SXSWi – Dangerous Curves

Rolf Skyberg from EBay gave a great talk at SXSWi called Dangerous Curves.

He started with the idea that everyone has seen a hockey stick in their data before; the ever rising, totally exciting period when users are flocking to your page or product. As Rolf point out, the trouble is that exponential growth is not sustainable and it is only a question of what will happen next.

Most growth curve level out and become the well-known S-curve of innovation. Some start to oscillate and indicate some cyclical nature to the usage.

The new one for me was the Gartner Hype Cycle (page 67 in the slidedeck below. There are five phases which will immediately sound familiar to anyone who has hang around technology:

  1. Technology Trigger
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations
  3. Trough of Disillusionment
  4. Slope of Enlightenment
  5. Plateau of Productivity

His final curve was the normal growth cycle (p81) and this is one we are all familiar with: Introduction, Growth, Maturity, Saturation, and Decline. Rolf called this one of the most helpful of all the curves. It matches the course of new projects, new teams, new companies, and to no surrpise, life itself. He even has assigned numbers to each phase and uses it as a vocabulary to locate things in their growth curve. He delivers career advice as well, pointing out that different people often work best in phases of growth (ie Rockstars like the growth, while Optimizers thrive in the saturation phase).

This was definitely one of the best talks I saw in Austin.

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