The sigmoid or S-curve is a good example of what to do before newness fades.

1: Inception: The startup phase of a project, business, or even relationship.

2. Dip: challenges experienced when the project, business or relationship takes off.

3. Growth: increasing market share, expanding to new areas, hiring more people

4. Maturity: The project hits a maturity phase where growth slows, and then stops.

5. Decline: The project has grown to maturity and starts to die. Morale and energy dip, revenues decline, the empire starts to crumble. On a personal level, your relationship might start to become jaded or you might wonder if you have chosen the right career.

The sigmoid, or S-shaped, curve charts the trajectory of every successful human system.

There is always a first period of experimentation and learning which is followed by a time of growth and development. Ultimately, however, every curve turns downward.

The only thing that varies is the length and duration of each part of the curve.

Successful industries are constantly re-inventing themselves, even when things are going well.

In his book The Second Curve, Charles Handy says the best time to start a new ‘curve’ is before you reach the peak of your existing one. That way, you will be starting something new when you still have the resources, and the spirit, to take it to new heights.

6: Second Curve Starts: Starting a new project to replace [or compliment] the first project before its newness fades.

7: Second Curve Declines: Like the first curve, the second curve will decline. [The third curve should be introduced while the second curve is still on growth phase]

In contrast, most people think of doing something new only when they have reached the bottom [5] of what they are presently involved in.

Most organisations do not change until they get frightened [point 5]. This is often too late. By then the leaders have lost credibility, resources are depleted and the energy for creative thinking is low.

The second curve applies to business and life. Humans grow, mature and at some point age, slow down and ultimately decline. Products and services work the same.

Liberation movements go through the sigmoid curve.

There seems to be no escape from the sigmoid curve. The only variable is the length of the curve.

Forty per cent of the Fortune 500 companies of seven years ago no longer exist as independent entities. Because they wanted to start change when it was too late.

The challenge of the second curve is to find a way to start that curve while still building upon the success, learning and maturity gained from the first curve.

It is important to start new things, before the newness of the first fades. 

The second curve has to start before the first curve peaks.

Only then are there enough resources, of money, time and energy to cover that initial initial dip [point 2]

The problem is knowing when that first curve is about to peak. Psychologically, when everything is going well it is reasonable to expect it to continue.

Success puts blinkers on us, when we are winning, nothing hurts. but when we are losing, everything hurts.

When the CEO of Nokia said we did everything right but we still failed and then cried, he missed the point to start the second curve while they Nokia was growing and doing.

You don’t introduce change when things go grow, you introduce it when things are going well. 

The success of the first-curve blinded him to the possibilities of new technology or a new market.

Once you miss initiating the second curve [point 6], it becomes hard to initiate it when the business is on the decline [point 5].

The best time to start the second curve is when times are good, before the maturity phase of the first curved.

The best time to introduce newness  is before the newness fades.

PS: This is better applied to products and things, not people

2 thoughts on “Newness Fades: The second curve

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