In the fast-paced world of technology, it’s easy to fall into the trap of hype. Every new innovation promises to revolutionize our lives and solve all our problems. It seems like any time the CEO gets off a plane, you get a new message to check out Inc., or Fortune, or HBR, and start looking at some new tech.
However, history has shown that unchecked hype can lead to disappointment and the abandonment of promising technologies. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of the Hype Cycle, its impact on technology adoption, and the importance of making pragmatic decisions based on realistic assessments.
The Hype Cycle and Amara’s Law
The Hype Cycle is a concept coined by research and advisory firm Gartner to represent the typical trajectory of expectations surrounding a new technology. It consists of five stages: the Technology Trigger, the Peak of Inflated Expectations, the Trough of Disillusionment, the Slope of Enlightenment, and the Plateau of Productivity.
Amara’s Law, named after futurist Roy Amara, complements the Hype Cycle perfectly. It states, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” This law reminds us that while technologies may take time to mature and reach their full potential, they can eventually have a profound impact.
Several technologies have fallen victim to the Hype Cycle’s exaggerated expectations:
- Web Clients: When the internet became popular, there was a belief that everything would transition to web-based applications, making traditional software obsolete. However, we later realized that certain architectures and use cases require a combination of local compute and cloud services, leading to the rise of edge computing.
- Fully Self-Driving (FSD) Cars: The dream of ‘L4’ fully autonomous vehicles capturing the roads was met with enthusiasm. However, as the technology encountered challenges and safety concerns – up to and including serious injury and death – it became evident that a more realistic approach lies in assisted driving, which offers significant benefits without compromising safety.
- Cloud Computing: Initially, businesses were convinced that migrating entirely to the cloud would lead to substantial cost savings and operational efficiency. While cloud adoption has indeed brought numerous advantages, the reality is that many companies now opt for hybrid cloud setups or retain some on-premises infrastructure to address specific needs.
- VR and Metaverse: Virtual Reality (VR) once generated massive excitement, with visions of a fully immersive metaverse. However, the complexity and limitations of VR have dampened its prospects, and even Meta has scaled back on it plans for the Metaverse; while Augmented Reality (AR) has emerged as a more practical and beneficial application in various industries.
Making Pragmatic Decisions
Sageable research shows that technology leaders and adopters should approach new innovations with caution, avoiding being swayed solely by hype. Instead, pragmatic decisions should be driven by:
- Realistic Assessments: Evaluate the technology objectively, considering its potential benefits and limitations, as well as the context of your specific use case.
- Data-Driven Insights: Rely on data to inform your decisions but remember that data is not an infallible crystal ball. Use it as a guide rather than a definitive predictor.
- Trusted Advisors: Seek advice from experienced and knowledgeable experts who can provide realistic perspectives and pragmatic insights. (/me waves)
- Incremental Adoption: Instead of going all-in on unproven technologies, consider adopting them incrementally. Test a few options, implement a shortlist in stages, and learn from each iteration.
- Embracing Failure: Failure is a natural part of innovation. Encourage a culture of learning and experimentation, to fail fast, small, cheap, and forward, as stepping-stones towards progress.
The Hype Cycle can be a double-edged sword, driving both excitement and disillusionment. To harness the true potential of technology, we must approach adoption with pragmatism, basing decisions on realistic assessments, data-driven insights, and expert advice. By avoiding the pitfalls of hype and embracing a measured and incremental approach to innovation, we can navigate the ever-evolving tech landscape more effectively and maximize the benefits these technologies bring to our lives and businesses.