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Relationships That Make You Smarter (Annie Murphy Paul) - The Forum applies the 70:20:10 lens


This excellent article by Annie Murphy Paul reinforces a fact that science is telling us - that learning and thinking are primarily deeply social activities."Students enlisted to tutor others work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively."

If ever there was an argument for focusing on the ‘20’ (and also the ‘70’) in the 70:20:10 framework, this short article provides it.

Of course behavioural scientists have been telling us that learning is a social activity for many years, but the message is finally getting home. Jerome Bruner, probably the greatest educational psychologist of the modern era, many years ago observed ‘our world is others’ and that we only exist with and through other humans.

Paul quotes the Roman philosopher Seneca “while we teach, we learn” to reinforce the fact that we have been aware of the interplay between teaching and learning for at least two thousand years and possibly longer.

The ‘the protégé effect’ – where student teachers do better than students learning the same material – demonstrates that creating opportunities for coaching and teaching in the workplace benefits not only the ‘taught’ but the teacher even more so.  The idea of ‘cascading mentoring’ is discussed, as is the ‘teachable agent’ – a virtual character that, by being ‘taught’ improves the quality of learning of the ‘teachers’.

How can we use this evidence in our own organisations?

There are a number of approaches within the ‘exposure’ and ‘experience’ parts of the 70:20:10 framework that play to these strengths. Some organisations have built and support cultures of informal coaching and mentoring – a senior engineer allocating a couple of hours a week to coach and teach sales people on a regular basis, for instance, or vice versa. The outcome is that not only are networks built across the organisation, but learning occurs for both the teachers and the ‘taught’ or coached.

Read: Relationships That Make You Smarter
Author: Annie Murphy Paul


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