Jumping the curve

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The changes happening around would be the most challenging thing for an existing business.

The only thing that is constant is “change”. The changes are all pervasive and no business is immunized against them.

In today’s fast-paced world, success often depends on how quickly your business can adapt to changing conditions. How well versed are you ready to pivot when the market changes?

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In the world of innovation, an S-curve explains the common evolution of a successful new technology or product. At first, early adopters provide the momentum behind uptake. A steep ascent follows, as the masses swiftly catch up. Finally, the curve levels off sharply, as the adoption approaches saturation.

High performance is defined by companies that execute repeated climbs and jumps of the S-curve.

Origins

“Jumping the curve” is a saying that has been around for a few decades. It is traced back to the Irish philosopher and management futurist Charles Handy who said that companies need to become aware of the sigmoid curve.

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The sigmoid curve (or S Curve) is the naturally occurring sloping line that Handy used to show that “companies will come to a natural end if they don’t re-create themselves during good times

What does it take to jump the curve?

You jump to the next curve by breaking old patterns of thinking and behaving. If you keep doing what you have been doing, you’ll keep getting what you have been getting.” So, to get different outcomes, you need to do differently.

Guy Kawasaki, while discussing “The Art of Innovation” at TEDxBerkeley, advises startup founders about the matter of perspective, when it comes to new opportunities. He says, “The perspective is to jump curves and not to stay on the same stupid curve that you’re on while trying to do things 10% better.” A classic example he elaborates is that of the ice business. In this example, he points out how ice making business transformed over past century from being ice harvesters to ice factory and then to refrigerators. The very interesting story about all of these curves is that none of the organizations that were ice harvesters became ice factories and ice factories did not become refrigerator companies because most companies define themselves in terms of what they do, not the benefits they provide. If you define yourself as we cut blocks of ice out of lakes, you remain an ice harvester. If you define yourself as we freeze water centrally, you remain an ice factory. If you define yourself as we make a mechanical gadget called a refrigerator, then you stay on the refrigerator curve. The way to jump the curve is to define your self from the point of view of benefits that your users get, as opposed to what you currently do.

No one can predict the future, but Jack Uldrich can help you prepare for it. Jack Uldrich is a futurist, who helps organizations gain the critical foresight they need to create a successful future. His work is based on the transformational principles of unlearning – or freeing yourself from obsolete knowledge and assumptions – as a strategy to survive and thrive in an era of unparalleled change.

In a short video here, he talks about the importance for entrepreneurs to understand the concept of Jumping the Curve.  He says, if anything is growing exponentially, and if there are nine technologies growing exponentially, you cant just go by the early trends, you have to follow it up with conclusions. The future does not increase linearly, but it grows exponentially.

Great opportunities ion occurs when you jump to the next curve.

When do you jump the curve?

If we view the first curve as a technology beginning to die out, and the second curve as a

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newer and more promising alternative, their first point of intersection shows continued improvements to the old system alongside the short-term upstart costs of investing in new methodologies. The best time to change is therefore when there is no immediate benefit to doing so, whereas sticking with successful practices eventually ensures their failure.

Lessons for startups

In today’s environment, there are rapid changes happening everywhere – markets, technologies and that continues to build big challenge for a startup founder.

As a founder, the most critical skill that you probably need today, irrespective of the startup stage, is to be able to jump your curve, generate a huge number of ideas,  run efficient experiments to test assumptions underlying those ideas and launch new businesses as quickly as possible.

This can happen by seeing and pursuing the “big enough” market insights that can take a startup business to the top of an industry and by creating strategy “from the edge”  to find and capture the next winning business idea.

Jumping the curve is not just relevant for the startups already in business but also for wannabe founders who are looking for the next business idea!

This skill is a core of entrepreneurship today.

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