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How to Find Points of Inflection in Business | 2024 Reveals

How to Find Points of Inflection in Business | 2024 Reveals

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Astrid Tran 05 Feb 2024 6 min read

How to Find Points of Inflection in Business?

Rita McGrath, an expert in business development, in her book “Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happenstates” states that when a company is “armed with the right strategies and tools, they can see inflection points as a competitive advantage”.

There is no way for the company to avoid inflection points, but it is possible to predict when it is coming and leverage it as an opportunity. This article discusses how to find points of inflection in business and why it is important to company growth.

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What is The Inflection Point in Business?

Inflection points, also called Paradigmatic shifts refer to a crucial event that leads to a significant shift in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy, or geopolitical situation. It can be seen as a turning point in the evolution of a company “where growth, change, new capabilities, new demands, or other changes dictate the rethinking and reworking of how a business must operate“. These changes may have either positive or negative outcomes.

Identifying an inflection point in an industry is a crucial recognition that significant changes are on the horizon. An inflection point serves as a turning point, signaling the need for adaptation and transformation to ensure continued relevance and success.

As a company evolves from a startup to a mid-sized or large enterprise, it goes through several stages where old models and methods can hinder innovation, growth, and change. These stages, known as inflection points, require the adoption of new ways of working to ensure continued progress and success.

How to find points of inflection
How to find points of inflection – Image: Medium

Why do Businesses Need to Spot Infection Points?

Inflection Point is a part of the decision-making process. The fact is “Inflection Point is not a decision point itself, it helps decision-makers to have a look at the changes and predict the outcome afterward.” Decision-makers must identify these and make choices about which opportunities to pursue and how to mitigate potential risks.

Note that being proactive and adapting timely to changes in the competitive environment is key. If businesses fail to recognize inflection points and reluctance to change, it may lead to irreversible business decline. On the other hand, Inflection points often signal opportunities for innovation. Companies that seize these opportunities and innovate in response to changing market dynamics can gain a competitive edge.

It’s worth noting that inflection points are not one-time events; they are part of an ongoing business cycle. Decision-makers should adopt a continuous learning approach, leveraging insights gained from past inflection points to inform future strategies. Regular reassessment of market dynamics and a commitment to staying informed contribute to a resilient and proactive organizational mindset.

Understanding Inflection Points with Real-World Examples

Businesses, like humans, start small and progress through multiple stages of growth as they evolve. Points of Inflection happen during these stages. They can be both opportunities and challenges, depending on how well the company navigates them.

Below are some business inflection point examples of some companies that achieved extreme success by implementing a good strategy after identifying points of inflection. They successfully anticipate disruption, build organizational resilience, and thrive when competitors are caught off-guard.

Apple Inc.:

  • Inflection Point: Introduction of the iPhone in 2007.
  • Nature: Transition from a computer-centric company to a consumer electronics and services powerhouse.
  • Outcome: Apple leveraged the success of the iPhone to become a major player in the smartphone industry, revolutionizing communication and entertainment.

Netflix:

  • Inflection Point: Shift from DVD rental to streaming in 2007.
  • Nature: Adapting to changes in consumer behavior and technology.
  • Outcome: Netflix moved from a DVD-by-mail service to a streaming platform, disrupting the traditional TV and movie industry and becoming a global streaming giant.

Amazon:

  • Inflection Point: Introduction of Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2006.
  • Nature: Diversification of revenue streams beyond e-commerce.
  • Outcome: AWS transformed Amazon into a leading cloud computing provider, contributing significantly to its overall profitability and market value.

Google:

  • Inflection Point: Introduction of AdWords in 2000.
  • Nature: Monetization of search through targeted advertising.
  • Outcome: Google’s advertising platform became a major revenue driver, allowing the company to offer free search services and expand into various other products and services.
Points of Inflection examples
How to find points of inflection – Image: The Media Lab

Certainly, not all companies successfully navigate inflection points, and some may face challenges or even decline due to their inability to adapt. Here are a few examples of companies that struggled during pivotal inflection points:

Blockbuster:

  • Inflection Point: Rise of online streaming.
  • Outcome: Blockbuster, a giant in the video rental industry, failed to adapt to the shift towards online streaming and subscription-based models. The company declared downfall as competitors like Netflix rose to prominence, and in 2010, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy.

Nokia:

  • Inflection Point: Advent of smartphones.
  • Outcome: Nokia, once a leader in mobile phones, struggled to compete with the emergence of smartphones. The company’s slow response to changing consumer preferences and its insistence on maintaining its Symbian operating system led to its decline and went out of business in 2014.

Kodak:

  • Inflection Point: Emergence of digital photography.
  • Outcome: Kodak, a once-dominant player in the film photography industry, struggled to adapt to the digital era. Despite having early patents for digital camera technology, the company failed to fully embrace the shift, leading to a decline in market share and its bankruptcy in 2012.

How to Find Points of Inflection?

How to Find Points of Inflection? Inflection points come in many different shapes and sizes which are affected by both internal and external factors. Identifying points of inflection in a business context involves recognizing critical moments or changes in the company’s trajectory. Here are some tips to spot points of inflection before they happen.

How to Find Points of Inflection?
How to Find Points of Inflection?

Understand business context

How to find points of inflection in the first step – is to finding points of inflection is to profoundly understand the business context. This involves being aware of the industry dynamics, regulatory environment, and internal factors that can influence the company’s trajectory. It is also about having a good insight into competitors, who are truly the company’s competitors, and which factors affect the change. For example, new entrants or shifts in market share can signal inflection points that demand strategic responses.

Competency in Data Analytics

In today’s digital age, businesses must leverage data-driven insights to make decisions. Analyzing key performance indicators, customer behavior, and other relevant data helps in identifying patterns and potential inflection points. For example, if a company uses KPIs to measure performance and anticipate changes, sudden changes in customer acquisition costs or conversion rates can signal shifts in market dynamics.

Be aware of the market trends

Leaders should keep a pulse on market trends involving monitoring industry developments, emerging technologies, and changes in consumer behavior. Awareness of market trends allows businesses to anticipate changes and position themselves strategically in response to evolving market dynamics. They can capitalize on opportunities that arise from emerging trends and stay ahead of competitors. For example, sustainability is a trend now, company can position itself as an early adopter of eco-friendly practices to attract more customers.

Build a strong team

If you want to accurately anticipate the change, there is no better way than having strong and skillful employees and experts. This diversity enhances the ability to analyze complex situations from multiple angles. In addition, during periods of inflection, a well-functioning team can collaboratively analyze situations, generate innovative solutions, and implement strategic changes effectively.

Key Takeaways

It is crucial for company to know how to find points of inflection. Understanding when your company is closing an inflection point and equipping your team necessary skills and knowledge to be ready to face changes is vital for continued growth. 

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FAQs

What is an example of a point of inflection?

An example of a stationary point of inflection can be observed at the point (0, 0) on the graph of y = x^3. At this point, the tangent is the x-axis which intersects the graph. On the other hand, an example of a non-stationary point of inflection is the point (0, 0) on the graph of y = x^3 + ax, where a is any nonzero number.

How do you find inflection point in economics?

The inflection point of a function can be found by taking its second derivative [f”(x)]. The inflection point is where the second derivative equals zero [f”(x) = 0] and the tangent changes sign.