Reconsidering Gartner’s Cycle of Hype


One theory of technology marketing and acceptance goes like this: A technology causes a media hypestorm and rising expectations. Then it crashes to Earth as the popular press and the public discovers that it's not all the hypesters said it would be–through no fault of the technologists who brought it to the world in the first place. Then, gradually, the truth about the technology seeps out until finally it reaches its use case–and then becomes that status quo, just waiting to be disrupted as it previously disrupted what came before.

While the violent vicissitudes of this chart make for good TV movies, in reality very few innovations follow this path. That's because it ignores 'being ignored.'

90% of the time, new technology triggers are widely and aggressively ignored. While we're more eager than ever for a savior that will change everything, the number of technologies, pundits, prophets and entrepreneurs is so large that there's now a line out the door. As a result, most of the things we now take for granted (cell phones, tweeting, insulated windows, email) didn't follow this curve at all.

In fact, just about every innovation I know of has to make it through the wilderness before it gets anywhere close to a hype cycle. The wilderness is the term for the years (or decades) that a founder/entrepreneur/artist/technology must spend being ignored and unfunded before the breakthrough of overnight success occurs.