innovation and hype

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to support innovation, and to avoid feedback loops that trigger fads and unjustified hype. I figure the story usually starts with an innovation. Somebody has an idea for a process/product/tool/whatever. A few people try it out. Early adopters. People start getting excited about it. From there, I’m thinking the adoption curve takes roughly 4 different lines:

IMG 9942

From the initial adoption curve, the line will either:

  1. keep going at that trajectory. exponential growth. venture capitalists drool over this. it’s also not sustainable. carrying capacities of ecosystems, etc…
  2. slows down a bit, but keeps (more slowly) growing. This is probably healthier. But venture capitalists aren’t as excited by it, and so the media cares less about this kind of saner adoption curve.
  3. plateaus. the early adopters are basically the entire market for the thing. this is not necessarily a bad thing. early adopters need things, too…
  4. fizzles out. see Google Wave. Early adoption curve looked like it was going to Change The World™ - but… yeah.

Why does this matter? Because the media (and the traditional media now takes its cues from the online technical “media” sources1). Because anything that doesn’t conform to the insane exponential growth curve is deemed a failure by the media, and we let that happen.

What does this mean, specifically for educational technology innovation? I don’t know. But this is the pattern that has repeated itself for decades now. We need to work with innovators, to cultivate meaningful innovation, and not get distracted by the “media” and the press release republishing - especially as we move through Corporate Keynote Season…

  1. who, in turn, take their cues from press releases published by companies that can afford media agents ↩︎

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