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The Death of 70:20:10

By Rich Wellins, Ph.D.

Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D.

For decades, many health care “best practices” were not best practices at all. They were often based on the experience of a handful of physicians who propagated the best way to treat a particular illness. As an example, the opinion for years on how to treat a certain type of cancer widely varied between west coast and east coast doctors. But the field has changed radically. Soon, if not now, you will be able to pick the best alternative for handling your particular medical challenge, along with the best hospital and physician that are likely to give you the best outcomes.

The field of talent management is growing at a much slower rate. “Best practices” are often based solely on opinion and/or very limited research—not proven facts. One of the more common perpetuated myths is how people learn—70:20:10. Seventy represents experience, or on-the-job learning, 20 signifies learning from others, such as coaching, and 10 denotes more formal learning like web-based or classroom training.

In DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015 we set out to prove whether this magic formula was accurate for leadership development. As we’ve come to learn, over 13,000 leaders who participated in our research are spending their time a little differently than what we’ve been led to believe—55:25:20! Less emphasis on learning on the job, more on formal learning. More important, this “actual time spent ratio” closely matches that of higher quality leadership development programs.  We have found it to be amazing—when talent management professionals hear this data, they have trouble believing it. The 70:20:10 ratio has become so ingrained in our learning culture that people have trouble believing anything else is possible.

Our Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015, co-sponsored with The Conference Board, presents this finding and many others, in greater detail. Click here to get the full report, register for a webinar, watch a video, or explore the individual findings.

Like evidence-based medicine, talent analytics has been the single biggest trend in our profession in the last decade—or perhaps ever.  If we don't embrace it, I worry that HR will quickly get a rap of not keeping up with the business. We have come a long way toward gaining a seat at the table. Let's not take a giant step backwards.

Rich Wellins, Ph.D., is a senior vice president at DDI.

DDI’s Tacy Byham explores 70:20:10, and debates whether it is still relevant today based on our findings from the Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015.

Posted: 07 Apr, 2015,

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