70:20:10 – The Right Ratio…Or So We All Thought| Global Leadership Forecast...

70:20:10 – The Right Ratio…Or So We All Thought| Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015 | DDI

70:20:10 Model - Credit: Charles Jennings
70:20:10 Model - Credit: Charles Jennings

70:20:10 fact or myth? We couldn’t find any recent supporting research, and we wanted to learn more about these magic numbers. What we found might just surprise you: in reality, leaders spend their time on—and prefer—a different ratio. See how leaders actually spend their time, and the ratio that proves most effective.

Get the full list of findings from the Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015.

via 70:20:10 – The Right Ratio…Or So We All Thought| Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015 | DDI.

My Take: I think calling 70:20:10 a “myth” is hyperbole, and implies that the entire thing is a crock.  It’s also worthwhile noting that the research targets were leaders, as opposed to those who report to them (assuming a traditional hierarchy).

What do you think? Is this research shedding new light onto 70:20:10 or did it not go far enough to explore its validity?


  1. Thanks for making me aware of this DDI report, Mark. Now I just need to make time to read it. 🙂
    Also, I think Jay Cross’s Where did the 80% come from? is well worth a read.
    In any case, however, my general view of the 70:20:10 framework is that indisputable empirical evidence is not necessary to make it useful. Yes, more research would further inform our approach, but regardless, an L&D professional in the modern workplace should be supporting formal training, social learning and on-the-job learning.
    At the very least, the framework prompts us to consider the various ways there are to teach and learn. The ratios are probably moot as they as so circumstantial.

    • Agreed, Ryan. If we can comprehend the relative ratios of our efforts then we can focus appropriately. It’s almost like DDI was trying to prove the numbers in Dale’s Cone of Experience and say “Oh, look, this number is wrong and, therefore, the whole model is a myth”.

      Their heart was in the right place but their comprehension and approach were all wrong. 70:20:10 isn’t an absolute, and they didn’t “get” that premise.

    • Thanks, Charles. While I don’t claim genuine expertise in 70:20:10, the instinctual nature of the framework rings true with me and that’s one reason why I called the DDI report into question.

  2. Mark – I agree with you, although I would argue there is more than an ‘instinctual’ element to the 70:20:10 framework.
    An increasing amount of data is emerging that indicates most learning occurs as part of the workflow and through interaction with others. This is sometimes puts organisations that have relied on away-from-work development as their bedrock in a difficult position. Some are adapting to the changes, extending their activities into the workflow, and integrating their learning-focused offerings/activities with the experiential and social learning (the ’70’ and ’20’ in the model) that is naturally occurring in the workplace. Others are not.
    Still others continue to believe the king is clothed and produce reports such as this 😉

  3. I admit I dismissed all credibility with the obsession over the numbers 70:20:10. Then I read that the “study” is really about what leaders want, which is ironic on many levels. How many leaders want what they believe, to the exclusion of reality?

    I fear Charles has been dealing with this issue for longer than most of us ever heard of 70:20:10, but I challenge everyone to read the details. Nobody with credibility says the ratios are golden or magical. Nobody worth listening to suggests workplace learning should give the numbers anything more than a nod, the same way I make sure I spend about a quarter of my life sleeping. On the other hand, when I look across multiple job types, from customer service at Starbucks to knowledge workers in scientific firms, the ratios are–for all intents and purposes–about right. It’s unusual circumstances such as start-up companies, that seem to be the exception.

    If nothing else, remembering 70:20:10 puts the work of L&D in perspective. If we focus only on formal training and ignore that it represents a small part employee learning, we are totally missing the point and believe our own propaganda to our peril.

  4. I don’t understand why people get so hung up on the numbers and that the three categories of learning need to EXACTLY fit with the percentages. We know that learning is continual and also, how I learn is different to how someone else learns. The model simply shows that it is a continuum from formal to informal and that we need a blend. Personally, I get frustrated that we continue to debate the wrong thing. We are debating the numbers and trying to fit them into new ratios instead of debating how we can build a culture of learning within our organisations.

    • I think that sums it up perfectly, Helen. The numbers were never absolutes, but too many feel that they either have to be or, in the case of DDI, are targets for debunking.