Mastering The Hype Cycle

How to Choose the Right Innovation at the Right Time

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“Google Wave is following the Gartner Hype Cycle” ..

May 21st, 2010 by Mark Raskino · No Comments

… so says Lars Rasmussen, Google engineer and Wave project co-founder in a recent Huffington Post blog.

First , we agree, from Lars Rasmussen’s viewpoint,  the internal project is likely to be following the hype cycle.  Big projects do this because there is a collective social reaction from the  development team and internal management. It is one of  initial enthusiasm followed by the dawning realization of all the complexities and things to be worked through, including intial customer response.

However when looking at Wave from the outside, and the buyer point of view as an innovative product in a market, it is worth us making some additional observations.

1)  The vast majority of technology innovations do make it through the hype cycle

2) Individual products, might not – or might be radically altered as they pass through the trough of disillusionment.

We often use ‘search engines’ to illustrate this point that it is really a technology category that moves through the market hype cycle – rather than an individual product (or vendor).  Back in 1996 Alta Vista and Yahoo were lead players at the peak of inflated expectations for the then newly developing technology of ‘web search engines’. But it was Google that really drove that technology out of the trough, up the slope of enlightenment and onto the plateau of productivity (and profitability). So search engines made it through the full hype cycle (and how!).. but Alta Vista didn’t. Using a more contemporary example, when people mention Twitter – it falls into the technology called ‘microblogging ‘ (along with Yammer, Facebook status updates and others). It’s microblogging that will move through the full market hype cycle.

It’s interesting that so far there isn’t really a strong generic market category name for the technology of which Google Wave is an example. Google’s own initial description for Wave was a bit cumbersome  – a new web application for real-time communication and collaboration.  My analyst colleague Ray Valdes offers the shorter unified real-time collaboration. But this lack of clear naming is not surprising – distinct emerging technology category names often do take a while to form. The earlier stages of the hype cycle are full of market confusion – including terminology.

The underlying ideas within the innovation that people like, find useful, refine, measure, extend and  integrate with other things will most probably reach the plateau. However as some have conjectured – Wave as a distinct product does not necessarily have to survive (please note I am not offering a Gartner prediction here).  Elements of Wave might be swept up and incorporated into other Google offerings – but that might still constitute success for the technology as a category.

Tags: Hype Cycle Insight and Advice · Hype Cycle Twists & Turns · Technology Hype Cycles