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What is the Sigmoid Curve?

The Sigmoid Curve is a concept discussed by Charles Handy in his book, The Age of Paradox.

The success curve rises and falls through our lives, and from a business point of view, it dips as we learn, test, falter, and experiment; rises as we prosper; then once again dips as it comes to its end.

The key, according to Handy, is keep the curve going by transforming “to a new [one] before the current one is too far in decline”.

As the curve declines and motivation and resources start to deplete, It can be harder to transform to a new curve when:

  • The curve declines and motivation decreases
  • Your resources start to deplete

The key therefore lies in laying the formation for a new curve while the current one is still trending upwards; before the dip begins. Once the current curve begins approaching its peak, preparation for the new curve should begin, in order to execute a planned exit and transition.

Seth Godin’s The Dip

Seth Godin’s book The Dip touches on the highs and lows of the Sigmoid Curve. He lays out the typical process of a new business or venture; a process you’re probably familiar with:

  • A new idea (or even a hobby) becomes a fixation
  • You’ve got an idea and you’re raring to get started
  • A new business is daunting but also really exciting
  • You learn and experiment
  • Your new venture starts to get harder and motivation dwindles
  • You fall into The Dip

At some point or another, you hit a low point; Seth Godin calls this The Dip..

And then the questions start…

  • Is this worth it?
  • Will it get better?
  • How do I get out of this dip?
  • Or should I just quit now?

The Dip helps you determine whether you’re facing a temporary set back (and let’s face it, which business owner has never experienced that?) or you’re truly stuck, and as a result, whether you should persist to get out of that dip, or quit so “you can be number one at something else”.

The Lessons of the Sigmoid Curve

  • Know when to quit and when to keep going
  • Know the barriers you need to overcome
  • Know how to escape the dead end
  • There is life beyond the curve
  • Reinvention and adaptation are key to growth and success

Sigmoid Curve

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