Learning and Hype cycles

‘Hype Cycle’s are an interesting read. The phases that a hype cycle mentions are particularly revealing.

‘Hype Cycle’ was a term coined by Gartner. It offers a cycle of maturity of adoption of a particular technology. Its akin to the ‘Product Life Cycle’ concept : introduction, growth, maturity and decline.

Its similarities end with the “broad concept”. The ‘hype cycle’ is rather an incisive description of a tech / concept’s evolution. Plotted against the axes of time & visibility, the cycle offers five different stages.


a. Technology Trigger: Which is the first phase of the hype cycle. There is a trigger that sets the hype on its journey. A breakthrough concept, product launch or approach automatically generates interest.

b. Peak of Inflated Expectations: The phrase sums it up. The triggers have triggered off expectations which are well beyond real. ‘Inflated expectations’.  Technologies in this stage are actually riding a wave. So to speak. And literally so. And you know what happens to any ‘wave’ ! When the energy dissipates, it leads to the next stage, which is ..

c. Trough of disillusionment: When expectations aren’t met, well, it leads to disillusionment. At the least, there is disappointment. Disappointment leads to non-use which in turn leads to abandoning and consequent fade out from the screen. There of course are some adopters who still are working on it and they lead us to the next stage.

d. Slope of enlightenment: The technology might have fallen out of favour of the mainstream, but there sure are businesses who have adopted it to meet objectives. And when they see value, they keep working on it, to utilise the practical applications of the technology.

e. Plateau of productivity: And when enlightenment happens, it sure is a way of evolving further on ! The technology becomes more widely accepted. Better demonstrated. More stable. And the final height would be a function of how broadly applicable the technology is.

Hype Cycles give an idea of relative maturity of technologies and concepts.

Looking at the hype cycle, you find that authoring suites are at the ‘peak of inflated expectations’, you know whats coming your way! And therefore plan your strategy accordingly.

While making a presentation on the Hype Cycle, the other day, I realised how closely applicable the concept was to many things in life! Romance and marriage are perfect examples: A trigger leading to ‘inflated expectations” which in turn leads to a “trough of disillusionment”, a “slope of enlightenment” and finally where things fall into a rhythm and the “plateau of productivity” arrives! ( of course, the trough of disillusionment can strike anytime later as well. We know what happens after that! )

There is usually a trigger. Best if the trigger happens to be line managers / business / leadership team. That works all the time. Even better, when the trigger is accompanied by a trigger within individuals. Usually, basic information, education, research, which provide for a basis for an evaluation of alternatives works here.

The solution worked out as a response usually sets expectations of meeting the business needs. Especially so, when the solutions are co-evolved with line leadership. It is quite normal and natural for expectations to be ‘inflated’.

In both the second and third stage, ‘managing expectations’ become crucial. To set the right expectations can stave off disappointment and to remind people of the agreed goals and committed support is key.

When the rubber meets the road, there are practical challenges that emerge. Sometimes old habits just refuse to die. Memory could be strong about erstwhile processes. Also, new skill may take a while to get deep rooted. Which is when disillusionment kicks in. Disappointments rule! With a lack of practice, forgetting kicks in!

If the ‘trough of disillusionment’ is managed well, the slope of enlightenment can begin to appear. Sharing success that happen in small pockets, intense communication, keeping a community spirit going, executive coaching, all go a long way in helping the ‘slope of enlightenment’ happen.

When that slope is climbed by many, when ‘pockets of success’ become more prevalent, there is a level of change and operationalising that is higher than where it all started out from.

Each stage is different and needs to be managed differently. It gave me wonderful compartmentalised ideas for several projects that I was working on.

Wonder what you think.