Thursday, 19 March 2020

Personal learning, KM and the 170:20:10 rule

The 70:20:10 rule is commonly quoted, as in this video by Steve Trautman, as representing the three ways in which people learn.



  • 10% of our learning, comes from formal training
  • 20% of our learning comes from structured mentoring, from a senior to a junior, or teacher to learner
  • 70% of our learning comes "On the job". 
In the video, Steve suggests that this on-the-job learning happens by osmosis - "they go to work, they hang out, they are in the space, and they learn".

The dictionary calls osmosis "the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc". Well, in KM its not gradual, it's "just-in-time", and it's conscious, not unconscious. The use of Knowledge Management can deliver on-the-job learning in a far more effective way than just osmosis.
  • Reflective team learning practices such as After Action Review and Retrospect allow people to discuss what have been learned, and become conscious of learning, thus accelerating personal learning. 
  • Good knowledge bases form an explicit learning resource for people to learn on the job.
  • A community of practice forms a tacit learning resource for people to learn on the job.
So instead of knowledge "just happening to flow", as in the random movement of molecules through a membrane which we call osmosis, the KM processes and framework become a sort of "ion pump for knowledge" (one for the cell biologists there).

So maybe we can change the 70:20:10 rule. If KM is better than osmosis, maybe its a 170:20:10 rule, and people learn twice as much.


  • 10% of our learning through formal training
  • 20% of our learning through mentoring and coaching
  • 170% of our learning through KM processes and tools. 

A combination of formal learning and development, mentoring programs and Knowledge Management therefore covers, and expands, the entire spectrum of learning.

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