Leadership Spotlight

Congratulations, Graduate! You Have 90 Percent More Learning to Do!

A young woman is depicted at their graduation ceremony.


What does it mean when you graduate from a formal training program in an organization? The Center for Creative Leadership, a nonprofit educational institution, surveyed the key developmental experiences of successful managers and found that only 10 percent of their learning resulted from formal education.1 Additionally, 20 percent occurred during collaborative learning with peers.2

Where does the remaining 70 percent come from? Research has indicated hands-on experiences.3 These include activities stemming from the synergy of job-related skills refined by the interaction of bosses and appointed or unofficial mentors. Employees’ work settings double as learning environments that feature immediate feedback for decisions and problem solving.

By design, a model does not replicate reality. By intent, it simply explains a theory. Models do not have all of the attendant variables and complexities of the real world. However, we need them for leverage to better understand relationships of concepts.

The 70:20:10 model helps us visualize and consider the role of learning.4 What implications does this concept have? If we concur that significant learning occurs after formal instruction in an organization, perhaps we should consider another model. Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Model proposed that learning:

  • has delayed outcomes;
  • is ongoing and bolstered by experience;
  • benefits from conflict resolution;
  • adapts to reality;
  • involves a transaction between a person and the environment; and
  • creates new personal knowledge.5
Depiction of a three-segment learning model.

Both models make a compelling case that peers, mentors, and bosses, in fact, serve as adjuncts of the extended formal classroom experience. Daily, these individuals contribute to the refinement and construction of new knowledge for their junior colleagues.

As a leader, ask yourself which qualities, skills, and orientations you acquired outside of the classroom. What were some of the most effective learning experiences? Think of how you progressed beyond your initial training program. What kinds of qualities, knowledge, skills, and ways of thinking should we seek to develop in the people we work with? How are you paying forward those learning opportunities?

Dr. Francis X. Bergmeister is manager of the Faculty Support Staff’s Core Faculty Program at the FBI Academy. He can be reached at francis.bergmeister@ic.fbi.gov.


1 Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger, Career Architect Development Planner, 4th ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Limited, 2004).

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 For more information, see “The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development,” Training Industry, accessed March 2, 2017, https://www.trainingindustry.com/wiki/entries/the-702010-model-for-learning-and-development.aspx.

5 David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (London, UK: Prentice-Hall, 1983).