How people actually develop – 70/20/10 rule

Many moons ago Sun introduced SunTOPS (Sun’s Talent Optimization System) for development planning. Included in the notes, sadly I no longer have a copy, was this intriguing diagram:

how people write development plans versus how people actually develop

I’ve since found what I believe to be the underlying research behind this, it’s the 70/20/10 model. There is a reference to it in the Princeton University Learning Process.

I’ve not found a reference to the idea that development plans usually turn this in its head – in other words, we incorrectly assume that development is 70% training, 20% learning from others, 10% job experience. If anyone knows where this came from please let me know.

According to Princeton:

70/20/10 learning concept was developed by Morgan McCall, Robert W. Eichinger, and Michael M. Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership and is specifically mentioned in The Career Architect Development Planner 3rd edition by Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger.

The seriously chunky and expensive The Career Architect Development Planner isn’t in my local library or searchable on-line. I’d love to take a peek 🙂

Update – 13th May 2013

Since writing that article I found a blog post Let’s kill a few learning holy cows – 70:20:10 is dead (or at least seriously ill) which states “If you examine the peer reviewed articles, there is not one single empirical study that validates 70:20:10”.

Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just that there’s no supporting evidence.

Interesting, I wonder if this is a bit like Albert Mehrabian’s widely misrepresented “7%-38%-55% rule” – there’s a very specific case for which it’s true. Or is it largely true, but evasive in its supporting evidence?

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  1. darya

     /  March 17, 2010

    So isn’t that a perfect match? The Development Plan and the Development itself are two different things with two different mind sets. Planning needs much more reading than does development. Hence your diagram show something very natural and good.

  2. Val Madsen

     /  April 11, 2010

    Hi Peter
    My colleague and I have been researching the 70:20:10 for the past few months and interviewing organisations to determine their intrepretation, how it is embedded in the organisation, challenges and best practice or impace from the 70:20:10. It has been a facinating journey and we’re hoping to produce a white paper outlining our findings. Happy to send you some references that we’ve come across. Cheers, Val

    • Fiona

       /  May 25, 2010

      Hi Val,

      I’m a master of organisational psychology student (Macquarie University, Australia) and am currently researching the 70:20:10 learning model. I would be very appreciative to also receive some references you’ve come across.

      Thanks alot!

  3. Thanks Val – let me know (either through this comment page or through the obvious "" email address).


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