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CEO’s Desk: You don’t win Wimbledon by learning shot selection theory

The 70:20:10 framework for learning and development supports the fact that we learn the majority of the expertise we need to perform any work task by actually doing the task. Based on our own learning experiences, it’s clear that this is true. Across the world however, many L&D professionals continue to be pushed, often times by their business partners, to create yet more formal training to roll out change or onboard new hires quickly. Much of the time, effort and cost of these programs is wasted because adults don’t learn job skills very well from within a controlled classroom environment away from the job – especially when they are over whelmed by the pressure to memorize all the instructions.

Here’s a simple example to illustrate how most adults learn. As the Wimbledon tennis tournament is approaching, I was thinking about the draw and how it contributes to certain players winning. The best players don’t triumph by focusing the majority of their efforts on learning shot selection theory in a classroom; they get there by having more opportunities to play matches and practise hitting winners and saving points.

At the beginning of every Wimbledon tournament, higher seeded players are pitted against lower seeded players. The best players therefore end-up playing more matches, because they are more likely to beat weaker opponents. And because they play more matches, against progressively better skilled opponents, they are continuously honing their skills, judgement and decision-making. This means when they play their final match they have all the knowledge they need to limit or eliminate errors and win the game. Weaker, early-defeated players simply return to the practice courts and are quite possibly left to contend with a mere ball machine – that’s just no match to a backhand from Novak Djokovic!

What does this have to do 70:20:10?

Well, to my mind it perfectly illustrates the principle that we learn the most useful and lasting lessons about succeeding in our jobs by actually doing. As I pointed out in one of my other posts, there’s no substitute for match practice, regardless of whether we are talking about the professional tennis circuit, Australian rules football, your contact center or back office process center.

To make this on-the-job learning (the 70) a reality, without exposing your business to significant errors along the way, your staff need to acquire basic skills (achieved via the 10) quickly and then have effective process guidance to help them confidently complete any task to expert standards – even if it’s the first time they are performing it.

And if your managers, peers and subject matter experts are able to easily add their knowledge to the process guidance system then your business has a time-effective and cost-effective way to access the 20 – and ensure continuous improvement of the efficiency of your processes.

A business process guidance system enables L&D professionals to easily leverage 70:20:10 – so that every employee on your team is a star player able to excel at any job they perform.

Ted Gannan

Ted Gannan co-founded Panviva after 20 years in a variety of senior management, sales, and editorial roles in the publishing industry, including Managing Director of Thomson Learning, Australia. Ted led the development of SupportPoint after identifying a need for an improved method of delivering ‘moment-of-need’ procedural and product knowledge to employees. He is responsible for overseeing the company’s growth worldwide.

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