A Real Ratio To Pay Attention To: 70:30

Uh Oh – Seventy-Thirty

Another set of numbers. Not to be confused with what those promoting 80/20 or 70-20-10 are trying to communicate.

This is something backed by research. But first, let’s digress a bit…

A Meaningful Number: 70:30

Research has concluded: approximately 70% of what an Expert knows – is at the non-conscious level – meaning either “they don’t know what they know” – or – “they do know – what they don’t know – they just cannot tell you anything about it.” They can only tell you about 30 of what they really know to do what a novice would need to know.

The old saw is “I’ve forgotten more than I know” turns out to be pretty darn accurate.

They, experts, are on auto pilot.

70-30 Ratio

Just as you have experienced when you find that you are in your driveway already home – but don’t recall the drive. Or you drove to the wrong place – absent mindedly, so to speak.

Even if they, your SMEs, Master Performers, Exemplary Performers, Star Performers, Accomplished Performers, etc., are motivated to share the specifics of what they know with you – as they might be when you are doing an SME interview to build Training/Learning content – they cannot.

They simply cannot. Try as they might.

So What?

This has major implications…

  • To folks in the Learning/Training/Instruction profession. Their methods for gathering content will most likely have to change.
  • And to “Authoring Tool” vendors who tout that SMEs can do Rapid Development to trap and share their Knowledge – are also going to have to change their Sales Spiel.
  • And to all organizations that rely on SMEs to teach courses – they will need to examine what they are getting – and not getting – from this approach.
  • And those who think they’ll get a lot of benefit from participating in Communities of Practice.

Then What?

There are proven approaches – some are called Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) that are beneficial – but as Dr. Clark warns – there are over 100 versions of CTA discovered in one study – but only 6 were found to be EBP – Evidence Based Practice.


Dr. Richard E. (Dick) Clark speaks to this in a couple of videos.

Video From USC – CCT – 2008 – 63 minutes

Video From April 2012 at ISPI – 45 Minutes

Resources From the USC – University of Southern California’s CCT – Center for Cognitive Technologies

Cognitive Task Analysis

Adobe PDF Clark, R. E., & Estes, F. (1998). Cognitive task analysis. International Journal of Educational Research, 25(5), 403-417.
Adobe PDF Clark, R.E., Feldon, D., Van Merrienboer, J.J.G., Yates, K., and Early, S. (2008) Cognitive task analysis. In J.M. Spector, M.D. Merrill, J.J.G. van Merrienboer, & M.P. Driscoll (Eds.).Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Adobe PDF Clark, R.E., Feldon, D., & Yates, K. (2011, April) Using Cognitive Task Analysis to capture expert knowledge and skills for research and instructional design. Workshop presented at the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.
Adobe PDF Yates, Kenneth A. (2007). Towards a taxonomy of cognitive task analysis methods: A search for cognition and task analysis interactions. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Other related resources may be found in the Publications area of the Center for Cognitive Technologies web site – here.

The Group Process

My own approach – first written about in this – below – NSPI (now ISPI) publication in November 1984 – used what we called a Group Process to accomplish what a CTA attempts to accomplish – getting closer to 100%.

Models and Matrices- NSPI PIJ -1984 – 5 page PDF – the first publication of the performance and enabler analysis methods for ISD, from NSPI’s (ISPI’s) Performance & Instruction Journal, November 1984.

An Application – Using Proven Group Processes in Analysis and Downstream from Analysis

Two months earlier – September 1984 – Training Magazine published my partners’ and my article on Curriculum Architecture Design (CAD) with a recommended sub-title about the recommended construction method: Group Process.

CAD – Training Mag – 1984 – 6 page PDF – the first publication about Curriculum Architecture Design via a Group Process – published in Training Magazine in September 1984. Original manuscript (30 pages) – How to Build a Training Structure That Won’t Keep Burning Down.

Here is a 13 minute video I did earlier this year (2012) that goes into that – and how what was then called out by Training Magazine as “innovative” – doesn’t seem to have been picked up by others in this Curriculum/Learning Architecture space – for what they are doing and how they are doing it – according to their books, articles and videos, seems very old school to me – and would have seemed old school to me back in 1984:

And here is an 11 minute from client’s at General Motors back in 1997 – about the Process that my firm and I used to conduct the analysis and design – leading to development of an 18-month program for new Supervisors – one week in class and labs and then one week on the job applying what they had learned (and doing other work) – where we designed the 18-month Event just ahead of the Developers (from both General Physics and Raytheon and several other GM sub-contractors).

The focus at GM back in these days was on “Process” – hence the renaming of my methods (CAD and MCD) to MC and MI Processes – architect-ing or systems engineering of the Instructional Product Line or Path – and then the development (manufacturing) of the engineered (Instructional) products. Another focus was – reuse of auto components and so my focus on Re-Use on Instructional Content was intriguing to them.

CAD efforts lead to rapid development. And have since 1982 for me and my clients.

But As Always – It Depends

Just because a group of Master Performers can come to consensus on something – doesn’t make them right.

You’ll always need to test – developmental testing and then Pilot-Testing – to make sure before you unleash – release – your Content – to the world. As Bob Mager always recommended we do.

The trick – I discovered back in the early 1980s – is always in “assembling the right group” – of Master Performers, other Subject Matter Experts, sometimes Novice Performers, and sometimes Supervisors, Managers and sometimes downstream Customers and upstream Suppliers.

My approach is covered in this 2011 book: Analysis of Performance Competence Requirements

That book is available as a paperback or a Kindle – here.

I also have formal workshops and less-formal coaching sessions – for staff development – that I have been delivering to clients formally since 1983 – and my own staff and our subcontractors informally (or less formally) since 1982. More about that – here.

Contact me if you are interested in learning more.

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6 comments on “A Real Ratio To Pay Attention To: 70:30

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