Learning Curve can be defined as the amount of time and effort put into developing a new skill set or gaining knowledge relating to a particular subject or task. It is a naturally occurring human phenomenon, which can be used to better understand productivity and the learning process.

Learning curves exists because people start a new task from scratch and in time, they tend to learn from their mistakes and errors and eventually find the most efficient ways to manage tasks, which helps them save time and resources in the future.

In simple words, a learning curve is a graphical representation of a concept which states that as one spends more time and energy, whether an organization or an individual, the better equipped it becomes at doing that particular task. Learning curve also shows the rate at which one learns to perform the various tasks.


Harmann Ebbinghaus, a renowned psychologist, who is known for his work on the subject of human intelligence, first coined the term in 1885. Later Arthur Bill, another psychologist further elaborated the concept. The concept gained prominence when managers noticed that the number of man hours to assemble an airplane decreased as more and more planes were assembled. In 1920s, T.P. Wright, based on his research of the industry, was successfully able to predict the amount of labor that will be required in the future for plane assembly.

As the name suggests, ‘learning curve’ is a concept which explains how, when new skills or knowledge is acquired, initially the progress is quick, but subsequently the rate of acquiring the new skill and knowledge becomes relatively slower. In the elementary stages of learning, the investment yields substantial results, but the payback diminishes as the learning process continues. Graphically, a steeper curve shows faster rate of acquiring the new skill or knowledge, and a flatter curve shows slower learning and an increased difficulty level.

Practical Applications

Learning curves are employed across the business world to predict the time required to finish tasks in the future. Managers take into account the impact the learning curve might have on performance before planning and budgeting is done. Additionally, learning curve models are also used by consultancy firms to guide businesses, since cost structures and overall efficiency can be predicted.

Software industry depends on learning curve models, as when software is designed, the learning progress is integral to the language that the computer understands. As the self-learning software performs its assigned tasks, it gets better, it uses past experience to avoid the mistakes and errors in the future.