70:20:10 model

How to learn, innovate and evolve in business is a long since studied area.

Rather than produce a thesis or new model to follow I’d like to dust of a theory that was originally applied in the field of learning and later picked up by Eric Schmidt (former Google CEO).

An Entrepreneur article features Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, sharing his tips and advice on fostering innovation in organisations. Takeaway: Schmidt believes that managers should manage the chaos of innovation rather than telling employees how to innovate.


Learning: Learn 70% of the things from doing tough jobs by yourself, 20% of learning comes from people you work with, and 10% from courses and reading.

Innovation: Focus on core business 70% of the time, 20% on related projects, and 10% of the time on unrelated and new projects.

Content: 70% of your content is safe, standard content that is known to appeal to your broad target audiences, 20% then becomes moderately risky, yet should appeal to specific audiences, 10% of your content is then risky/complicated yet high reward (image above taken from Coca-Cola).

The idea is simple in that you absolutely need to focus on your core responsibilities to get the company running, yet if you do that all the time, you never evolve.

More detailed Innovation example:
70% Core – Focus on improving current products and services that align well with the organization’s current strategy. Generally that also means applying 70% of resources to tried & tested, low-risk, core activities.

20% Adjacent – Diversify your innovation project portfolio to reduce overall business risk and reach a balance. This is where you would explore adjacent markets and capabilities.

10% Disruptive – The “next big thing” and the focus turns to developing breakthroughs and inventing things for markets that don’t exist yet.

70:20:10 Success

Agility is key; this is a rule of thumb, not a rigid principle.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies that follow the 70:20:10 rule to innovation typically outperform their competition so there has to be something in it!

I challenge those reading this post to discern how they could apply this to their area of business e.g training & development, digital media (e.g here from ppc hero), CRM, innovation portfolio pipeline management, content & social media, etc.

Further reading: This Viima blog post explains the 70-20-10 rule of innovation and how it can be used strategically to manage innovation. The post also provides tips on how to decide the ratio of the 70-20-10 model and the risks you are ready to take.

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