[Webinar recording and transcript] Introducing the Learning While Working Framework

Edited transcript of the webinar: Introduction to the Learning While Working Framework. 

This is an edited transcript of our Introduction to the Learning While Working Framework webinar.

We’re focusing on the Learning While Working Framework. The feedback that we quite often get from webinars is that people would like to see more examples of the 70:20:10 model in action. In the second half of the session we’ll look at three different examples.


First of all, a little bit about the Learning While Working Framework and the accompanying Manifesto.

The manifesto sets out a need for change in learning and development. It offers a different way of going about thinking about developing learning solutions and the learning environment in an organisation. The second stage is the framework that gives structure to those ideas.


There are three driving forces in our modern workplaces. I think of them as the 3Cs, and they are incredibly entwined with one another. The forces are complexity, change and collaboration. By complexity, I mean that the decision-making tasks that we are faced with at work are becoming increasingly complex. A great example of this is insurance underwriting, a field that requires complex decision-making skills in the area of risk management. More and more of these types of tasks are being performed by artificial intelligence, the kind that can crunch big data to arrive at an informed decision. Essentially, some of the tasks that used to be done by an expert in the field are actually now being performed by a computer. We have witnessed the move to a knowledge economy, and what is now happening is that knowledge economies require us to become smarter.

This rapid-onset digital disruption is creating huge amounts of change in our organisations. It goes without saying that many organisation are in flux. The good news is that learning and development can be an enabler for change.

Another development is that as complexity increases, experts need to learn to collaborate in different ways. A good example is healthcare, where many patients move from one specialist to another for the treatment of diseases. In other industries, expert knowledge bases have become so specialised that multiple experts are required in order to address a single problem. Being able to collaborate and work with your peers is now a core workplace skill, and there are now some really interesting ways that digital technologies are enabling collaboration. The 3Cs mean that everyone should always be learning.

Learning while working means that there is no separation between learning and working. As you are working you are trying to improve, and you're continuously thinking of ways to make what you're doing more effective. This is better for your clients, and faster and smarter for your organisation. Another way to put this is that you develop a ‘growth mindset’.

This is the core of the 70:20:10 learning model. As a model it’s a really powerful way of explaining how we really work and learn. It explains that we learn through experience but we still need support from our peers and our managers. Formal learning is sometimes still needed, or course. There is no single dominant approach, but a mixture of elements.

A little while ago during a webinar I realised that 70:20:10 is a concept, or a model, and not actually a framework. A framework needs to have a lot more to it. The work that we have been doing with clients lately has begun to focus on building that framework.

What is the the Learning While Working Framework?

The Learning While Working Framework is about taking the 70:20:10 model and concept and implementing it, making it a reality and translating it into practice. I’m calling it a 0.9 version because there is already a section that I want to revise for the next version!

I think the framework needs to go into a lot more detail. This is what I’ll be focusing on during the current series of webinars.

The framework is three things:

  • a process
  • some principles
  • some design patterns.

It is a process that is based on design thinking. This also means that it represents a mindset around design thinking. In other webinars and blogs posts I’ll talk more about what that means.

This webinar is drilling into just some of these principles – I’ll touch only briefly on the other components of the framework.

702010 design process

What is design thinking?

The definition of design thinking goes something along the lines of ‘the application of the processes and thinking patterns that designers use to solve different business problems’. It is about bringing creative skills to problems that are normally solved only with analytical skills. It’s creativity for a purpose. Design thinking has a number of specialised areas, like service and user interface design.

Working with design thinking means learning and development can be more open, organic and holistic. It allows for a different way of thinking. It means going into the analysis stage of a project not thinking that you're designing a course. It means that you can look closely at a business problem and what the solution for that might problem might be.


The bedrock of design thinking is understanding. In terms of learning and development, there are three core things to understand: the business problem, where the learners are at, and the context of the organisation. During the understanding phase it’s about developing a deep emotional and intellectual picture of what those three things mean for a learning project. Notice that I used the word ‘emotional’? If you treat your learners as whole people, then learner-centered approaches become a natural outcome of the design process.


The next phase is what we call ‘exploring’. Some people call it ‘ideation’. It’s about coming up with ideas that are often co-designed with the client. This phase of the process sometimes merges into prototyping. From the understanding phase you will have found out who you’re working with and what the outcomes need to be. Exploring is about the possibility of solutions.


The prototyping phase is about making some of the ideas that you have been exploring into a reality. At the beginning of the prototyping phase you might use ‘journey maps’, or some other kind of visual map that we’ll look at later. Approaches that may follow might be things like role plays and more complicated prototyping.

Stories are a great way to quickly explain and get feedback on an idea. A 70:20:10 learning design is not one thing. It is a complex, multi-layered model. I think that stories are one of the best ways of embedding complexity.

In one design document, we had a series of stories about different ways learners would engage with a program. Some feedback came from one of the key players regarding one of the stories. It was a red flag demonstrating that this stakeholder wasn’t completely on board with the model. The stories elicited early feedback about what might not work in later stages of the project.

Testing and evolving

The next two stages are testing and evolving (we might change this term). Essentially, testing and evolving are what we normally think of as the implementation stage of a project. We use the terms to generate a different way of thinking about implementation. During this phase you are looking at the program to see how it’s going and how it might be improved. You're moving back and forth between the testing and prototyping phases very quickly.

Many of the tools used during the evolving stage are actually the same as those used in the understanding phase. Because, like in the understanding phase, it’s about examining, looking, and really thinking through what’s happening. It’s important to flag what’s going right and what’s going wrong.

The Learning While Working principles

Principles are really a guide to decision making. We often use a principle-based approach in strategy documents. I feel that a principle is like a guidepost in the ground. It’s something to hang other things off and it doesn’t lock things down too much. If you are putting together a strategy, remember it might be something that needs to last for two or three years – how the principles are put into practice may change.

70:20:10 examples

The principles enable us to provide some guidance around decision making without locking things down. The beautiful thing about the 70:20:10 learnng model is that it’s not a restrictive model. It is a holistic way of thinking around learning and development. I don’t want you to feel that the principles are rules that you have to follow.

Let’s take a look at three examples in practice. These projects are based on a mixture of past and current projects we’ve worked on.The first one deals with reducing errors that lead to customer complaints. The second one addresses sales skills in a financial sector organisation. And the third is an example of on-boarding in a government organisation.

Using the 70:20:10 model to develop lean thinking in an organisation

Someone from the business has come to learning and development, saying that they would like to reduce errors that lead to customer complaints. What’s really awesome about this is that the instigator is already thinking about outcomes – wouldn’t it be great if everyone from an organisation came to L&D with a business outcome in mind? In this case the person happened to have jumped to exactly what they felt the solution should be: they believe training and lean thinking is the answer. I always think that there is a bit of irony with the whole idea of training around lean thinking. In many ways, in lean thinking the last resort to process improvement is actual training. The first thing should be to think about systemised change in the environment. For this approach to be adopted, a whole culture of training people to think lean must be developed.

The Learning While Working Framework outlines some design patterns for the different functions of learning and development. The design patterns facilitate the introduction of knowledge to an organisation from outside, as well as the sharing of existing knowledge. They also enable the generation of new knowledge. This case study on lean thinking is about generating new knowledge in an organisation.

This whole notion of learning and development being responsible for generating new knowledge and innovation is a new idea, and it’s extremely challenging. It is a part of the framework that will be reworked in the next version. I think it’s actually a balance of creating new knowledge with the need for some of the ‘10’ to come in as well.

Learning design maps

70 20 10 Example - Using the 70:20:10 model to develop lean thinking in an organ

We use these learning design maps to visually map out how a program will be run. We print them out as an A0 poster and quite often use them with sticky notes in workshops. We split the workshop members into teams, with each developing an approach to share with the group. The group decides which is the preferred approach.

70:20:10 models are not always easy to explain. I think that visual tools like this are therefore extremely useful in demonstrating how the model works. They show the essential elements and how those elements can change over time.

This model begins with a consultant coming in and facilitating a lean project, which enables others within the organisation to see how it is run. The learners then go and visit other organisations who use lean thinking, bringing with them the new knowledge. At the core of this model are those learners who are working on their own projects, for whom the consultant may act as a coach.

Recording and reflecting on learning is really important. In this case the use of a blog for project reporting is a great way to encourage reflection. The community of practice adds another layer of connection and opportunities for shared reflecting.

How Learning While Working principles are used in this design



Consultant runs a lean project

Employees need opportunities to see how other people work

Managers visit an organisation that is using lean thinking

Employees need opportunities to see how other people work

Process improvement projects

Employees need to be able to take on projects

Employees need to be allowed to practise and fail, learn and try again

Consultant coaches participants

Everyone needs to be given feedback on their performance

Project reporting is via a blog

Work and learning should be social

Process improvement CoP

Employees need to work with peers and their manager to reflect and articulate what they are learning and how change is happening

The core of this particular model is that it is a process improvement project. A project is essentially about change. Projects are great learning opportunities. I’ve related this to the principle of being able to practise and fail; we don’t want a project to fail but sometimes they take a curly, threaded path before they arrive at the intended outcome. I think that project-based learning is one of the most powerful ways anyone can learn. The learner has to take responsibility for their own learning. They have to be self-directed. Quite often, project work means that employees are given a different set of responsibilities, ones that stretch their skills.

In some ways the rest of this learning model is really just about supporting the project. A manager supporting a single team member to run a project that is outside of their normal scope of work can faces challenges. Because in this model there is a cohort of learners, supporting activities like communities of practice is easier. A more systemised and scalable approach like the one outlined above can be more easily driven and supported by the learning and development team. 

Using the 70:20:10 model to develop sales skills

Our next example concerns improving sales skills in a financial sector organisation. In this scenario someone from the business unit comes to learning and development and says that they want to improve the consultative sales skills of their advisors.

In terms of the Learning While Working design pattern this is about bringing new knowledge into the organisation. It’s a process of someone saying that we need to behave in a different way and that training is the solution. This type of approach often begins in the ‘10’, and is then transferred into the 70 and supported by the 20. The approach draws on the area of learning transfer, a common technique for which is called ‘spaced repetition’, where learners engage with content and learning activities over a period of time. The manager is placed firmly at the centre of the learning transfer process and takes responsibility for the transfer of learning into practice.

A 70:20:10 learning map for this learning scenario would look like this.

70 20 10 Example - Using the 70:20:10 model to develop sales skills

The program begins with a face-to-face simulation-based workshop. The workshop is essentially a series of role plays. The advisors are give an experiential and performance-based approach to new skills. Built into the role plays is peer and expert feedback. The end of the workshop involves setting a better goal. It’s been found that setting goals such as ‘I’m going to improve my sales by five per cent’ actually makes people behave in a different way. It sets up a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Another way to think about getting better goals is that they are learning goals.

The next part of the model is using virtual classrooms to do check-ins. Virtual classrooms are awesome bits of technology. They can be highly visual and interactive and have the flexibility that people can just pick up the phone to participate. Also, we are seeing a trend towards progressively short virtual classroom sessions – they don’t always have to be an hour long.

The model concerns coaching participants in their new skills over a period of time. It comprises an integrated program for the managers as well. The managers involved in the program are supported and given direct guidance on how to help make these new skills happen for their teams.

The learning transfer part of this model is held together by the mobile app. The learners are sent reminders about what their goals were and the app helps them track their progress. Over time they are sent scenarios where they can practise their new skills.

The reporting on goals and learning activities is done using Experience API (aka Tin Can) in a Learning Record Store. Managers and learning and development can track how people are progressing with their goals and compare them against their learning outcomes.

How Learning While Working principles are used in this design



Set a ‘getting better’ goal

Learning should be measured by changes in performance

Simulation-based workshop

Formal learning should be focused on processes, i.e. decision making and performance improvement, not on content, i.e. information

Virtual classrooms for progress

Check-ins about lessons learned

Employees need to work with peers and their manager to reflect and articulate what they are learning and how change is happening


Work and learning should be social

Mobile app

Formal learning should enable learners to practise making realistic decisions over time

Formal learning should focus on the individual learner's needs, and should be personalised

The learning should be measured by changes in performance. The formal learning in the workshop is not content based – it’s actually performance based and based on decision making. The mobile app is being used in a way where decisions can be practised over a period of time.

With a couple of clients we are starting to combine space learning with adaptive learning. With these approaches, if a learner doesn’t do well in a topic they are presented with more learning that is focused on that area. With this approach, the learning experience becomes personalised to focus on exactly what the learner needs.

 Using the 70:20:10 model for on-boarding in a government organisation

The business goal for this scenario is ‘We want to decrease the time it takes for our staff to become proficient.’ The context is a government organisation.

The design pattern for this is knowledge sharing. On-boarding can be thought of as saying, ‘This is the way we do things in this organisation and this is how we expect you to behave.’ It is a classic design pattern where digital technologies are eminently suited because the process is frequently repeated. elearning is the fastest way to do this. 

70 20 10 Example - Using the 70:20:10 model for on-boarding in a government orga

This learning model is a classic apprentice model. We often association apprentice model training with trades. I’m not quite sure if people realise that some of our most highly-trained professionals, for example doctors, use a similar model.

In this model the employee works closely with a supervisor who is guiding them and progressively letting them do more and more. Feedback is constant. In sharing knowledge-based learning models the learning can be accelerated if the knowledge is well documented. This particular model has taken the apprentice approach of someone mirroring an experienced person. The model provides the learner with a role model. In the formal part of the program there is simulated ‘scaffolded’ work to be completed before ‘real’ work begins. This simulated work is based on an instructional design approach called ‘worked examples’. A worked example is where an expert solves a problem, along the way explaining what they are thinking and how they make their decisions.

Work is scaffolded in a way where the learner progresses to tackle more and more parts of the tasks. After some time the learner is doing exactly the same tasks they will need to perform in the workplace. The new employees are also supported in a community of learners and learning partners. I believe on-boarding is partly a way of socialising learners to understand the way an organisation thinks. In a learning community, all learners, learning partners, mentors and buddies are part this socialisation process.

We have a really fantastic competency based system in Australia that can be used in lots of different ways to measure learning and performance. Competency should be a measurement of actual performance but this is not always the way that it’s implemented in the TAFE system. A key feature of this model is the use of competency based assessment to measure learning.

How Learning While Working principles are used in this design




Proficiency is measured using a competency based system

Learning should be measured by changes in performance

Mirroring an experienced person

Employees need opportunities to see how other people work

Worked example and simulation-based work on commencement

Formal learning should be focused on processes, i.e. decision making and performance improvement, not on content, i.e. information

Community of learners and learning partners

Employees need to work with peers and their manager to reflect and articulate what they are learning and how change is happening

Manager focuses on coaching

Managers need to act as learning coaches for their team members

The manager's role in learning programs should be purposefully designed

Essentially, being able to measure performance using competency is important in this model. The manager is heavily entwined in this particular approach. Hopefully, the learning community is used by learners to reflect on and share what they have learned, for it is that sharing and articulation that is the key to learning.

Thank you everyone for your attention. Hopefully this has been a good substitute for the webinar.

Robin Petterd

Download the Learning while working framework