In this article I will introduce the reader to Gartner’s Hype Cycle (GHC). Besides an explanation what the Cycle implies I will show the reader, by use of graphs, how the advancements of new technologies moved along the Cycle over the last couple of years.
The GHC is named for the IT research and advisory firm, Gartner, Inc. The hype curve was introduced by Gartner in 1995, and is used to characterize a typical progression of an emerging technology to its eventual position in a market or a domain.
GHC provides a snapshot of the position of technologies along a predictable pattern of enthusiasm, disillusionment and eventual realism. It highlights technologies that are the focus of attention because of particularly high levels of hype, or those that may not be broadly acknowledged, but that Gartner believes have the potential for significant impact. Using consensus, Gartner analysts position technologies based on hype.
Jackie Fenn, the originator of the Hype Cycle and co-author of the 2008 book Mastering the Hype Cycle says the pattern, happens over and over and over—so much that you must wonder how capable companies, adopting highly touted innovations, so often fail to understand what is happening.
Determining when to adopt an emerging technology is a critical decision. If an enterprise launches its efforts too soon, it will suffer unnecessarily through the painful and expensive lessons associated with deploying an immature technology. If it delays action for too long, it runs the even greater risk of being left behind by competitors that have succeeded in making the technology work to their advantage (Fenn, 1995).
The GHC model adds another dimension to technology life cycle models: it characterizes the typical progression of an emerging technology from user and media overenthusiasm through a period of disillusionment to an eventual understanding of the technology's relevance and role in a market or domain (Linden and Fenn, 2003). Different technologies do not move at the same speed through the hype curve (O’Leary, 2008).
As with most innovation models initially the model starts with an ‘Innovation Trigger’, this is where a technology is conceptualized. Following on from this comes the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ when the technology is implemented and we hear much about both successes and failures. Media hype and expectations can be huge at this point. Consequently, Gartner predicts a ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ will follow when flaws lead to disappointment. As the technology’s potential becomes more broadly understood and realistic we embark along the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’. The final stage is the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ when the technology becomes widely implemented and its applications within the marketplace are more stable.
Technologies positioned by hype
In a fast-paced business world, executives often feel that they are being forced to adopt new technologies and practices at an ever-increasing rate. However, fundamental advances in technology are still taking over a decade — sometimes up to 30 years or more — to traverse the Hype Cycle from initial prototypes to mainstream adoption.
For example, 3D printing was first highlighted in Gartner research as a technology to watch in 2006; reached the Peak of Inflated Expectations in 2012; and will likely take another five to 10 years to fully realize its disruptive potential in industries such as design, retail, manufacturing, supply chain and construction. The graph below shows the latest Hype Cycle, published by Gartner back in July 2014.
Fenn, J. (1995). When to Leap on the Hype Cycle, Gartner Inc.
Fenn, J., & Raskino, M. (2008). Mastering the hype cycle. Harvard Business, Cambridge.
Linden, A., & Fenn, J. (2003). Understanding Gartner’s hype cycles. Strategic Analysis Report Nº R-20-1971. Gartner, Inc.
O'Leary, D. E. (2008). Gartner's hype cycle and information system research issues. International Journal of Accounting Information Systems, 9(4), 240-252.
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Main interests of Furda are macroeconomic developments and trends.