Trigger happy innovation

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 first part of an Insights series about the cycle, we investigate the ‘Innovation Trigger’ – when something new first begins to receive attention…

Sep 7th 2017 

We’ve all seen headlines about the capabilities of new technology that sound too good to be true.

Whether it’s battery-free mobiles, flying cars or commercial space shuttles, all of which are in various stages of development, the latest ‘thing’ invariably attracts column inches well before it comes to market. This premature attention, Gartner contends, is an integral part of the ‘Innovation Trigger’.

“The Hype Cycle is a top level guide, a way for executives to make sure they know the relevant buzzwords of the time and don’t get blindsided.”


Avoid being blindsided

Insights recently caught up with strategy and technology executive, Kris Cudmore, a former Head of Technology and Architecture for a listed telco, who has made use of Gartner’s Hype Cycle throughout his career. He believes it functions best as a means to stay abreast of technology, rather than something on which to base business decisions.

Kris says, “The Hype Cycle is a top level guide, a way for executives to make sure they know the relevant buzzwords of the time and don’t get blindsided. Anything to the left of the cycle, in the Innovation Trigger phase, is mainly of interest to those in tech architecture roles, and similar. The technology there hasn’t reached a point where, say, someone in finance needs to have an opinion on it.”

Keeping it real

Respected University of Queensland Business School blogger and innovation management expert, Tim Kastelle, breaks down the three elements of innovation in a post titled 3 Innovation Triggers: Fear, Fantasy and Frustration. Firstly, it must involve a new idea, secondly, it must add value and, thirdly, it must become real and amount to more than a figment of someone’s imagination.

“It’s not enough to have the ideas – we need to make them real,” writes Kastelle.

The birth of 'Digital Twins'

The journey from Innovation Trigger to actual ‘thing’ is fraught with difficulty, as many organisations are well aware.

Back to Kris Cudmore, who says, “Any major tech business will have stuff on the extreme left side of the cycle, as will universities. At this point it’s nothing deep, just a concept in technology and innovation, and an indication of what that might mean for the future. It’s a bit superficial – this is the Hype Cycle after all.”

Let’s look at one idea facing the challenge of moving into the next stage. According to Bloomberg, digital twins – that is, virtual models of industrial sites and equipment that allow remote monitoring – are in the Innovation Trigger phase. In Digital Twins Inch Closer to an Energy Takeover, Bloomberg journalist Nathaniel Bullard explores their development.

He writes, “The technology represents an evolution within industrial firms and the logical outgrowth of a number of factors that my Bloomberg New Energy Finance colleagues have identified: cheaper and better sensing, processing and data transmission.”

What about Snapchat?

Snapchat has been making headlines this year, but it was also the focus of a 2014 blog post questioning Where is Snapchat on the Gartner Hype Cycle? The answer, according to the anonymous marketing expert blogger, is “between the Innovation Trigger and the Peak of Inflated Expectations.”

“Looking at the 2015 Gartner Hype Cycle for digital marketing and looking at some aspects of Snapchat, I feel that it aligns best with Innovation Trigger,” writes the blogger. “I say that because it is still a relatively new medium for advertising that still has some ambiguity.”

Snapchat’s position is even more ambiguous now, for since the article appeared the firm has experienced more than its share of bad luck, as pithily summarised in The Dirty, Unsexy Truth About Snapchat. Vanity Fair’s Maya Kosoff explains why the firm is slumping, with more than $1bn (£763m) being shaved off its value in recent months. 

Accelerated by disruption

Meanwhile in Emerging Technologies – An Evolution, AV Network’s Cindy Davis dissects the intricacies of the cycle, noting that, as with Snapchat, organisations’ journeys seem to be speeding up. More firms are passing through the Innovation Trigger stage, and with greater speed, than ever before.

Gartner’s Mike Walker is quoted as saying, “the velocity of these trends in this Hype Cycle, year-over-year, are sometimes going faster than we might often think.”

The final word on the matter goes to Kris Cudmore, with his common-sense approach to the hype.

“Things on the cycle are force-fit. Some things have gone straight from ideas to unbelievably successful. It is nonsense to think everything follows the Hype Cycle trajectory.”

In the age of overnight unicorn successes fuelled by digital disruption, that’s not surprising. So hold on to your hats – and check back soon for our take on stage two: the Peak of Inflated Expectations. 


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