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Let’s kill a few learning holy cows – 70:20:10 is dead (or at least seriously ill)

May 9th, 2010 14 comments

Harold Jarche (@hjarche) recently wrote a blog post that contains a number of items I profoundly disagree with, so much so that it’s time for a new blog post from me.  I actually agree with many of his conclusions; unfortunately the road Harold takes to get there is filled with potholes.

Starting from the top, those potholes are:

  1. 80% of learning on the job is informal;
  2. individual learning in organizations is irrelevant;
  3. learner-centric learning objectives are not justifiable

I’ll take items two and three first, because the 80:20 ‘pothole’ is more of a bottomless pit and I’ll devote the bulk of this post to it.

Let’s start with: “individual learning in organizations is irrelevant”,  the argument being that work is done by teams and networks, therefore the individual is less/not important.  Whilst I absolutely support the implication in Harold’s post that context crucial and that none of us exist in a vacuum, I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes (if only I could remember who said it!) “Without people, companies are just depreciating assets”.  Organizations don’t learn (sorry Mr. Senge).  Teams don’t learn.  Networks don’t learn.  People learn.  People can learn to perform (better) in organizational, network or team contexts; they can even learn in teams, but organizations and teams don’t learn. (we could go off and discuss whether processes and/or culture count as organizational memory, but in both cases they are either created or instantiated by people.  Individual learning is it.  But context is crucial.

Next one: “learner-centric learning objectives are not justifiable”. Harold argues that learning objectives should be crafted as “the organization will be able to …”, not “the learner will be able to …”.  Again, organizations don’t do things. People do.  The role of the corporate learning organization is to develop human capability to execute business strategy.  A key skill of the members of the training team is therefore to work with business leaders to translate company goals and strategies into objectives that can be achieved via learning.  The goal of a learning program should be to “enable [employees/partners/customers…] to achieve [company objective].  Learning objectives should support the program goal.

Finally, let’s talk about the 80% thing (alternatively stated as the 70:20:10 rule – 70% of learning is informal/experiential, 20% comes from mentoring/feedback, and only 10% comes from formal learning).  The implication that often follows references to 70:20:10 is that we are wasting resources on formal training, and that social collaboration/informal learning is some sort of nirvana.

I really don’t want to target Harold for this one.  He’s simply repeating what many others have said before him.  The 70:20:10 mantra has reached almost hysterical levels in corporate learning circles.

But all is not what it seems.

I recently had the privilege to spend a few days at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania with a number of academics and a hundred or so senior corporate learning folks like me.  We were attending the 2010 Global Leadership Congress organized by the Corporate University Exchange. (Great event, by the way.  Thanks Alan and team!)  Both prior to and during the event I spent time with Dr Doug Lynch. Doug opened my eyes about a few things, but most notably about 70:20:10.

Doug asked a couple of simple questions: (a) is 70:20:10 true, and (b) if so how do we know?  Everyone in the learning space seems to assume (a) is true, but we all get a bit vague about (b).  The answer to (b) is almost always “because I read it in ____ (insert your favourite training magazine title here)”.  Doug therefore set his post-grad students a simple challenge: find the source of the 70:20:10 concept.  The results are at best worrying and at worst frightening.  The following is taken from information presented by Doug at the event):

  • If you google “70:20:10” you get 2.25m hits.  That’s right, 2.25m.  Hits are split between the education model, and the business resource management model of the same name
  • “Informal learning” gets you 402,000 hits, as of the time of writing this post.
  • 70:20:10 was the subject of the 2009 ASTD study, “Tapping the Potential of Informal Learning” (exec summary PDF here)
  • There is even a Wikipedia article
  • Informal learning has been covered in just about every training publication and in the mainstream media, including the Harvard Business Review

The problem is that almost no-one, including the Wikipedia article and HRB cites the original research for 70:20:10 applied to education.

So what does the research have to say on 70:20:10?

  • If you step away from the mainstream, you get 46,800 hits with in Google Scholar
  • If you drill down to what might be called ‘authoritative sources’, things get a little narrower.  There are a grand total of 46 EBSCO (Peer reviewed) Articles
  • If you examine the peer reviewed articles, there is not one single empirical study that validates 70:20:10

That’s right.  Not one. (I hope someone out there can prove me – or rather Doug – wrong on this one)

70:20:10 was never researched; it was conceptualized by Tough in 1968 and put forward as a hypothesis.

Think about it.  All of that wild hysteria that has built up around social learning and collaboration?  All that time and dollars/pounds/euros you are spending on collaboration systems?  Built on a house of cards.  Er. Um.  Time for a headache pill.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m as big a supporter of collaborative and experiential learning and the use of social media and web 2.0 tools and techniques for learning as the next person, if not more so.

My engineering background would just like things to be on a bit firmer footing.  Any Academics out there up for a challenge?

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Google Wave – The future of collaboration? (reposted from June 1)

June 29th, 2009 No comments

Google Wave – The future of collaboration?

Earlier this month, Google announced Google Wave, a new model for communication and collaboration on the web, coming later this year.  I believe it has the potential to revolutionize the way people interact and learn, so in case you are in the handful of people who missed it here are some links to the launch and a few thoughts on its impact.

Google Wave is startling in its simplicity, yet astounding in its capability.  At its simplest it is ‘email on steroids’.: it adds IM to email to allow real time chat on an otherwise back and forth email exchange, plus document sharing and collaboration (blogs, wikis, commenting).  The interface even looks pretty familiar.  What is so astounding?

The 90 minute video demonstrating the application had so many ‘ah ha’ moments for me it was crazy.  Google Wave was invented by the guys who invented Google Maps, so it has a good pedigree. They’ve spent the last two years completely rethinking collaboration.  The standout features for me are:

·

authoring – two people (or six or 20) can edit the same document simultaneously. No more passing documents back and fro, checking in, checking out.  You all open the document at the same time and type as if you were the only one editing.  Your typing and everyone else’s shows up in real time in the document.  Cut, paste, add, delete all in real time.  When Google Wave is released this functionality will extend to spreadsheets, presentations, etc.

The names of the participants are shown on screen as people type.  You can literally edit a sentence as they are typing it.

· Live Publication – so you publish your document to a blog, or a web site; it is still live.  You edit the Wave, the document is instantly updated – and vice versa.
No need to leave Google Wave to make the changes.  You are where you work and you work where you are.

This could fundamentally transform the way we develop content and manuals at HDS.  Talk about fast capture of intellectual property in the services organization: an engineer updates the install document, and it is available instantly, everywhere.  Did I mention that there is already support for Google Wave on PDAs including iPhone?

· Playback – The technology under the covers that enables simultaneous authoring enables entire message strings, conversations or document creation/editing sessions to be played back under full user control.  Want to know how a document evolved, or what was added before or after what?  Want to see what the document was like yesterday? Or last week?  Just move the slider.

· Open Source and Extensible – (almost) the entire code base is going to be open sourced and there is a robust API making Google Wave full extensible by anyone.  The

· Contextual spell check – Google Wave functionality can be extended through ‘robots’: code that can participate in a conversation.  One of the robots demonstrated is called ‘spelly’.  Unsurprisingly it is a spell checker, but unlike normal spell checkers it uses the full context of the indexed web to make intelligent decisions.  The example shown in the video is the phrase ‘Icland is an icland’ is automatically corrected to ‘Iceland is an island’.

· Real-time translation – by harnessing the power of Google Translate, Google Wave has the ability to translate chat in real time showing the translated and un-translated text next to each other.  This includes full support for right-to-left languages and IME languages like Chinese.  Clearly it isn’t going to be perfect, but looks damned impressive.

· Federation – “but I don’t want all my documents stored on a Google server,” you say.  The Google Wave code base is being released as open source so companies can set up their own Google Wave server.  If all the participants in a Wave are on the same server, the Wave will never leave the server.  But – like email – there is no restriction on who you can add to the Wave, so document sharing outside the firewall is trivial.

There is a whole lot more in the video; I’m still trying to get my head around the improvements to our work processes that could be enabled by a technology like this.  Courseware development, technical publications documentation, GSS IP capture, software development, collaborative trouble shooting, OTJ training, post-course follow up and assignments – the list of impacted processes is huge.

The downsides?  This is still an early beta product and some fundamental questions still remain unanswered – such as off line working (Google Gears updated with a telepathy interface?)  Some people will say that you can get much of this in social platforms today – email, IM, blogs, wikis.  That may be true, but Google has instantly eliminated the artificial distinction between those things, made them behave the way that humans naturally interact and redefined the future.

You can watch the developer preview video here

Mashable is adding more info daily as they test it. The first couple of articles are here and here.

Now if only we had Google Wave you’d be able to have a real time conversation and edit this message, right here, right now.  Guess we’ll have to waitOr leave a comment on my blog.

Posted via email from nickjhowe’s posterous

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