What Is the Learning Curve and What Does It Mean for Solar Power and for Electric Vehicles? Union of Concerned Scientists

The formula stipulates that the more attempts that are included, the more the overall time will decrease. The formula can be used to predict a learner’s rate of learning of a simple task or even help businesses to predict the production rate of a product. The theory can also be expressed as a mathematical function that can be used as a prediction tool. Zimmer also comments that the popular use of steep as difficult is a reversal of the technical meaning. He identifies the first use of steep learning curve as 1973, and the arduous interpretation as 1978. I’m still the new guy and luckily it’s a very tight format where you at least know where you are on the show at any given moment.

  • The theory can also be expressed as a mathematical function that can be used as a prediction tool.
  • The fact that both metrics changed exponentially can be nicely seen in this chart because both axes are logarithmic.
  • There are several data points to choose from, one of which is the total cumulative time needed to produce a given number of tasks or units.
  • A typical learning curve will show experience or time on the x-axis and the y-axis the percentage of learning.
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In this example, a 90% learning curve would mean there is a 10% improvement every time the number of repetitions doubles. In the long run, a company can use this information to plan financial forecasts, price goods, and anticipate whether it will meet customer demand. This model of the learning curve is one of the most popular ones and is also known as the S-curve model. It measures the rate of progression of an individual who is new to the task at hand. In this model of a learning curve, it states that the rate of progression is a bit slow at the onset but gradually picks up momentum and starts to rise until the time it reaches full proficiency. An 80 percent learning curve means that the cumulative average
time (and cost) will decrease by 20 percent each time output doubles.

Limitations of using the learning curve

A learning curve can also be depicted between axis points in a chart as a straight line or a band of points. Note that the cumulative quantity must double between rows—to continue break even analysis the table, the next row must be calculated using a quantity of eight. In addition, note that the incremental time is a cumulation of more and more units as the table is extended.

  • The complex learning curve is used to illustrate more complex learning journeys over a longer timeframe.
  • Furthermore, with experience, there’s a better understanding of how to optimize resource usage and minimize waste, which also contributes to lower production costs.
  • Understanding the learning curve helps them see that mistakes and challenges are normal when learning something new.

It is present in numerous tasks and activities, for example, in learning the inner working and control of video games. Learning curves are also known as experience curve, cost curves, efficiency curves and productivity curves. These curves help demonstrate the cost per unit of output decreases over time with the increase in experience of the workforce.

What is a learning curve?

For example, when the pricing of a new product is being determined, labor costs are factored in. An example of where a learning curve can be applied could be a measurable task like a factory worker learning to operate a new machine that requires specific, repeatable steps. As the worker learns to operate the machine following the procedural steps, he becomes faster and more proficient at using it. This learning curve model is only applicable when used to measure the real rate of progress for completing a specific task against time.

Holding an MBA in Marketing, Hitesh manages several offline ventures, where he applies all the concepts of Marketing that he writes about. The third curve is an integration of both concave and convex curves and hence is known as a concave-convex curve. At the onset, the curve depends on the nature of the learner and later depicts from zero to mastery. Tesla’s partner in the Gigafactory, Panasonic, built its expertise in batteries for consumer products.

You Will See Rapid Improvement

In industries or job roles where tasks are highly variable or require significant creative or adaptive work, the benefits of the learning curve may be less pronounced. For instance, in artistic or research-based fields, the notion of efficiency and productivity improvement over time may not apply in the same way as in manufacturing or routine service tasks. Manufacturing costs as related to workforce performance can be tracked by using the learning curve. Instead of performance and number of attempts, the values could be unit cost or unit labor hours and cumulative production in units. That is why the learning curve is downward sloping in the beginning with a flat slope toward the end, with the cost per unit depicted on the Y-axis and total output on the X-axis. As learning increases, it decreases the cost per unit of output initially before flattening out, as it becomes harder to increase the efficiencies gained through learning.

How does the learning curve work?

When you invest the time into getting new knowledge to last, you can achieve the lasting behavior change and positive impact you’re after. You can create engaging eLearning interactions by using flashcards, quizzes, accordions, or tabs. Scenario-based learning is another way to bring new information to life and mimic the real world.

Graphical correlation between a learner’s performance on a task and the number of attempts or time required to complete the task. Efficiency and development curves typically follow a two-phase process of first bigger steps corresponding to finding things easier, followed by smaller steps of finding things more difficult. It reflects bursts of learning following breakthroughs that make learning easier followed by meeting constraints that make learning ever harder, perhaps toward a point of cessation. The train and validation curves are improving, but there’s a big gap between them, which means they operate like datasets from different distributions.

How to Flatten the Learning Curve to Enable Employees

A high learning curve indicates to a business that something might require intensive training, but that an employee will quickly become more proficient over time. Because learning curve data easily creates trend lines, it’s fairly common to see learning curve data depicted graphically. There are several data points to choose from, one of which is the total cumulative time needed to produce a given number of tasks or units.

Origins of the Learning Curve Theory

Make the purpose of your training program clear by identifying what employees are expected to accomplish by the end of training. In terms of decision-making, this result means that the employee is performing well, but you need to keep the costs down after the initial plateau. Ivan is a dedicated and versatile professional with over 12 years of experience in online marketing and a proven track record of turning challenges into opportunities.


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