Friday, January 3, 2014

Is self-directed learning at odds with the 70/20/10 model?

The traditional 70/20/10 model is another way of expressing that learning at work should be self-directed. Jane Hart writes about this as self-organising. There is a lot of reference in workplace design, workforce design and architecture about 'activity based workplaces'. The cynic looks at these concepts and sees a business creating an environment that implicitly creates downsizing opportunities. However, if you try to look at these ideas with a view of aligning work and learning, there are some great windfalls to be had.


  1. The 70/20/10 model recognises most learning takes place on the job - away from formal instruction.
  2. Self-directed learning involves individuals selecting what they will learning, and seeking solutions themselves
  3. The 70/20/10 model acknolwedges the limits of control that facilitators, trainers and anyone else involved in formal learning have
  4. Self-directed learning puts a greater emphasis on the individual controlling the direction, purpose, objective, length and format of any learning activity.
  5. The 70/20/10 model is often used to describe the resourcing pressures that L&D functions within businesses experience when looking at staff ratios. The ratio always varies, but the message remains the same: L&D people are greatly outnumbered, to a point of inefficient learning, by staff.
  6. Self-directed learning involves individuals taking advantage of their autonomy, instead of using it as an obstacle to their learning
Normally at this time of year, teams try to reevaluate their strategy, thinking of newer, fresher, more powerful ways to express what they believe is going to be the most effective way of using learning to achieve business outcomes. I would argue that this might not always be the most useful activity. If we constantly look for a newer model to appropriately express how we think learning takes place in this brave new world of work, we could be spending a lot of effort on esoteric activity, all while staff and departments are waiting for assistance. Prioritising needs and reallocating resources in a way that takes advantage of the self-directed learner could save time and effort in the long run. If the model ain't broke, why are we trying to fix it?