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The Remarkable S-Curve (Part 1)

Video on S-Curves
<v Speaker 1>Welcome back. In this video we want to introduce to you the concept of the s-curve. Maybe you’ve never really thought about it before but the classic s-curve helps understand a lot of things around us. For instance. I turned, not too long ago, fifty. Milestone birthdays like that prompt us to think about where on life’s s-curve we are. At fifty I thought about the fact that I’m on a different place on the s-curve than my teenage sons are. And just a few minutes on a soccer field with them makes that quite evident. Another spot on the s-curve you will find my mother who is in her eighties.
So s-curves can help illustrate much more than lifespan and quality of life they can help us understand things like how technology innovations emerge and create value, then decline in market share. Even more broadly they can help us understand tectonic shifts in the global economy. In the world economic forum’s five ways of understanding the fourth industrial revolution article, the author is really talking about a series of these s-curves. Think about the US economy now in my neck of the
woods, the Midwest, I can easily see three s-curves: an agricultural curve, and then an industrial curve, and then a post-industrial curve. Now the jury is still out it seems on what we will end up calling this post-industrial curve the knowledge economy, the information economy, maybe the digital economy; time will tell but regardless of what we call it we all recognize that there is a big shift occurring. This is the shift Thomas Friedman was describing in his book, “The Earth Is Flat”. He, for the first time really, clearly articulated this shift for the masses. Friedman’s book was written in two thousand five and what he was describing was not an overnight phenomenon even then.
On the contrary the shift from the previous curve to the next curve is a generational shift and we find ourselves in a very interesting place somewhere in the midst of it. Think about it this way. Our grandparents were clearly people of the previous curve. Our children and our grandchildren, well, people of the next curve. That leaves us in this unique position charged with managing this transition from the world of our grandparents, the one in which they left us, to the one we will pass on to our children and our grandchildren.
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