The Seven Stages of Innovation

In the past I have spoken about the process of innovation (see Hot or Not and Hype Cycles). These posts utilized the Gartner model to show how a product or idea progresses through several stages before it moves from an idea into a useful product (see chart below). This model provides a means to understand the technical stages innovation undertakes. However, what about the human side of innovation? How do we as people impact the innovation process? How do we respond to it?

Figure 1: The Gartner Hype Cycle

Figure 1: The Gartner Hype Cycle

Morgan Housel recently outlined the different stages people go through when we adopt a new innovation. He outlines seven steps which big breakthroughs typically follow:

  1. First, no one’s heard of you.
  2. Then they’ve heard of you but think you’re nuts.
  3. Then they understand your product, but think it has no opportunity.
  4. Then they view your product as a toy.
  5. Then they see it as an amazing toy.
  6. Then they start using it.
  7. Then they couldn’t imagine life without it.

To illustrate this Housel showed that some of the greatest innovations of the last century – the telephone, the automobile and flight – were all unheralded and criticized widely at the genesis of their innovation cycle. However, over time these steps have come to fruition and we now view all of this list as things we cannot do without.

While these seven steps focus on products, I believe they also apply to ideas. As leaders, we need to anticipate that new ideas will result in skepticism and opposition. After all, “we’ve never done it that way before”. However, this model shows that successful ideas will require determination, perseverance and communication.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, provides a perfect summary:

“Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. You do something that you genuinely believe in, that you have conviction about, but for a long period of time, well-meaning people may criticize that effort … if you really have conviction that they’re not right, you need to have that long-term willingness to be misunderstood. It’s a key part of invention”.


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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: Morgan Housel

Hot or Not? Understanding Innovation

One of the benefits of blogging is that it provides me with a steady source of new ideas. Over time, some of these ideas fade while others become even more poignant. One of my biggest ‘aha’ moments was the discovery of something called The Hype Cycle (even the name sounds sexy!). So what is it and what does it teach us?

The Gartner organization makes a living off the Hype Cycle. Figure 1: The Gartner Hype CycleTheir model helps us (and their clients) understand how new innovations move from inception to application. It identifies several distinct phases that an innovation morphs through as it progresses from an idea to something that is productive (see chart). In other words, it teaches us that good ideas take time before they actually become useful.

For example, my teenage son began speaking of the Oculus Rift several ago (the inflated expectations stage). This virtual reality (VR) system was an early leader in the development of VR headsets. However, almost three years after Kaden introduced me to Oculus Rift, we are just entering the zone where VR is becoming a relatively mainstream product (a search for VR headsets on Amazon reveals we are moving towards the plateau of productivity). Therefore, the Gartner Hype cycle equips us with information by which we can recognize the distinct phases that products go through before they are useful.

e-learningSo what does the Hype Cycle concept mean for you? While Gartner uses this model to assess innovations in technology, I believe that this idea is equally valuable with ideas or services as well. For example, the chart on the right uses the Hype Cycle to assess eLearning innovations in higher education. I use the Hype Cycle principle when I assess new businesses, new products, new pop music artists, election campaigns, new services, and even when I meet new people in my networking activities. If you have heard someone speak of an idea that ‘is ahead of its time’ you have also heard an indirect reference to the Hype Cycle. 

The Hype Cycle is a helpful way to help understand the pattern of acceptance for things which are new. While you may not have the science or research backing that an organization like Gartner does, I encourage you to use this model to begin to assess new things.

One can only wonder where hipsters fit on the Gartner Hype Cycle!

Postscript: The chart below outlines the 2016 Gartner Hype Cycle. It will introduce you to some ideas that you have never thought about. I can hardly wait until I can tell someone about smart dust!

Gartner Emerging Technologies 2016


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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: Gartner and WebCourseWorks