Category Archives: Book Review

ADVANCE REVIEW: Mastering the Hype Cycle

Title: Mastering the Hype Cycle: How to Choose the Right Innovation at the Right Time
Author: Jackie Fenn and Mark Raskino
Hardcover: 227 pp.
Publisher: Harvard Business Press (October 13, 2008)
Just as individuals are notorious for buying stocks “high” and selling “low,” companies make exactly the same mistake with technology adoption.

A new technology emerges. Experts squeal with delight over the possibilities this technology will allow. Companies rush to adopt…but too soon. There are still kinks to be worked out, bugs and issues not yet discovered. Implementation is behind schedule and over budget. And the first-adopters begin to bail out. The technology, they believe, has failed. But again they are wrong. Even as they throw up their hands in failure, the technology is maturing and evolving. It may not live up to the initial hype that was once described, but it often has a powerful role to play.

Fenn and Raskino, analysts at technology research firm Gartner, have seen companies fall into the same traps time and time again. They describe why this happens, how hype corresponds to actual technology developments, and most importantly, how to use this knowledge. They also introduce frameworks such as radar screens and innovation scorecards used at Gartner and elsewhere to improve the decisionmaking process.

Will this be sufficient? The “hype cycle” provides a clear understanding of why things go wrong, post-facto. “You were too early / you were too late.” But even with the frameworks provided, many will inevitably fall into the same trap of buying “high” and selling “low.”


Book review: “The Laws of Simplicity” by John Maeda

Simplicity is a good thing, says John Maede, a professor at the MIT Media Lab.

“The Laws of Simplicity” presents ten rules and three axioms on how to achieve simplicity:

1. REDUCE everything when possible; use the process of SHE (Shrink, Hide, Embody)

  • Shrink – have more functionality in smaller form-factors
  • Hide – subsume secondary functionality in larger categories (e.g., navigation menus )
  • Embody – imbue item with a feeling of value and quality despite simplicity (e.g., a Bang & Olufsen remote control is very simple but also very heavy)

2. ORGANIZE things into categories makes more thins appear to be fewer – this coincides with the “Hide” above

3. TIME – saving time makes things simpler. Why? because there’s less happening

4. LEARN – the more you know about something, the simpler it appears.

5. DIFFERENCES – Contrast makes things look simpler

6. CONTEXT – focus isn’t always a good thing; carefully consider what might appear peripheral to see how it can create CONTRAST

7. EMOTION – sometimes emotion dictates adding more (versus REDUCE). Ornamental components can be a good thing.

8. TRUST – Trust leads to simplicity

9. FAILURE – some things will defy all attempts at simplification


Some of the “Laws” aren’t laws that lead to simplicity; some laws are contradictory; others are redundant. Here’s how I would reformulate them:

1. ORGANIZE AND SUBORDINATE – structured information is easier to digest than unstructured data; secondary functionality should be hidden behind larger categories

2. REMOVE unnecessary or nonessential elements. Once you’ve done that, wait a day and then REMOVE some more

3. SHRINK AND CLARIFY remaining elements until they are intuitive; summarize; take out distracting details

4. LIMIT DEPTH – remove elements that are too “deep” into hierarchies/categories, since no one will ever find them and they will just add confusion