About Hypecycles and Tsunamis

This is for Jan Martin Lowendahl – following our yesterday’s conversation at the Gartner HE Forum in Amsterdam: Some 2 years ago at another HE Forum I happened to mention a metaphor resembling the Gartner hypecycle to Jan Martin – I appreciate you mentioning it this time.

After a tsunami hits a shore the coastline will no longer be the same. Something similar happens once a hypecycle hits an industry – it is not going to be the same ever after – conditions will have changed and there is no way it can return to its previous shape.

Phenomena of Organic Systems – and the Difficulty of Accepting them in the Business Context
Another metaphor comes to mind when looking at the hypecycle shape: organic systems, species and societies tend to initially develop, rise – and then be exposed to some natural enemy and challenges, be it climate, a lion or opponents of some other sort. Any organic system or species will arrive at the point of such challenge – and only the ones surviving this point will have eventually become strong and stable enough to live through the „long tail“ of their life cycle.

Similarly with hype cycles: any technology or innovation surviving the first crushing against the shore of consolidation, challenge, frustration and disappointment will have become stable enough for a sustainable further development.

Explaining hype cycles to investors and decision makers quite oftentimes sees a clash of expectations, as they would usually expect a stable and permanent growth after any launch. This but does not resemble anything that would be a likely or possible development an innovation is likely to take. As a tendency, investors and decision-makers will need to be convinced enough to stick it out until the innovation they support will have passed through its natural stages of development in order to enter into a steady growth and life cycle. Some investors tend to pull out after the first „valley“ of disappointment depriving their product or service of a maybe healthy and long life ever after. They drop their innovation maybe too early, not considering that all innovation will likely take the same path.

The initial phase of every life and system is the most delicate and the most dangerous, and surviving the first phase of any what so ever development seems to lay the foundation for a healthy life – like children, they will bump their heads and burn their fingers …

Explaining to decision makers that the path to be expected will look like a hype cycle rather than an exponential curve, may help arriving at more realistic expectations and less frustration while better allowing sustainable and enduring development.

To read more about hype cycles and the underlying concept by Gartner follow this link.

Comments and discussion most welcome, please feel free to add your thoughts.


Isabella Mader

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