The 70-20-10 Model: It’s origins and critisims

The 70-20-10 model is perhaps one of the most interesting learning and development models. Going back to 1996, it is often two Morgan McCall colleagues who are credited for the model having released data relating to the industry. Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo, the two employees, created a survey of around 200 executives to assess how they learned. To many people’s surprise, the results came in and the learning and development world shifted.

 According to the study, around 70% of learning came from challenging assignments, 20% came from developmental relationships, and just 10% could be accredited to coursework and training. After this, the pair stated that development normally begins with the recognition that something needs to improve. Whether it is through noticing a mistake, receiving feedback, or any other method, this need comes from somewhere. In the resulting development, 70% is born simply from learning on the job whilst 20% is attained through working relationships. At a time where spending on training was high, perhaps the most surprising information came from the fact that just 10% of the development comes from training.


As with all models, 70-20-10 has come into some criticism with many stating that there is a lack of empirical supporting data and the use of perfect numbers. Additionally, many have questioned the decision to survey managers who had already experienced success. As a result, it should always be remembered that the model has been created as a way to inspire other learning techniques rather than official training as opposed to being a prescriptive model. As long as people remember that the model is not scientific and is not a recipe for instant success, it can be used efficiently. Here’s an example how enterprises like Nielsen broke the old paradigm by using 70-20-10 model.

Model for Business Innovation

 Originally pioneered by Eric Schmidt, 70-20-10 was turned into a business resource expanded by Google in 2005. With the Model for Business Innovation, the model suggests that businesses should place the largest proportion of time (70%) on core business tasks. Then, 20% can be spent on projects related to the core business followed by 10% that has no relation to any business tasks. If businesses were to follow this structure, it suggests that they will be cultivating innovation and allowing for the best growth within a workforce.


 So there we have it, the 70-20-10 model for businesses. Now you know how it first started and what the criticisms are, you can decide how best to implement it into your business and discover the true benefits.

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