Performance Support and the Hype Cycle

Remember that burst of energy and excitement you experienced as you left the Performance Support Symposium (or really any good conference where you were surrounded by smart people thinking hard about things you care about)? You probably got back to work full of ideas you wanted to try and new techniques you were going to incorporate. Your co-workers probably got tired of hearing about the cool things you saw and did and wanted to try. The world was your oyster, and Performance Support was going to solve everything!

That was five weeks ago – how are you feeling now? You’re back to the grind now. The excitement has drained away. Have you been able to maintain the momentum and interest in the face of deadlines and inertia and Captivate/Articulate eLearning ruts? You aren’t alone, you know. You’re experiencing your own personal Hype Cycle.

The Hype Cycle is a tool from IT research and advisory firm Gartner used to track the life cycle of technology from initial idea to commercial viability. Per Gartner: “Gartner Hype Cycles provide a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities.”

Gartner’s Hype Cycle drills down into the five key phases of a technology’s life cycle:

  1. Technology Trigger: A potential new technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
  3. Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
  4. Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystalize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
  5. Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.

Gartner Research's Hype Cycle diagram

Hype-Cycle-General” by NeedCokeNowOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been such a big hit for Gartner that they are now regularly tracking and updating one hundred thirty-one (131) Hype Cycles for everything from 3D printing to wireless networking infrastructure. (Entire list of Hype Cycles here.)

While eLearning or Learning Technologies in particular are not one of those 131, there is a Hype Cycle for Education. The 2014 edition is the latest version for which I have access to through the open internet. Gartner just published a 2015 update on 8 July 2015. If anyone has a corporate subscription to Garter’s research, request this report see for yourself how these technologies are evolving. The University of Minnesota is tracking this Hype Cycle on a terrific interactive web page, and it looks like they are current through 2014. Do you have access to Gartner Hype Cycles? Let us know how the July 2015 update changed the Education Hype Cycle.

These days it definitely feels like Performance Support is climbing up to the Peak of Inflated Expectations. Early publicity have produced a number of success stories (Bank of America, The Hartford, [your company name here in the comments section below!]). But I can’t help but notice is that Performance Support or EPSS’s are not represented on the Gartner Education Hype Cycle list. That’s a call for us to generate more hype around our passion. While Bob, Con, the eLearning Guild, and even ATD continue to raise awareness of Performance Support, the level of hype has not yet gone beyond our own little circles. We need more articles in more mainstream news outlets; more success stories here and published by eLearning Guild, ATD, Training magazine, etc. This is a call to raise the hype profile of Performance Support. Better yet, set up a call with the Gartner analyst responsible for the Education Hype Cycle (Jan-Martin Lowendahl) and ask him about his opinions on Performance Support. If enough of us ask him about this, maybe that will be enough to get PS on the HC. Let’s get ourselves noticed by Gartner!

A final note for some of you: the Gartner Hype Cycle can be adapted to your own journey with Performance Support. My personal experience: After several big wins brought me to the Peak of Inflated Expectations, I had real trouble finding other clients willing to experiment with Performance Support and suddenly I was on a quick slide down into Trough of Disillusionment. I am happy to report that I am climbing out of the other side and onto the Slope of Enlightenment. Over the past few months I’ve seen more instances of how Performance Support is starting to benefit organizations and I feel like in my own head it’s starting to crystalize as my understanding of Performance Support deepens. While this line of thinking does not necessarily help to implement PS in your organization, it can help you maintain a little bit of sanity on those days you or your team can’t seem to make any headway!

How about you? Can you help raise the hype of PS to get noticed by Gartner? Where are you on your own journey through the Hype Cycle for Performance Support?

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