Jumping the Curve

I recently came across the work of Jack Uldrich: global futurist and author “Jump the Curve – 50 Essential Strategies to Help Your Company Stay Ahead of Emerging Technologies.”

Always keen to expand my knowledge and apply this to supporting our clients to grow and develop their businesses, I have spent a bit of time exploring the theory, its relevance and application.

What is Jump the Curve Theory?

One way that the theory has been described is in the following story:

“Years ago in the American West they used to scale mountains to bring down ice. Very soon they were using sledges, then bigger sledges, pulled by more and more dogs.  Sleeker sledge designs that were more efficient than their predecessors each advance making incremental improvements in delivery.

Then someone in the valley below built an ice factory.  And it didn’t matter how big or fast your sledge was – there was no competing with the factory that was closer to the customers and that could make more ice more easily.

Then the race was on again as bigger ice factories were built with better production and delivery processes, soon they were automated making fewer mistakes and having fewer overheads, just as the ice makers reached the very pinnacle of excellence someone invented the fridge and no one bought ice any more.

Then the race was on again and soon they had a little light that goes on when you open the door, more efficient fridges that use less energy, computers that measure how long a fridge is off for when the power goes off and little ice cube makers and dispensers.

But while all the ‘traditionalists’ – the ‘experts who have dedicated their lives to fridge design’ toil for tiny improvements in delivery,  are confident that they know best (as did the ice factory men and sledge builders that went before them), they believe that they are set for life and are ready to dismiss new-fangled alternatives out of hand and indeed campaign as experts to prevent their development: The smart fridge companies are looking for what it is that will replace the fridge:  What is the next big jump that will render the fridge obsolete over night?”

What does this mean for entrepreneurs?

It means whatever products or services you are successfully delivering today, there will be a time when these are superseded or even become obsolete.  The theory suggests that incremental improvements, no matter how innovative the product or service is, will not be sufficient for the continued business success.

Therefore entrepreneurial leaders must be able to anticipate future trends, attract talent, manage innovation, set high vision and execute profitably.

The question is what are you doing to make sure that your business is able to jump the curve in your market?  We would love to hear from you.

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