L&D: The Learning Life Cycle – Learning Curve Model of 10-20-70

The MashUp of the 3E and a Flipped 70-20-10 Model

First – the 70-20-10 Reference Model refers to a popular model in L&D. Here is a quick update on that from fellow Foo Foo Fighter, Will Thalheimer – and his Debunkers Club – here. And consider joining the Club. Also – check out the #DebunkDebate from November 2 – on Twitter.

The 3E model is from Ryan Tracey’s post – dated: Feb 9, 2016 – here.

His 3Es are:

  • Experience
  • Exposure
  • Education

The Learning Life Cycle – Learning Curve is my take on all of this.


The First Mashup

Combines Ryan’s 3E Model to the 70-20-10 Reference Model.


Let me carry on by first flipping the 70-20-10 … to … 10-20-70.


In a moment.

The 10 – Education

A.K.A.: Training/ Learning/ Knowledge Management – the Formal Stuff.

If you don’t get MOST of this up front – in the OnBoarding and initial OnGoing Development efforts – you could be ill informed – develop some bad practices – and then have to then dig out from all of that.

Not that all of the 10/Education would be done on the front end – but MOST of it – MAYBE.


The key here – is getting a good chunk of that 10/Education (the Formal Stuff) upfront – at the beginning of your Learning Curve – the beginning of your Learning Life Cycle.

This is where the hard/complex tasks might be taught – unless that should wait until the learner/Performer has some on-the-job real-world experience first.

Here is where deliberate, authentic Practice with Feedback occurs. How much Practice and Feedback? Enough for enough mastery to tackle the job? Airline Pilot – very masterfully. Retail Sales Clerk – enough to not anger Customers so that they walk out to never return. It’s about Risks and Returns.

As always – It depends.

The 20 – Exposure

Exposure to others: formal coaches (unless that qualifies as part of the 10) including peers, bosses, downstream customers, upstream suppliers, stakeholders from everywhere/anywhere.


The advice one might get from the 20/Exposure would make better sense if it had some mental model/context to attach it to. Some schema. Something the 10/Education would have/ should have provided. As a foundation for all of the rest.

The 70 – Experience

Also known as the school of hard knocks, via a Sink-or-Swim approach – unless the foundation was in place. But once trained and informed (educated/exposed) then THIS takes over and you go and learn/Perform from here.


Unless new harder/more complex assignments are coming – when you might get more 10 and/or 20 – this is where the learner lives as a Performer – getting and understanding and adapting to the feedback that normally exists in the on-the-job Performance Context.

If new harder/more complex assignments are in the future – or have already arrived unannounced – then the 10 and 20 may be needed. If the 10 doesn’t exists yet – then the 20 will have to suffice until that gap in the 10 is addressed.

Flipping the Model

Me – I’d flip 70-20-10 to present a more logical FLOW, a more ideal FLOW from mostly 10 to mostly 20 to mostly 70 – before saluting and wishing all good luck.


I like understanding Flow of the Process over understanding Like-Items – to start. Both are necessary – but the former provides context for the latter.

It’s one of the reasons my Performance Analysis did not follow Tom Gilbert’s Duties (like items together) as presented in his book: Human Competence.

That Performance Analysis approach was first published in November 1984 – 2 months after the application of that methodology in a Curriculum Architecture effort was published in September 1984 … where we referred to it as Job Modeling. I was conducting these analyses on team efforts and functions – where the label Job Model just didn’t fit.

Those who published back in the day appreciate that you could submit one article before another but they would be published in reverse order – and 13-15 months after submitted. Today it’s so much quicker.

Here are 3 resources…

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.

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.

Modeling Mastery Performance and Systematically Deriving the Enablers for Performance Improvement – by Guy W. Wallace, CPT – Chapter 11 of the Handbook of Human Performance Technology – 3rd Edition – 2006.  This methodology was first published in this 1984 article in ISPI’s (then NSPI’s) PIJ in November 1984.

For Your Consideration: The Learning Life Cycle – Learning Curve Model (v1)

Yeah – just what the world needs … another model.


And it should probably look more like this… very busy….


And of course – these graphics are for illustrative purposes only.

Bottom Lines

As one progresses up a Learning Curve – IMO – one typically needs more Formal on the front end and less Formal on the tail end.

That Formal can come from a Coach – and best if that coach is following some guidelines – stuff that I call Structured OJT … vs Unstructured OJT.

Why Structured OJT?

Because SMEs/Experts can miss up to 70% of what a novice needs. They work on auto-pilot – as we all do with things we are familiar with.

It’s also why it’s never a good idea to rely on one SME. Use something along the lines of Cognitive Task Analysis or my Group Processes for Performance Analysis and Systematically Deriving the Enabling Knowledge and Skills, to avoid missing up to 70% of what a novice needs.

Every situation is different due to the nature of the Performance itself and the incoming awareness, knowledge and skills … of the learner/Performer.

So the Performance Competence Development Paths that I have designed using Performance data and A/K/S data derived from the models of Performance – are flexible sequences of performance-based T&D (now L&D). For adapting to the specific local needs.

Two sets of watch words…

As Flexible as Feasible and as Rigorous as Required. 

Focus on the Performance Requirements – and Enable Them.

Tell Me What You Think

Please let me know what your questions, comments and/or concerns are in the comments section. I will reply.


# # #


8 comments on “L&D: The Learning Life Cycle – Learning Curve Model of 10-20-70

  1. Pingback: T&D: Shoot For An Ideal Future State – Not Just The Current State | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  2. Pingback: T&D: Guidance – Job Aids – Performance Support – Are Instructional | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  3. Pingback: L&D: Enabling Timely Informal Learning | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  4. Pingback: L&D: Most 10 Before Most 20 Before Most 70 | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  5. Pingback: L&D: Enabling Better 70 in the Flipped 10-20-70 Model | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  6. Pingback: L&D: Minimizing the Need for Unlearning Before Learning | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  7. 10-20-70 doesn’t sound as sexy as the other way around, but it eliminates several big issues with an otherwise decent (not perfect) model. The way you present it helps to keep the right emphasis on formal education. Too many are using the model to assume employees can be at 90% efficiency with no formal training.
    Nicely done. Thanks.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.