Mastering The Hype Cycle

How to Choose the Right Innovation at the Right Time

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Segway and the deceptive trough

September 19th, 2008 by Mark Raskino · No Comments

One of the questions we regularly get asked about the Hype Cycle is whether things can sometimes fall off or die in the trough of disillusionment. The answer is yes. It is not very common but it does happen. Indeed for Gartner published hype cycles we even have a chart symbol denoting things we predict will never get to the plateau. In the book we offer some ideas and tell-tale signs on how to spot these.

But sometimes things can lurk in a long trough – deceiving people into thinking they have died.  That’s why you have to keep tracking for a sign of a gradual crawl up the slope of enlightenment. Here’s just such a possible data point –  a September 10 story on ZD Net :

“British Member of Parliment Lembit Opik braved arrest on Tuesday as he teetered along on a Segway at a cool 12mph outside the Houses of Parliament. The MP for Montgomeryshire was willing to be hauled away by police in his protest against the ban on the two-wheeled transporters on UK roads saying: “It’s either Segways or Strangeways.””

This comes just a month after that popular image popped up everywhere showing armed and Segway borne Chinese paramilitary security forces rehearsing for the Olympics.  What’s going on – some sort of Segway resurgence?

The birth of this machine was one of the most hyped episodes of this decade. Shrouded in secrecy before its release to the World, excitable rumours in 2001 told how inventor Dean Kamen had created something that would change society.  The ridicule that followed was unfortunate – this remains a thoughtful idea in a carbon control age and very cool technology.

As the UK’s ‘Independant’ newspaper put it:

But hype, as it turned out, had an inverse relationship with reality. We long suspected that his plans were not quite panning out because of what we could see with our own eyes. Or not see. Segways remain about as rare on our high streets as unicorns and yetis.

Ouch.   But when did they write this?  May 2007 – six years after the peak of hype, by which time around 25K units had been sold. This thing certainly isn’t dead and maybe it will yet blossom. After all – social attitudes to travel are changing (as many thousands of London bicycle commuters and hybrid car owners demonstrate every day).

We can’t quite know for sure, of course. But if it’s success could matter to your business, then as an adoptive innovater, you must keep tracking. Becuase there is one more powerful thing than ‘an idea whose time has come’ –  its one your competitors gave up for dead and stopped watching.

Tags: Business Hype Cycles · Hype Cycle Twists & Turns