Friday, 15 October 2010

Gartner's Hype Cycle is more useful than the Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation Curve

The classic Diffusion of Innovation curve was created by Everett Rogers back in the 60's, before many improvement facilitators were born.The terms, early adopter, majority, laggard etc have survived because they provide an explanation for something that is often difficult to fathom - how different groups of people respond differently to the same innovation. I have written at length (see previous posts and books) about the limitations of this theory and it inability to predict or provide guidance about what to do next.

Gartner introduced a theory in 1995 designed to explain what happens when a product or innovation is hyped, and then goes through various stages to acceptance. I like this theory because it steps away from the position of blaming people for not doing something and focuses more on the intrinsic value of the innovation or product.
Image from Wikipedia: Hype Cycle
The Trigger is the first breakthrough event that starts the interest in the product/innovation. This is followed by the peak of inflated expectations where the optimism for application outweighs the difficulties. The focus is on the possibility of the product/innovation. The trough of disillusionment comes when the failures start stacking up, expectations are not met, or something new comes along and this idea is no longer fashionable.  The slope of enlightenment may turn up years later when the original idea is tweaked and adapted and made more applicable. The plateau of productivity is reached when the product/innovation becomes mainstream due to its stability and usefulness.

Obviously, this curve will have different shapes for different products. Here are a couple of exercises:

  1. Take one product/innovation which you believe to be at the Plateau of Productivity, and track back, seeing how the curve shapes with regards time and visibility (visibility = talked about, in the press, on agendas etc)
  2. Map your current products, innovations and ideas on the cycle and see what you learn. Are they grouped in one area? What might you need to do to manage the transition to the next phase?

Let me know how you do by filling in the comments section below.

1 comment:

Francisco J Pérez said...

Hello Sarah

Interesting thought about the Hype curve and Rogers Diffusion theory.

In fact Hype curve is derived from Rogers Dif Theory by taking into account all innovation diffusion flows that take place in the process. The addition of a "boost-and-collapse flow" plus an S-Logistic flow yields the renown Hype Curve.

System dynamics is a good discipline that simulates a lot these kind of phenomena.