colleagues who can provide guidance, support, and constructive feedback, we can accelerate our learning, gain new perspectives, acquire new skills, and open doors to new opportunities. In a world where continuous learning is essential for success, these relationships are invaluable assets that can propel us towards our goals.

While experiential learning and developmental relationships form the bulk of our learning, the 10% learning component emphasizes the importance of formal coursework and training. This includes attending workshops, seminars, online courses, or pursuing academic degrees. These structured learning opportunities provide a foundation of knowledge and introduce new concepts and theories.

Coursework and training programs offer a structured approach to learning and can help individuals acquire specialized knowledge and skills. They provide a framework for understanding complex subjects, expose learners to different perspectives, and offer a platform for interaction and collaboration with fellow learners. However, it is important to note that coursework and training alone may not be sufficient for holistic learning.

Formal coursework and training programs are designed to provide individuals with a deep understanding of a specific subject area. For example, someone interested in pursuing a career in finance may enroll in a finance course that covers topics such as financial analysis, investment strategies, and risk management. By completing this coursework, individuals gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter, allowing them to apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Furthermore, coursework and training programs often incorporate practical exercises and assignments that allow learners to apply the concepts they have learned. These hands-on activities provide an opportunity for individuals to practice and refine their skills in a controlled environment. For instance, in a marketing course, students may be tasked with developing a marketing campaign for a hypothetical product, giving them the chance to apply their knowledge of marketing principles and strategies.

In addition to the knowledge and skills gained through coursework and training, these programs also provide individuals with valuable credentials. Academic degrees, certifications, and professional qualifications can enhance an individual's credibility and open doors to new career opportunities. Employers often value formal education and training, as it demonstrates a commitment to continuous learning and professional development.

However, it is important to recognize that coursework and training alone do not guarantee expertise or mastery in a particular field. While they provide a solid foundation, practical experience and ongoing learning are crucial for deepening understanding and staying up-to-date with the latest developments in a rapidly evolving world. Therefore, the 10% learning component should be seen as a complement to experiential learning and developmental relationships, rather than a standalone approach to learning.

Applying the 70-20-10 Rule in Practice

Now that we understand the components of the 70-20-10 rule, how can we apply it in our learning journey? Here are a few practical tips:

  1. Seek out challenging projects or assignments that allow you to apply your knowledge and skills in real-world situations. Embrace opportunities that push you out of your comfort zone and encourage growth.

  2. Build strong relationships with mentors or experienced individuals who can provide guidance, support, and constructive feedback. Actively seek out mentorship opportunities and engage in regular conversations to enhance your learning.

  3. Take advantage of formal coursework and training programs that align with your learning goals. Look for opportunities to expand your knowledge and acquire new skills through workshops, seminars, or online courses.

  4. Reflect on your experiences, both successes, and failures, to extract key learnings. Regularly evaluate your progress and identify areas for improvement.

  5. Embrace a growth mindset and approach every learning opportunity with curiosity and enthusiasm. Be open to feedback and continuously seek ways to enhance your knowledge and skills.

  6. Engage in collaborative learning experiences such as group projects or team-based activities. Working with others can expose you to different perspectives and help you develop important interpersonal skills.

  7. Utilize technology and digital resources to enhance your learning experience. Explore online platforms, educational apps, and virtual communities to access a wide range of educational materials and connect with like-minded learners.

  8. Attend conferences, seminars, or industry events to stay updated on the latest trends and developments in your field. Networking with professionals in your industry can also provide valuable insights and opportunities for growth.

  9. Set clear goals and create a plan for your learning journey. Break down your goals into smaller, manageable tasks and track your progress along the way. Regularly review and adjust your plan as needed.

  10. Take ownership of your learning by being proactive and self-directed. Seek out opportunities for self-study, research, and independent projects that align with your interests and goals.

By incorporating these strategies into your learning approach, you can effectively apply the 70-20-10 rule and maximize your learning potential. Remember, learning is a lifelong journey, and by continuously seeking new experiences and embracing growth, you can continue to expand your knowledge and skills throughout your career.