S-curves are common phenomenon observed in business development or the diffusion of innovation. A new company or idea starts slowly before picking up pace into rapid growth. Then, once the market becomes more saturated, progress slows. The line flattens as the business or idea encounters diminishing returns. Later, a new S-curve - relying on a new innovation - may pick up where the last one left off, and the pattern repeats.
I think that career development can be seen through a similar lens. As we progress through jobs in our career (or even a single function with multiple “levels” of expertise), each new job represents a new S-curve of development.
Personal development, though, is broader than just what we learn in the job itself. We also learn interpersonal skills and technical expertise from our supervisors and peers. Meanwhile, we’re learning about the broader industry dynamics. Development is a series of overlapping S-curves.
The lesson: we have multiple avenues for development: learning the job function itself, learning from peers and supervisors, and learning about the industry. More importantly, we need to identify when to “reset” and create new S-curves. Is it time to learn a totally new job function? Could you benefit from surrounding yourself with a new group of people? How can you learn more about the organization or a new industry altogether? Resetting development S-curves won’t always happen automatically, with a promotion or job rotation. Ultimately, you have to grab the ropes yourself.