The value of thinking about business hype thinking

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An astute manager is able to take a step back and just notice the flow of thoughts and, ‘think about management thinking’.

“Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week... Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think they think; and ninety-five percent of the people would rather die than think,” said George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic and political activist.

Provocative thoughts from the influential winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926, who also won an Oscar.

In reading Shaw’s words, one almost gets offended. That’s the instinctual, quick emotional automatic pilot ‘system one’ thinking that Daniel Kahneman [another Nobel Prize winner, this time for economics] describes in his classic book Thinking, Fast and Slow. It helps to recognise business hype, as just a phase, and think for oneself.

Watch the flow

An astute manager is able to take a step back and just notice the flow of thoughts and, ‘think about management thinking’. Mo Gawdat, the former chief business officer of Google X writes: “Those thoughts, as they occur, are not real events. They are just reconstructions of past events or predictions of future possibilities.

When you think about it this way, you may realise that you are rarely ever unhappy because of something that is happening to you. If you ever manage to make yourself unhappy, it is because of an imagined event, generated in the form of a thought in your head, and not the reality of what is happening to you right then.”

AI hype is everywhere

At the moment, there is a lot of hype about artificial intelligence (AI), spurred on by Chat GPT, which burst on the scene in late 2022. In the past, ‘big data’ was all the rage, more a movement as much as it was a technology, coming with the promise that if one can analyse enough data one can better be able to predict and anticipate, detecting hidden patterns.

Somehow, it never actually turned out that way. Tech trends come and go, sometimes often based more on showmanship, than competence. Crypto, web 3.0, blockchain, internet of things IoT, virtual reality, augmented reality, wearables and now AI are all recent fashion trends in tech. Yes, AI stands out for its ability to possibly think for itself, but AI is one step in a long line of tech innovations, that won’t stop coming. Each with the promise that they are the ‘magic bullet’ that will magically change everything.

It helps to think about this never-ending cascading flow of tech innovations, based on a framework.

Gartner hype cycle

Gartner hype cycle, developed by the US-based advisory and research firm, helps to put things in perspective. Each hype cycle, generally lasts three to five years, showing the structure of key phases of a technology’s life cycle.

Innovation Trigger: A potential 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.

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.

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.

Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallise and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.

Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology's broad market applicability and relevance are clearly "paying off”, according to Gartner.

Tech trends come and go, like last year’s fashion. What won’t go out of style is an awareness of thinking, melded with perceptive problem-solving skills, combined with a dose of creative of ‘out the box’ thought. What do you think?

David is a director at aCatalyst Consulting | [email protected]

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