I had a high school math teacher who somehow found ways to make the subject quite fun. His name was Frank Miller, and in the midst of my years at the school, Mr. Miller died of cancer.
He had successfully taught two generations at the school, including my brothers and cousins, so I knew that if I was lucky enough to have his class, I would be entertained. In reflecting on Mr. Miller’s methods, he simply had a memorable way of getting certain points across. For instance, whenever he would graph a new concept on the front board, he would use terracotta chalk. Referring to it as, “beautiful terracotta,” it was impossible not to pay attention to where he was going next while drawing a particular curve.
The sine wave was unforgettable. As Mr. Miller would slowly draw the curve below the axis, he would hesitate – look at the class with a shocked face and then smile as he would draw the upside part of the curve saying, “but it comes back.”
In graduate school, the sine wave was often used to describe normal business cycles. Beginning with a company’s start-up, followed by growth, maturation and falling off, we were conditioned to learn that this type of wave continues. A good friend of mine, a hospital CFO, always would describe it as “balance in the universe.”
As the Great Recession hit, folks have been wondering whether the normal business wave would continue. The previous few recessions were followed by a rather healthy growth curve of recovery. As the pundits debate the possibility of a “double-dip” recession, I am hopeful that Mr. Miller’s sine wave will prevail and our economy will come back.
Yet, we all are on the lookout for what author Ian Morrison has identified as The Second Curve: How to Command New Technologies, New Consumers and New Markets. Certain industries have been revolutionized by new technology or a new idea that disrupts the normal sine wave business curve with a new, more radical, slope – or a second curve. Which industry will be the next one to be revolutionized? Will social media force executive search into a second curve?