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The estimable Charles Jennings published an article yesterday in which he quotes a recently published survey by Lumesse, a presumed talent development company based in the US (Texas and Florida) with a heavy presence in South America. Charles begins:  

“The results of yet another 70:20:10 survey were published recently. The researchers (possibly on work experience) declared that “50:26:24 is the average learning mix in most companies right now”.

“The report of the 50:26:24 survey went on to say:

‘It’s widely accepted that the 70:20:10 model is the most effective learning blend for business, but getting to that perfect mix can be a challenge. It’s early days and we’ve got a long way to go, but when we crunched the first numbers on our new study, we could see that the current average mix of training in the L&D industry is actually:

  • 50% via ‘on the job learning’
  • 26% through ‘informal training’
  • 24% from ‘formal training’”

Charles goes on to pooh-pooh the findings, rightly so, by emphasizing that the 70:20:10 formula “is not a recipe to be used slavishly,” and, in fact, is not about the numbers at all. He says, “The numbers are a useful reminder that the majority of learning occurs through experience and practice within the workflow (the ‘70’), through sharing and supporting others, conversations and networks (the ‘20’),  and that a smaller amount of overall learning occurs through structured training and development activities (the ‘10’).” Further he says that the whole point of 70:20:10 is to emphasize the importance of informal learning.

Charles is all het up regarding this survey. I can understand his reaction: Mr. Jennings is considered one of, of not the, foremost promoter of 70:20:10, and when someone gets it as wrong as Lumesse clearly has, I’m sure it hurts.   

My reaction to Charles, however, is as follows: 

Whenever I read the conclusions of just about any survey, I’m reminded of the landmark study that Dr. John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Stanford University, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 regarding published medical research, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” The title is self-explanatory, and we’re talking well-funded, ostensibly carefully constructed research here. If you extend Dr. Ioannidis’ conclusions to a self-styled, uncontrolled, voluntary online survey . . . well, let’s just say I wouldn’t take the “50:26:24” results too seriously.

Dr. Ioannidis’ study: “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”
The New Yorker article regarding his study: The Truth Wears Off
The Atlantic article regarding his study: Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science

All make for enlightening reading.

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Leo Salazar

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