Tools for Tomorrow: Gartner’s Hype Cycle as Inspiration

August 31st, 201112:29 pm @


With thousands of blogs to read and a million Twitter opinions on what the next hot new technology trend is, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of emerging technologies and how successful their adoption rates are.

Thankfully, Gartner regularly releases what’s called the Hype Cycle. Plotted against the axis of visibility vs time, technologies are introduced with the trigger, the initial introduction of Augmented Reality technology for example. As anyone who’s worked on an advertising campaign is aware, the next stage is the Peak of Inflated Expectations, where the hype reaches a crescendo. Every campaign suddenly needs QR Codes. And 3D printing is the wave of the future.

Cue the sad trombone sound effect, because here the cycle takes its dip into the Trough of Disillusionment. The technology is buggy, or no one has the equipment to use it. Over time, however, the kinks get worked out and platforms for using the technologies become better, cheaper and more widespread. In the Peak of Enlightenment, the tools are developed properly, leading to the Plateau of Productivity, where things like smartphones, printers and HD TV now reside.

So, what does this have to do with inspiration in creative development?

Technology is the new creative canvas. One of the Winter 2011 Shortlist, The Human Jukebox ( by Åkestam Holst for Pause Home Entertainment involved creating a tiny, ingestible stereo that was swallowed by the client CEO. Consumers could create the playlist through social media that could be heard playing from his stomach. On the Hype Cycle, this would fall under Human Augmentation – a technology trend just leaving the trigger stage. Clearly, the majority of brands aren’t going to have much use for human augmentation in a promotional campaign (Enhanced Taste Buds by Coke, anyone?), but this just represents a single example of a non-traditional technology being leveraged for novelty.

So, forgetting the “big idea” for a moment, start from the other end. Not only does the Hype Cycle provide a ready list of new canvases to apply in brainstorming, but it provides a context of their general uptake in the market with all the buzz factored out.

Mainly, its a great starting point for exploring what’s coming next, and what might be more noise than signal.

To learn more, there are hundreds of blog posts examining tech trends through its lens, and Gartner’s book is an older (2008) but valuable resource.