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Jumping the S-Curve

How do a few leading companies perpetually out-perform their peers, consistently grow revenue and increase profitability? Jumping the S-Curve is the management book that reveals how to achieve long-term growth and success.


Too many leaders manage their companies only to the visible S-curve of revenue growth—in which a business starts out slowly, grows rapidly until it approaches market saturation, and then levels off.

High performers, by contrast, actively manage to the cresting of three hidden S-curves that reach the end of their lives well before the company’s financial curve reaches its peak. By jumping these three-curves early, while the core business continues to thrive, companies lay the foundation for a successful leap to a new financial S-curve later—and for lasting greatness by executing a series of these moves.



In the world of innovation, an S-curve explains the common evolution of a successful new technology or product. At first, early adopters provide the momentum behind uptake. A steep ascent follows, as the masses swiftly catch up. Finally, the curve levels off sharply, as the adoption approaches saturation.

For any new and successful business, the process is much the same for the sales of its products and services.


To climb an S-curve, a business must have the right foundation in place—the building blocks of high performance. Fail to create these bulwarks of success, and your performance will be on shaky ground. Develop them properly and you’ll have the solid base you need to succeed with a new business.

Climbing a Curve
In the first stage of high performance, companies successfully scale the S-curve by following through on a winning business idea. The keys to that accomplishment are:

  1. A Big Enough Market Insight: To climb the financial S-curve and outperform competitors, a company can’t waste time and money on small or uncertain market opportunities. Instead, it must identify a “big enough market insight,” or BEMI—that is, a substantial market change on the horizon that heralds the chance to build a major business for the company that identifies and seizes the opportunity.

  2. Threshold Competence Before Scaling: High performers are rarely first to market. They build essential capabilities before scaling their operations and plan for success far upstream, often focusing on details such as production and channel strategy early on. The key: They understand exactly how they must be distinctive in order to create the value the market demands.

  1. Worthy of Serious Talent: High performers attract and keep the “serious talent” they need—the people with the abilities and the attitude to drive the creation of successful businesses. These companies instill a mindset of relentless improvement throughout their workforce and gain the confidence of critical employees, whether they are far-sighted senior executives, never-say-die salespeople, or engineers with a flair for creative genius. They reach these heights by:

  • Seeking and then ensuring that a high degree of competence exists at every level of the organization

  • Providing transparency and instilling mutual accountability, in all directions.

  • Creating trust in which people do the right thing not because the rulebook requires it but because the company’s culture of honor demands it.

For further insights read:  

A team you can count on in Accenture's Outlook
How to sustain long-term performance in Accenture's Outlook
IT and the strategic growth agenda in Accenture's Outlook



The Accenture Institute for High Performance develops and publishes practical insights into critical management issues and global economic trends. Its worldwide team of researchers connects with Accenture’s business leaders to demonstrate how organizations become and remain high performers through original, rigorous research and analysis.


Paul Nunes

Global Managing Director

Mail to Paul F. Nunes. This opens a new window. image

Tim Breene

Former CEO of Accenture Interactive