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What is the Learning Curve and How Does it Work

Learning Curve

The learning curve it's something I've heard about before, but we'll break it down and talk about it a little bit more in the context of entrepreneurship and new ventures.

A graphical representation of the relationship between how well someone does a task and how much experience they have.

Efficiency (measured on the vertical axis) usually increases with experience (horizontal axis), that is, the more a person performs a task, the better.

Does the learning curve indicate how quickly you learn something new?

Learning curves basically address the speed at which you learn something new. Graphically depicted like this:

And in this drawing it gives a bit of a sense of the time it takes to develop a mastery level of a skill set or at least a proficient level of skills.

In this context, when we look at something like beta middle version we start out as a beginner we build skills fairly quickly and we can get to the experience level fairly quickly.

Other things may take a while on the longest curve we can take a long time to build up some experience and we can then ramp up our mastery and reach it much later than the earliest curve. So let's put it in context.

SeeRisk, Uncertainty and Stakeholder Participation

What is the impact of your learning curve

What influences your learning curve is a variety of things, and one is definitely what you know today. If you are an excellent snowboarder, you can transition to water skiing with reasonable ease.

However, if you've never skied and you've never been snowboarding, skateboarding or anything else that revolves around this type of sport.

Water skiing and snowboarding can be very challenging and it may take some time to build experience in them. So again, the learning curve is definitely influenced by what you know today.

It is also geared towards your level of interest if there is something that interests you, you may spend the time, energy, and enthusiasm for it if you are less interested you may never get there or it may take a long time. Time is your level of commitment.

When we think about time, it's not necessarily the calendar and the number of days it's more about the number of hours it takes to build mastery and this is influenced by the amount of hours you want to spend per day as you can become an expert relatively quickly in terms of days but it can take many hours per day to reach this level of efficiency.

There are also a limited number of resources, who do you have to help you? Do you have books, videos, training, mentorship, and expert advice or do you do it by trial and error? So resources play a big role in the learning curve.

Learning Curve Challenges for Entrepreneurs

Sure, the learning curve challenges for entrepreneurs are there your entry into a new category as an entrepreneur may not be at the same point of experience as your competitors, they've learned a few things because of their past processes, they've tried a few things, they've gotten better at things, they may have an advantage that hopefully is temporary but an advantage with it is for new individuals and entrepreneurs entering this field.

SeeWhat are the Entrepreneurial Motivations

What should an entrepreneur do in view of this disadvantage for established companies?

So, what should an entrepreneur do? Well, you can reduce this gap by trying to do something new so this is another incentive that goes beyond just differentiating in the market as it gives new customers a reason to be different and new.

Here by being different and new you may make what you know the competition less important.

You may be looking for a new market and making their ability to serve old customers less relevant to your ability to serve new customers.

In this way, think about how you can reduce the gap between you and your competitors by doing something new that your competitors are no longer expert at.

We can also think about how to build a learning curve by building a strong team. So in that context, if I want to start an electric car company i'd like to have the following:

  • A technical director with similar experience learned how to do hybrid electric propulsion with Boeing. And they did it very well.
  • Principal designer who has worked with Mazda North America's Design Center, one of the world's leading American and international automotive design centers, and also has experience with General Motors.
  • A financial manager understands money. That understands funding and he did so as CFO of Ford, a $3 billion Ford Global subsidiary.
  • Someone who understands sales and innovation in retail, and someone from Apple and Gap must have this knowledge.
  • And I want someone who can make cars. The person who has led manufacturing at Toyota, at Volvo, Mack and Renault has a lot of experience.

In this context, gentlemen, I'm talking about Elon Musk, the founder of electric car maker Tesla, and he's a smart guy. Great inventor. He also built a strong team.

Another way to climb the learning curve is to surround yourself with others who have experience. Now you may not necessarily be able to bring the best out of the world in everything, as Tesla did.

But you can definitely look for people who complement your skills, who match your passion and who know what you don't and for your team, you can help each other find this learning curve.


When we think about learning curves, we want to know what you know, what you need to know, and what's important in the markets of the industry you're after.

We also want to think about:

  • How to climb that curve?
  • What are your relationships and resources?
  • What is your commitment?
  • What you can do to build a strong team and become successful in dealing with anxiety?

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