A learning curve is a graphical representation of progress in learning measured against the time required to achieve mastery.
The learning curve was first brought to us in 1885 by a psychologist named, Hermann Ebbinghaus. Except back then he called it the “Forgetting Curve.”
Ebbinghaus’ research was key in discovering the power of reinforcement – he found that without spaced repetition and continual reinforcement 80% of what is learned will be forgotten within 30 days. Read More
61 years later, the concepts of Ebbinghaus’ research found their way into the production industry via the “Experience Curve.” This curve, formulated by Aeronautical Engineer and VP of Research at Cornell University, Theodore Wright, illustrated the variant impacts that a worker’s experience had on the quantity, cost, and production time of aircrafts. Wright’s unit cost curve mirrored the shape of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting curve, supporting that the more knowledge, experience, and repetition workers had in building airplanes, the higher their overall efficiency. This research was also extended and brought into the consulting world by Bruce Henderson, founder of BCG Consulting.
“Costs characteristically decline by 20-30% in real terms each time accumulated experience doubles.”—Bruce D. Henderson, BCG Consulting 1968
Today, companies are still pouring dollars into perfecting their formula for optimum productivity. With a solid understanding of the basics passed down to us by Ebbinghaus and Wright, we’ve recently witnessed the modern shift towards the more qualitative effects on learning and productivity like work environment, team dynamics, and overall happiness in learning. Happy learners are productive learners after all. As students, professionals and organizations how do we reach this optimum productivity? Is our learning model broken? Are there ways to expedite the effects of the experience curve through learning? Is it free lunch (we sure hope so)? In The Learning Curve Blog we ask tough questions about learning and give real answers. Go ahead – read something, ask something, learn something then experience it live! Read Less
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