The challenge of great expectations

Gartner’s Hype Cycle charts the journey of new technology through five stages of development, from inception to production and, potentially, adoption. Gartner names the five phases Innovation Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment and Plateau of Productivity.

In the second part of an Insights series about the cycle, we investigate the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ – when early publicity results in some success, but many organisations fail.

Sep 14th 2017 

From the millennium bug and the SARS outbreak, to Manchester United’s £89.3m capture of Paul Pogba, not everything lives up to the hype.

And the same applies in enterprise, where too much publicity can be the ultimate poisoned chalice. Just think of the dot com bubble, Samsung’s literally explosive Galaxy Note 7, or the doomed European launch of Coca-Cola’s Dasani tap water. Gulp.

Reference not gospel

All of the above could be considered textbook examples of things that reached the Peak of Inflated Expectations on Gartner’s Hype Cycle.

Strategy and technology executive, Kris Cudmore, is a former Head of Technology and Architecture for a listed telco. Having used the Gartner Hype Cycle throughout his career, Kris believes its stages are a useful reference, but shouldn’t be taken as gospel truth:

“The Peak of Inflated Expectations sounds great because you know that serious business opinion formers have thought about what to include on each part of the cycle,” says Kris.  “However, there’s no way they can tell something has really reached its peak. They just fit it on the graph. It’s conceptual.”

Virtual success in sight

According to some experts, virtual reality (VR) is currently on or around the Peak of Inflated Expectations. After all, it’s been the next big thing since the nineties.

The Urban Developer explores VR’s slow ascent in an article titled How’s The Future Looking?, which quotes technology guru Tom Kelshaw:

“VR now is where videos on the internet were maybe 10 or 12 years ago. I mean you could do it, it just wasn’t very good yet,” says Kelshaw, “VR is undoubtedly a next big thing, it’s just not the big thing yet. The friction is high right now, the payoff is low.”

Calm before the storm

Founder of British VR startup Wizdish, Julian Williams, believes VR’s days stuck on the Peak of Inflated Expectations are numbered. The former Virgin Media Business Accelerator participant has developed a VR treadmill called the ROVR that allows users to physically walk around virtual worlds. Julian reckons it’s only a matter of time until VR becomes widespread.

He says, “VR is inevitable. It's like predicting colour TV in the days of black and white. One of the problems for VR is that many have yearned for it before it was possible. There is also a void between what they imagine it should be like and what's practical in the foreseeable future.

“The good news is that progress is rapid and we're going to see some major new products later this year and next.”

After the soft launch of the even more technically advanced ROVR2, Wizdish has received interest from industries including energy and education, which backs up Julian’s hunch that VR is on the cusp of huge uptake.

He says, “It is going to become a part of everyone's lives. A user’s first encounter may come from work or education, then increased volumes will reduce prices to consumer levels and you'll start to see more VR in the home.”

Gartner's vicious cycle

In The Peak of Inflated Expectations? an Insurance Times article questions if the Hype Cycle is in fact masking the potential of the insurtech industry, a subject we’ve previously featured on Insights.

“As insurtech continues to impact the insurance sector, it is clear that we are still in the initial stages of what Gartner terms the ‘Hype Cycle’, with an ever-increasing amount of noise and expectation without clear impact and results,” says Sam Evans, founder of insurtech firm Eos Venture Partners, “Have we reached the peak of inflated expectations? We expect not.”

Meanwhile Kris Cudmore has his own thoughts on what may or may not have reached the peak:

“Perhaps the gig economy has reached peak frenzy? Or if we’re talking strictly about technology, then I’d suggest software defined networking. The cycle is a bit like reading the Daily Mail or The Guardian; you need to approach it knowing what you are getting.”

So, the Peak of Inflated Expectations is neither positive nor negative. It simply marks the moment in an organisation’s journey when glittering success is just as likely as failure. If the latter happens, you’re heading for the Trough of Disillusionment, which Insights visits shortly in the third part of the series.

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