Hype Cycles: How Ideas Morph Into Reality

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I experienced an ‘aha’ moment when I discovered the Gartner Hype Cycle (see Figure 1). It helps explain what occurs between the hype of a new technology and the time it actually goes mainstream. For me, it is a simple tool by which to assess new ideas, products and even people.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Here is a simple example of Gartner’s Hype Cycle. Years ago someone tried to sell me a home telephone with a video screen built into it. At the time it was a very new concept (Technology Trigger). As long as the person you were talking to had a phone like it, you could see each other while you spoke. Since our family lived far away, it was presented as an amazing opportunity to keep our young children in touch with their grandparents (Peak of Inflated Expectation). I passed on the offer and the salesman soon stopped selling the technology as people did not share his enthusiasm (Trough of Disillusionment). Does this technology sound familiar?

Within a few years of the failed videophone, videoconferencing became popular. As videoconferencing glitches were solved, we began using it more and more often (Slope of Enlightenment). Within five years, we were regularly using iPhones, Skype and GoToMeeting to do what the original videophone was intended to do (Plateau of Productivity). The initial brilliance of a videophone dimmed before it morphed into something which is now mainstream.

While the Garter Hype Cycle is specific to technology, I think it has much broader application. I have observed similar patterns with ideas or what we often call vision. In reality, a great vision is often grander than its eventual implementation. Similarly, organizational strategies, often follow a pattern of hype and disillusionment before encountering differing measures of success. Finally, new employee hires (especially key leaders) often follow a similar pattern of god-like expectations which settle into realistic productivity.

Hype cycles are a simple means to assess the eventual impact of technology, idea or people which could affect your life. How do hype cycles relate to your life and work?

For more details on Hype Cycles you can visit the Gartner web site.


  1. Rich Frazer

    Exactly! Thanks for the heads up on this amazing tool!

    • Jeff Suderman

      I love the Hype Cycle and am glad it resonated with you.


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