Here is why hockey stick growth is even harder than you thought

History shows you won’t hit the hockey stick growth in year 1, year 2 or year 3. There is a really long blade on the bottom of that hockey stick shaft.

The automatic coffee maker took 20 years to reach mass adoption. Microwave oven: 26 years. The benefit of these seems so obvious now. Why would it take so long to reach mass adoption?

The hockey stick growth is actually just part of an S-curve, a well researched innovation adoption model that most major successful consumer products have followed.

The front part of the S-curve (the long blade) is what innovators don’t account for. It is 0% to 10% adoption. You get the early adopters in the first part. There is no simple way to predict how long that front part will be.

When you hear “timing is everything” on innovation, it often refers to the front part of the S-curve…the blade portion. See Fred Wilson’s blog post on being too early. Be a fast follower with an estimate of the S-curve you are facing is a possible strategy.

Apply this concept to augmented reality, virtual reality, wearables, smart glasses, self driving cars, smart cities, artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc…

Diffusion of Innovation S-Curve

The hockey stick growth comes after the early adoptors. That could take quite some time. Read all the theory behind this called diffusion of innovations by Everett Rodgers.

A great visual view into diffusion theory for over 100 products is presented by Horace Dediu in November 2016 in this video. Horace is working on a model to predict the front part of the S-curve and ways in which it can be accelerated to reach the hockey stick portion sooner.

Some data from Horace:

Vacuum cleaner: 45 years to mass adoption.

Refrigerator: 23 years to mass adoption.

Cellular phone: 13 years to mass adoption.

Dishwasher: 58 years to mass adoption.

Maybe you are not too late? Maybe you are too early? Be a fast follower perhaps.


I’ve written quite a bit on Medium about innovation and j0bs-to-be-done. Thank you for reading this article.

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