Gartner’s Hype Cycle and the Access Economy

Business person studying electronic data on digital tablet

“There’s a lot of hype around…” insert here things that are usually hyped over: new iPhones, what Kim Kardashian did last week, and silly Tik Tok trends we can’t help falling in love with. 

“Hype” has gotten a bad rep, but the truth is that the concept is quite essential to change. We can’t know for certain, but we’re pretty sure that the first people who learned how to create fire were quite hyped. 

The Gartner Hype Cycle explains how things come to fruition and how you can use actual science to determine if something is a new-slimming-tea-hype or an advancement that won’t die with the next Instagram post. 

What is the Gartner Hype Cycle, is it still relevant, and how does it apply to the Access Economy? 

Let’s take a closer look. 

The Gartner Hype Cycle, Explained 

According to Gartner themselves, the Hype Cycle is: 

… a graphical depiction of a common pattern that arises with each new technology or other innovation. Each year, Gartner creates more than 90 Hype Cycles in various domains as a way for clients to track technology maturity and future potential.

Or, in other words, Gartner, one of the biggest research centers in the world, takes into account multiple points of data to create a graphic every year where they tell you if something is worth your time, money, and energy. For example, in 2020, it seems that “digital me” technologies, composite architectures, and formative AI rank among the most hyped technologies. 

Gartner Hype Cycles can be applied to pretty much every industry: marketing & advertising, blockchain, human capital, and so on. 

Stages of the Hype Cycle 

According to Gartner, there are five stages of the Hype Cycle: 

  1. Innovation Trigger — the innovation breakthrough that makes something possible
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations — early success stories drive early adopters into the hype
  3. Trough of Disillusionment — interest drops as the first experiments fail to deliver; at this point, the product/ service/ technology that’s being hyped can survive if it continues to improve for its early adopters
  4. Slope of Enlightenment — new instances of the technology crystallize and perfect the initial idea; 
  5. Plateau of Productivity — the technology or product starts to be adopted at a mainstream level 

In other words, the Hype Cycle predicts how and when something will become the “regular kind” (as we were discussing in a previous article). Instead of doing this based on hunches, hopes, and idealistic dreams, it does it with data. 

The Access Economy: Hype or Regular Adoption? 

Based on the same model as the Gartner Hype Cycle, you can look at the Access Economy to determine where on the “hype scale” it stands. There’s no official Gartner Hype Cycle for the Access Economy as a whole, but if you look at the technology that supports it (or is adjacent to it), it looks like we’re in a pretty good place: 

  • The Access Economy business models are past their first stage of adoption, as everyone is looking to become the next Airbnb 
  • We have gone through a phase of disillusionment when it comes to some of the stars of the Sharing Economy (i.e. the evolution of Airbnb and Uber during the COVID-19 pandemic)
  • We have learned our lessons, pivoted, and adopted

By the looks of it, we’re very much ready for mainstream adoption in more sectors than just ride-sharing and house-sharing. With the lessons of the last year behind us and with studies showing that the Access Economy is gaining more adopters, it is quite likely that more and more business models will arise on the same model. 

Are YOU ready to join the Access Economy revolution? 

Posted by
Sorin Despot

Access Economy enthusiast and Chief Communication Officer @