We live in a world of extreme change, which is hugely evident in the world of technology. We are constantly bombarded with new innovation, invention and trends. A question that I always ask myself is, “How do I filter out the noise and focus on the possible?”
I find that using frameworks helps in answering this question. The framework that I regularly go back to track and action technology trends is the Gartner Hype cycle. I don’t necessarily use the published hype cycles; I go to the core of using the framework for tracking and actioning trends.
The book “Mastering the hype cycle: How to choose the right innovation at the right time” describes the process in great detail and is well worth the read.
I have attempted to summarise some key takeaways from the bool in the picture. Hopefully, this describes what the hype cycle is and then the actions taken in each phase of the hype cycle.
Describing the Hype Cycle
When I use the framework, I consider each innovation trend independently to assess if it is worth spending time and effort.
Let me give a brief description of the hype cycle. There are 6 phases:
1. The technology trigger – a new trend is identified and starts getting broad attention.
2. The peak of inflated expectation – the trend seems to solve many problems that may be real or a pipe dream. People start adopting and attempting to use the technology or innovation.
3. The trough of disillusionment – the trend comes crashing down to reality. There are many failed attempts at applying the technology or innovation.
4. The slope of enlightenment – the actual life application of the technology or innovation is uncovered and starts making a difference.
5. Plateau of productivity – the technology or innovation becomes mainstream.
6. The slope of obsolescence – the technology or innovation reaches the end of its lifespan and is replaced by new technology waves.
Using the Hype Cycle
There are opportunities to leverage and dangers to watch out for during each phase that help guide the actions that you can take.
1. The technology trigger – when a new trend emerges, start attaching yourself to the trend, find an angle to publicise your views on the trend and potentially find the people who are early implementers to join your team.
2. The peak of inflated expectation – gain experience in the technology, so you can ride the coming dip in expectation and wait for supplier consolidation or maturity to back a technology partner.
The danger you need to be aware of during these first two phases is adopting too early and investing in a trend that may never mature.
3. The trough of disillusionment – the opportunity in this phase is to rely on the experience you have gained in the first two phases to see you through the trough. The danger to watch out for here is that you give up too early before seeing a return on the investment you have made.
4. The slope of enlightenment – this is where your investment pays off, and you can become the market leader. Most people enter the market at this stage and have potentially missed the real opportunity.
5. Plateau of productivity – during this phase, the technology or innovation has become mainstream, so you need to find your competitive edge. This could be in a niche or going low cost, high volume.
6. The slope of obsolescence – There is no opportunity left, and you need to have decided to abandon the area.
The danger in the last two phases is hanging on too long without identifying your next wave. I attempt to run this across multiple trends every few months to track future opportunities. There is no silver bullet. You need to apply this to your context, e.g., consider the nature of your clients, market, location and employees.
There are two immediate choices that you can make when choosing the innovation or technology that you want to back. First is being a first mover, where you drive to be the pioneer in the trend and absorb the associated risks. The most significant risk in this approach is adopting too early. The second is being a fast follower, where you watch the trend and, as soon as you identify maturing or consolidation, jumping in. The risk in this approach is adopting too late.
The book goes on to describe an adoption approach to help mitigate the risks. This is the STREET process.
1. Scope what you want to do aligned to the trend and assess the risk
2. Track the innovation regularly so you can identify when the right time is to jump in.
3. Rank innovations and suppliers often.
4. Evaluate and choose your partners and approaches to entering the market.
5. Evangelise, sell and position with clients and the market.
6. Transfer the offering to your employees to build and enable clients.
I hope you found this article helpful and consider adopting the hype cycle approach when assessing innovation and technology trends.
Fenn, J. and Raskino, M. (2008) Mastering the hype cycle: How to choose the right innovation at the right time. (Gartner, Inc./Harvard Business School Press series). Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Press.