How can understanding a typical innovation curve or s-curve in business terms help us innovate ourselves?

The s-curve is the model applied to help explain the diffusion of disruptive innovations in business.  Effectively it charts how a business innovates and moves from early adoption, through to growth and finally market saturation. Here is really basic example for a tech based innovation:

s-curve

 

From this example you can see how a new tech innovation is introduced to a group of early adopters and over time the innovation works up through the s-curve, gathering greater market share, finally reaching a plateau when fresh innovation is required.  Of course the most impressive companies are able to commit to multiple s-curves at any given time in order to avoid any down time… you could argue that the same applies to people who are high achievers.

During what I’ve described as the ‘transformation or growth period’ the business is going through an intense period of change that it needs to adapt to in order to flourish and move on up the s-curve.  It terms of a tech innovation it might be that they need to ship more products that ever before, hire new talent to quickly service customer needs or find new ways to improve their approach to logistics.  For every business this means learning as they go, improving in the moment and leveling up in a way that creates positive tension.

Now, let’s apply the s-curve to something as basic as a child learning to ride a bike.

Personal s-curve

As with the case of the business going through a transformation period, so the child transforms their own ability to ride the bike… the literally get better at the individual skills that all add up to making them more proficient in getting from A to B.  Yes, there will have been a few wobbles along they way and they no doubt needed the help of people around them, but through practice, determination and focus they came out of the other side with new found confidence and skills.  Maybe I’m being too simplistic with this, and please get in contact and tell me if you think so, but I think this concepts and therefore my basic analogy can be applied to anything that anyone is considering making the leap towards what they are dreaming of doing.

Just to finish up on my cycling analogy… this guy had to learn to simply balance, pedal and steer at the beginning of his first two wheeled s-curve.  Now look at him.

Posted by Steven Thomas

Fan of great ideas and (especially) the people that make them work. Steven is the creator of CurveFinder exploring subjects like collaboration, leadership, creative endeavour and personal development. He's spent over two decades working in the UK media industry holding various senior business and creative leadership roles, most recently with a focus on Digital Transformation and Corporate Start-ups. Accomplished coach and mentor. Seth Godin's altMBA Alumni. Lives in Edinburgh with his wife and young family. Always in the kitchen at parties.

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