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

Head Shot

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:

Source: Gartner and WebCourseWorks

Do You Work or Co-Work?

“The whole idea of co-working is to bring bright, creative people together and let ideas collide”.

Co-Working (noun – kōˈwərkiNG) is the use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge.

11 Incredible Coworking Statistics That Will Make You Leave Your Cubicle (Infographic)In the months ahead you will likely hear this word on a more frequent basis. The following infographic was crafted by Officevibe. It provides you with a quick overview of some of the facts and advantages of co-working

Anthony Morinos from Grind, an organization which creates co-working spaces in New York, provided his views about co-working during a recent co-working webinar. He noted that, in this era, “everyone is used to sharing resources and not just owning everything. This has crossed over into the work-space world where people want to be part of a community and not just a company”. He believes that the current generation is used to working in more flexible modes and co-working helps facilitate this (you can access the full webinar at the bottom of this blog). Co-working is also an extension of the sharing economy which has become popular through services such as Uber and AirBnB.

Most of us will associate this as a work solution for independent contractors, consultants, start-ups or entrepreneurs. However, I believe that these groups are simply the innovators and early adopters of this movement (see Everett Rogers overview of the Diffusion of Innovation if you are not familiar with this idea). If the concept is sound, there are many advantages of co-working that mid and large companies can also take advantage of.

Here are a few questions for you as you consider co-working for your environment:

  • How do you already see co-working occurring where you live?
  • What are limitations of co-working?
  • Why would you want to co-work? Are these reasons shared by others you work with?
  • Why would ‘typical’ companies resist arrangements which would allow their employees to co-work?
  • Does the sharing economy of co-working compliment or contradict the need for competitive advantage?

I believe that many of us co-work in small ways without realizing it. Coffee with a colleague, working at Starbucks for a few hours or a working lunch are all activities that have some relation to this idea. Education is also harnessing part of the power of this through learning cohorts, wiki’s and group projects. My gut tells me that we are seeing the early stage of an idea that is here to stay.

Perhaps I need to get out of my home office to see if it is true!

(Remember to scroll to the bottom for the full webinar video)


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman



Effective Leaders Think Differently: 10 Quotes to Make You Think

I see and I forget

I hear and I remember

I do and I understand


This week I have been poring through textbooks as I prepare to teach some on-line Master’s levels courses this fall. As I prep, I am reminded how much learning occurs through the ‘doing’ process. Learning is a journey that challenges our assumptions and helps us learn to think in new ways. The process of thinking differently must also occur outside of the classroom and is a critical ingredient in successful organizations.Warren Bennis, often considered the father of contemporary leadership, listed creativity and thinking outside-the-box as one of the most important leadership qualities.

Gareth Morgan, an organizational development expert provides a great reminder of the importance of this skill:

“Skilled leaders and managers develop the knack of reading situations with various scenarios in mind and of forging actions that seem appropriate to the understandings thus obtained. They have a capacity to remain open and flexible, suspending immediate judgement whenever possible until a  more comprehensive view of the situation emerges. They are aware that new insights often arise as one approaches situations from ‘new angles’ and that a wide and varied assessment can create a wide and varied range of action possibilities. Less effective managers and problem solvers, however, seem to interpret everything from a fixed standpoint. As a result, the frequently hit blocks they cannot get around; their actions and behaviors are often rigid and inflexible.”

Nurturing the ability to see things differently takes time and effort. As you consider the need to look at old challenges in new ways, here are a few of my favorite quotes to inspire you:

  1. I skate to where the puck is going to be. Wayne Gretzky
  2. The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. F.Scott Fitzgerald

  3.  A person who never made a mistake has never tried anything new.  Albert Einstein

  4. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Seneca
  5. People will not believe what does not fit in with their plans or suit their prearrangements. Barbara Tuchman

  6. What everybody knows is what has already happened or become obvious. What the aware individual knows is what has not yet taken shape, what has not occurred. Sun Tzu
  7. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

  8. No plan survives first contact with the enemy. Russian General von Moltke
  9. Doubt is not a pleasant condition but certainty is absurd. Voltaire

  10. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein
What helps you break out of rut thinking?

Gamified Life: Gaming goes mainstream

It was a hot summer day and our teenagers and their friends were playing in our pool. As I observed them, I grasped how video games have affected how they speak and play. I heard Ben tell someone that they had ‘lost a life’. Kaden issued a challenge and the task was called a ‘mission’ and lack of success was a ‘fail’. An effective flip was referred to as ‘a sick combo’ and earned someone a ‘level-up’.

As a trendwatcher, I like to keep the pulse on trends which are going to change the way we live. Gamification is one of these trends. The communication in our swimming pool, a domain I once believed to be a video-game free zone, demonstrates how video gaming has also crept into our mainstream lives.

Gamification is …the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems”.[1] Practically, we are seeing this concept creep into things such as exercise (review a recent Apple fitness ad), learning (engage in brain games at or staff training (see how Deloitte Consulting is using it to teach). Those of us who are Starbucks reward card holders see elements of gamification in the way they award badges or accomplishments after the completion of certain tasks (first on-line purchase, gold star status, or sending an e-gift).

As I monitor trends, I set signposts as a means to monitor how a trend is progressing. Like roadside mileage markers, the more frequently you see these signposts, the faster the trend is developing (or diminishing). Here are a few signposts to monitor as you observe the trend of gamification.

  1. Vocabulary: Watch for an increase in daily language terms related to gaming, especially with non-traditional audiences. This will range from terms such as badges or accomplishments to levels and domains.
  2. Location Diversity: Watch for gamification in non-traditional venues. The Toy Story ride at Disneyland is an example of the predictable gamification in amusement parks. However, when you see gamification concepts being used in venues like churches or employment training centers, you know it is hitting the mainstream.
  3. Recreation: Watch for gamification concepts to enter traditional forms of recreation. Concepts such as Laser Tag, Bingo Bowling, or TopGolf are indicators that gamification is affecting old-style games in new ways.
  4. Teaching/Learning: Watch for an increase in the use of tablets, apps and games in classrooms. The increasing use of resource such as Kahn Academy, a gamified college course (Olds College) or the elementary curriculum which uses on-line games to reinforce learning  herald the acceptance of gamification.

New trends are always accompanied by both advantages and disadvantages. Strategic organizations learn to leverage the advantages. Gamification will provide many opportunities which will help organizations to achieve their mission in fresh ways.

dilbert 182837.strip.sunday

© Dilbet -

[1] Gamification. Retrieved July 21, 2014 from



Open Source Life

In June 2014 the CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, made a surprising announcement, “…in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology…Tesla patents have been removed”.[1] Most experts consider Tesla to be the global leader in the electric vehicle movement so giving away their patents is a very big deal.

As a futurist, I keep an eye on trends which are impacting our lives. The idea of ‘open source’ has been on my watch list for some time. Most of us are familiar with successful practice of open source via software development. Platforms like Firefox, Android and WordPress (which this blog is built upon), are all open source. However, Tesla’s move to release patents to their competitors is a significant move towards open source in the non-software environment. I suspect that it will be the first of many.

The decision to share patents is even more interesting when we consider it alongside another major trend, the increasingly complex world of copyright in the digital age. The information age makes it easier to access information, while at the same time, making it more difficult to copyright protect information. File sharing, music streaming and Wikipedia all exemplify how copyright is getting more difficult to enforce. In fact, some would state that copyright is already functionally dead. If you extend this copyright idea to the domain of patents, we see that Musk’s move may reinforce the concept of  the death of copyright.

I do not believe that copyright or patents will die. However, we may have reached a tipping point where the complexity of enforcing copyright can be more difficult and costly than being consistently innovative. In the words of Musk;

”When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors. After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.”[2]

In an era where patents and copyright are increasingly difficult to enforce, open source can be a strategic business choice. For Tesla, the stated advantage of this choice was humanitarian – slowing harmful carbon-based emissions. I suspect this choice will also bring Tesla long-term financial benefit (batteries are the most expensive component of electric cars and they plan to build a $5B battery factory. Ergo, more electric cars means more electric batteries). While the motive for open source will be complex, I believe that Tesla’s open source experiment will one day be viewed as a historical landmark in the open source movement.



[1] Musk, E. (June 12, 2014). All our patents are belong to you. Tesla Motors. Retrieved from

[2] Ibid.