The x-axis is the number of days spent learning a topic. The y-axis is percentage knowledge. The three grey lines show how many days it takes to achieve some arbitrary 90% knowledge. If you are fond of using the phrase “steep learning curve”, you are hopefully feeling rather silly at this point. The steepest learning curve (the red one) results in the person hitting that 90% mark after just three days. The shallowest curve (at least at the start) results in the person taking 9 1/2 days to reach 90%. In other words, the steepest learning curve represents the easiest and quickest way to learn something.
People tend to hear words and repeat them in the same context as they hear them used. Whilst this is fine for children, this is a poor way to learn as an adult. If you hear a new word, look up it’s meaning and use it in the right context. If you don’t you’ll risk ending up using “Management speak”. You might think it makes you look clever, but you can be sure your colleagues are laughing at your stupidity behind your back. If you are really unlucky, one might even yell “Bingo” at you!
There is an alternative: use plain English (or French, Japanese or whatever.) Not only will you be able to communicate your ideas better, you’ll look less of an idiot. So please, let’s make 2011 the year we stamp out “steep learning curve” and other idiotic phrases.