Charles Jennings on “Unleashing the Full 100%”

This post is part of 3 covering my review of the Stimulearning L+D talks of October 2013. The full article was published in Dutch in the Stimulearning magazine, December 2013.


Charles Jennings used to be a professor and is attributed with the creation one of the first online learning modules. This happened long before 2013 and sometime after the black and white picture he showed us of him playing guitar (“every waking hour in his 20s”) in the last century. Taking “the graveyard shift” in our October L+D Talks, Charles introduced the 70:20:10 model and told us that it is time to think differently about organisational learning.


Jennings founded the 70:20:10 forum to help learning people develop and share strategies to unleash the huge amount of non-structured non-formal and non-intentional learning that happens in organisations. Underlining the non-existence of peer-to-peer academic studies to show accuracy of the numbers 70:20:10, Jennings insisted that there is nonetheless a lot of empirical evidence to show that high-performing people learn a huge amount more from work and practice, rather than structured learning. That is to say: Without you the learning professional having to get involved. The goal of the forum and 70:20:10 strategies is to create a framework for extending and improving that organisational learning, pulling more profit from what is already going on.


Jennings admitted that actually he is “not terribly interested in learning, but … passionate about performance” but added that it seems to him inefficient to “leave good food on the table”. If we focus purely on designing and delivering structured learning programs (the 10%), we may miss many opportunities to add-value in other areas. Quoting a “Bersin by Deloitte” study, Jennings said that that companies who have strong informal learning capabilities are 300% more likely to excel at global talent development. So what can we do around and outside of structured content-driven learning? During the talk, we saw that the possibilities are enormous. People learn in so many ways and support in those activities can (and should) be provided by the learning professional.


According to Albert Einstein “learning is experience, everything else is just information”. The key is to draw from those experiences to profit the individual and his network. Creating new and challenging experiences for workers, expanding the scope of work, adding in elements of change and adversity or simply giving more time to reflect or try something new are simple ways to help people grow in their competence.


And if individuals are growing, the network can profit. Creating conversation via enterprise social media platforms, work narration or more structured events like Reuters’ pizza sessions or the US military’s “Action Review Sessions” can help to spread knowledge and experience within the organisation.


But in line with Donald H Taylor’s opening speech, Jennings insisted that we are not only talking about “doing more stuff”. In fact, what we need is a change in mind-set and a more professional approach. He is still surprised to hear that organisations that have clear strategies for sales and marketing, operations or product development still don’t have a strategy for learning. Yet business leaders and HR directors all agree that if we are going to achieve future business targets (12 months from now) we need to either grow the workforce or work better. People surveyed by the “Corporate Leadership Council” said that in the future we will need a 20 to 25% performance improvement, but that we won’t be recruiting 20 to 25% more people. As Liz Wiseman would say: “The time for addition is over. We need to multiple.” If we want better retention, more output and business results, we need to change the way we work and learn.


Charles Jennings wants to see learning organisations that respond faster to changing business conditions. He wants us to help integrate learning into the everyday workflow. He wants better transfer of structured learning into the workplace. He wants L+D to align more to real business priorities. He wants to unleash the full 100%.


He wants a lot. But is he wrong?



Published by Dan Steer

For the last 17 years, I have been helping businesses and individuals to achieve their goals through delivery of tailor-made learning and development initiatives. Most of the time, I deliver training, coach individuals, facilitate brainstorming sessions, round-table meetings and workshops. As a consultant, I help my clients to promote and profit from the infinite learning opportunities within and without their own organisation, drawing on my L+D management experience, strategic approach and creativity, As a speaker, I inspire through story, humour and pertinent little bits of theory. I believe that the world would be a better place if people were happily working on their mission with competence and alignment to personal values. As a freelance worker since 2008, I have helped more than 11000 individuals to improve their presentation, communication, commercial, leadership and negotiation skills. I confront people with their own behaviour and convictions, facilitating and giving pertinent feedback and clear ideas on where to continue good work and improve. I seek to satisfy my clients with creative and to-the-point solutions… …and I make music, but no-one pays me much for it yet :-) First single here:

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