Exploring the Limits of the Technology S-Curve

Part I: Component Technologies

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How can S-curves provide explanations of why alternative technologies have made substantial inroads against currently dominant technology?

            Technology S-curves are powerful tools that organizations can use for the purpose of explaining how technologies displace each other over time, as well as how technologies evolve and develop over the years (Christensen, 1992). The S-curve shows how a new or alternative technology evolves slowly after its introduction. After some time, the alternative technology reaches its breakthrough position and starts improving rapidly. New features are introduced, slowly replacing dominant technology. With an increasing rate of evolving, the limits of what is scientifically possible are reached after some time, which results in the stagnation of performance. Soon, the technology is replaced by newer technology.

How can S-curve theory be used for decision making regarding investment in specific alternative technologies? What does S-curve theory indicate regarding decisions for future research programs when the upper plateau has been reached?

            By using the S-curve theory, investors can understand that as technology reaches its maturity stage, it becomes increasingly vulnerable to replacement by alternative technologies (Sood & Tellis, 2015). It is most suitable to introduce and invest in substitute technologies when technology is at its maturity stage. It is also very risky to invest in a technology when it is at its maturity stage since the risk of being substituted by newer technology is at its highest. When a technology has already reached the upper plateau of its S-curve, it is most vulnerable and can be replaced or substituted by newer alternative technologies. Investing in research at this point would be highly risky.


Christensen, C. M. (1992). Exploring the limits of the technology S‐curve. Part I: component technologies. Production and operations management, 1(4), 334-357.

Sood, A., & Tellis, G. (2015). Technological Transition: S‐curve or Step‐and‐Wait. Wiley Encyclopedia of Management, 1-2.

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