Strategic Frameworks S-Curve

The S curve is a strategic concept that describes how old ways mature and are superseded by new ways. For example, in the early days of a new technology, it takes a long time to improve performance. People are working out the technology. Slowly over time, performance accelerates. After a certain time, the rate of improvement hits a peak and then starts to slow down. Easy wins have all been made and the learning curve has been fully ridden for continuous improvement. Some of the fundamental barriers of the technology are reached. Eventually, the improvement tapers off and a plateau with this technology is reached. This is the “S” shaped curve.


The breakthrough comes when you see a series of S curves. While your existing technology is maturing, there is another technology that is not yet good enough because it has not been developed.  However, it has the potential to surpass the ceiling you have reached in your current technology.

Every business should see its critical S-curve, so that they know where they are on the curve. Leadership should be contemplating if they should be investing in continuous improvement to ride the acceleration or jumping to the next big thing?  Recognizing the inflection points of the S-curve is critical to maintaining a continuous growth and success trajectory.  Organization that move too fast on to a new S-curve forgo future opportunities.  Those that move too late on to a new S-curve risk losing relevancy.