In “Build an A-Team: play to their strengths and lead them up the learning curve”, Whitney Johnson shares how we can – and why we SHOULD – disrupt our careers, and how that concept of ‘personal disruption’ is an essential part of an organization that wants to stay competitive.

The Big Idea: the employee S-curve

Every single person is on a S-shaped learning curve that looks like a roller-coaster.  When you’re at the bottom, you don’ know what you’re doing, you’re inexperienced and figuring stuff out.  When you’re on the steep part, you know enough, things are clicking, and it’s exciting.  And when you’re at the top, you’ve mastered your craft.  The problem is that you get bored and start feeling checked out … so you need to jump back to the bottom of a new learning curve.

What does this mean for a corporation?

Now think of a corporation as a collection of all its employees’ learning curves.  It’s very much like the ocean is made up of many waves.

The most effective and innovative team structure is when you have a team where 70% of the people are on the steep part of their learning curve, 15% at the low point, and 15% at the high point.

Why?  Because you need the 15% of people who see things like a jigsaw puzzle that they have to figure out, and they inevitably ask “why are we doing things this way?”

The 70% are your productive people, who also instill a dynamism to your business.  And the remaining 15% are the masters that should be pulling everyone else up.

How can you tell where your workforce is along the S curve?

On average, each learning curve lasts about 4 years.  You spend 6-12 months at the low spot, 2 years at the sweet spot, and finally another 6-12 months at the high point.

Say 30% of your employees are at the low end of their learning curve.  You have too many new and inexperienced people.  Don’t panic!  It just means that you need to get them more training in order to help them into the steep part of the learning curve.

This will also make you a boss people LOVE to work for!

A side-effect of embracing personal disruption and the S-curve is that people will love working for you.  Because what motivates people beyond money and praise is the opportunity to learn.  And when they know that their boss is a talent developer, they love working for that boss.


Every organization needs a culture of innovation to continue growing, so it needs to embrace the idea of personal disruption.  And when you see your life and career through the lens of personal disruption, it will give you new insight into why you switched jobs, or why you got that promotion, or how to manage and inspire your team more effectively!

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