It’s worth explaining The Gartner Hype Cycle. It’s topical for 2012.

It works as follows:

Usually many people invent a technology during the same envelope of time. Somebody really gets hooked on the idea. That somebody executes the technology sufficiently well that it produces a technological trigger. And that gets the ball rolling. Awareness spreads through a single market, and then transmits into adjacent markets. Excitement spreads like fire.

People are quick to see potential. Enthusiasm is contagious, and opposing views are downvoted into gray obscurity. Innovators are visionaries. After all, I’m winking, pointing a finger at you, and making a ‘click click’ sound my voice. ‘Hay, click click’. This is an impolite way of saying that ‘ignorance increases’.

Hype builds to a saturation point. We’re at the peak of inflated expectations. Calls that ‘this is a bubble’ aren’t quite greeted with the same amount of derision. Pesky questions about monetization aren’t met with statements of ‘this time it’s different’ remarks. The enthusiastic roarers aren’t as loud. In fact, they’re becoming quieter. They’re not popping by as much. They’re not delivering sermons at conferences as often.

The dreamers and the hollow suits evaporate rapidly. They’re off to the next big thing or something.

We ultimately end up in the trough of disillusionment. And it sucks. Everything is negative. And there’s a very real danger that an entire technology may not make it out alive. Impatient firms abandon their efforts way too soon. The firms that stick by their initial strategic logic learn a lot more. Most technologies climb up through a slope of enlightenment.

Ignorance receeds.

People who were generally not associated with the initial hype find new uses for it. And, gradually, the technology enters into a plateau of productivity. People are generally aware of it, but the sizzle is all gone.

The Gartner Hype Cycle has its critics. It’s not a cycle. It’s not prescriptive. It’s not really objectively measurable.

Yet, just because something isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that it’s useless. I find it pretty useful. It’s a model I use to understand a complicated part of the world.

I like the because I can mentally mash it up with Moore’s ‘Crossing The Chasm‘, which is a seminal and well studied concept. The Early-Majority is skeptical.

I really enjoy skeptics who get way ahead of the peak. It’s as though they’re racing ahead to the trough of disillusionment just so they can say ‘ha, I told you so’. Is there a market for that? Are there people who really want to buy a piece of consulting that way? Or, more specifically, do such people reinforce the bias of the Early and Late Majority?

So yes, hype is hype. And if you’re annoyed by hype, technology probably isn’t the right sector for you. Maybe try steel. The pace of innovation in the steel industry is constrained by depreciation. It takes a generation for something to come in and go out.

In technology, it can take as little as 2 years for something to go from dark to hot and through to dark again. 

I try to look past the peak and look at the plateau. Monetization doesn’t have to be obvious from day zero, but there should at least be at least two business model canvasses that appear viable. The trough always comes. How should that be managed? And how far away is it?

That, in sum, is the Hype Cycle. What do you think of it? Is it accurate? Is it not?