(34) How to apply S curves to your career?

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Last week turned out to be a deeply invigorating experience for me. We had a coach who facilitated a day long workshop with my entire team where we learnt to understand each other’s personalities better and pave way to work together effectively. Much before the workshop, we were all asked to complete a personality test called AEM. The results were published in a three-dimensional cube called the AEM cube that reflected your personality. I will follow up with a separate post on AEM later. But this post is about S curves, which was also something that was covered in the workshop.

S Curves

Most of us would know of S curves in the context of business and product lifecycle. Businesses, or the products of businesses, follow an S curve that are characterised by a shallow start, where only early adopters and niche markets buy the product or invest in the company. Then they experience a rapid growth, and the product or business has a dominant position in the market. After the rapid growth, these businesses maintain a high performance level but with little growth, which often signals a mature but saturated market.

Since every innovation that drives growth hits a plateau after attaining saturation, organisations should look for fostering more such S curves in the growth phase instead of waiting till saturation phase. And once they are able to bring in a disruptive innovation in the industry they operate in, it begins another S curve on top of the previous curve.

Facebook’s S Curve

As Facebook’s rate of growth had begun to slow it acquired Instagram and then followed up by acquiring Whatsapp. The acquisition added a billion more users to Facebook spurring another steep growth curve over a flat growth curve.

Applying S curves to your career path

What was even more fascinating for me was when I read an HBR article a few years ago that drew a parallel for S curves and applied to career path. It was precisely after reading this article that I set out my plans to disrupt my career path. It eventually led me to complete my MBA and make a transition to product management from technical communication.

According to Juan Mendez and Whitney Johnson, the authors of this article, in the beginning of our careers, we start within a new domain of expertise and develop competence moving up a personal learning curve. Then as we achieve mastery, the curve flattens.

There could be many reasons that the curve flattens. One of the most important reasons is the irrelevance of your old skills that have been disrupted because of new technologies in the market place. In the world of increasingly accelerated change, the shift in new technologies is more frequent and drastic.

This is where the need is for acquiring new skills and beginning curve of learning and career growth.

Shorter and shorter career S curves in the future

In an age of increasingly accelerated change, the S curves in our career is getting shorter and shorter. The skills that need renewal is changing much faster than yester years. What this means is to stay relevant, you have to embrace a culture of life-long learning.

I would highly recommend you to read Thomas Friedman’s book, Thank You For Being Late: An Optimists’ Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. I am soon going to publish a summary of the book.

Please let me know your thoughts about this post.

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