Follow your S curve

Smart Growth: How To Grow Your People To Grow Your Company

By Whitney Johnson, Harvard Business Review Press, 2022

Recently, someone on LinkedIn asked me for career advice. Ha ha ha. The ink line of my career is a random squiggle with lots of breaks and stains. About halfway through the line the line may seem to be going somewhere. It was at that point where I found something I enjoyed doing that paid off enough to keep it going. I caught that life rings like a drowning man.

I picked up Whitney Johnson’s new book, Smart Growth, With similar enthusiasm, because there seemed to be a more reasonable and orderly way to look at my career. Here. Johnson might say, I haven’t done Flanders year after year; I followed the “S Curve of Learning”.

Johnson, a consultant and speaker, has the ability to pick theories from the discipline of innovation and apply them to personal growth. In his 2015 book, Interrupt yourself, He used Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation as the basis for a guide to career-changing initiatives. Inside Smart GrowthEverett M. Johnson to create a professional path. Rogers applied the theory of the spread of innovation.

In his new book, Smart GrowthWhitney Johnson Everett M. to create professional path. Rogers applied the theory of the spread of innovation.

In his 1957 doctoral research, Rogers showed that the number of Iwan farmers who have adopted a new weed killer follows an S-curve: adoption began slowly, with only a few farmers willing to take advantage of new products; The benefits of the majority of upward farmers became certain; And then as the rest flattened off, the most cautious farmer finally committed. By then Rogers’ seminar The spread of innovation Published in 1962, rural sociologists were convinced that the S curve of the spread of innovation represented “a kind of universal process of social change.” In fact, S Curves has been used in many cases since then, and Rogers’ book is the most quoted in the social sciences, according to Google Scholar.

Johnson’s S Curve of Learning follows this well-established path. There is a slow progress towards a “launch point”, during which you can (hopefully) canvas countless opportunities for career growth available to you and choose a promising one. Then you can hit the “sweet spot” and grow faster, while you create mobility, create new ones and live. And, finally, there is the “skill”, the stage at which you can travel for a while, reap the rewards of your efforts, before you start looking for something new, start the cycle again.

You must play six different roles as Johnson travels along his learning curve. In the launch phase, where I feel like eternity, you first act as an explorer who finds and chooses a destination. You then become a collector, collecting the necessary information and resources to make sure the destination is right before proceeding towards it. In the sweet place, you become an accelerator, utilizing the information and knowledge you have gathered, and then a transformation, for which, as Johnson says, develops into “I do it”, “I do it”. Stage, you take on the role of anchor: your destination has been achieved, and you have jumped into the glory of your development. When you get tired of the simple life, you become a mountaineer in search of a new S-curve to reach the summit.

If all this sounds a little valuable, well, sometimes it is. Johnson’s style is inspiring and ambitious, but he also bases his ideas on concrete advice and caution. In the chapter on being an explorer, for example, he provided seven questions for assessing an S-curve of learning, such as, “Is it easy to test?” And “What is the value of the prize?” In the chapter on being a mountaineer, he warns of two dangers: freefall, when the self-satisfied slips (or pushes) from their peak, and death zone, where learning stops and career stagnates.

Managers may want to grab the book, as Johnson’s S-Curve can help their employees improve their careers. Beware though: book subtitles, How To Grow Your Company Grow Your PeopleSomething a red herring. True, Johnson includes dedicated departments whose purpose is specifically how leaders can help employees on their S-Curve journey, as well as tips for managers. There is also a table that tracks or summarizes the emotions that employees may feel as they go through each growth phase and describes how people can be helped (e.g., young and / or growing, advancing and / or middle- depending on the level of maturity of the company). Stage, and historical and / or complex). But the sections are less than a total of 30 pages aimed directly at managers.

I have a couple of other precautions. One worries about the underlying assumptions of the book that career opportunities are limitless. It is clear that they are not for many people, although Johnson includes stories of many people who have overcome seemingly inevitable obstacles to success.

Another precaution is a reality test. As far as I can tell, most people’s careers are not consistent with the beautifully drawn S curve. No matter how these careers appear, they are often random, arising over time from confusion of purpose, hard work, situation, and dumb fate. In this regard, Smart Growth Should come with a waiver: results may vary.

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