A Framework For Timing The Adoption Of New Technologies

by Sebastian Mueller, COO MING Labs

When we speak to our enterprise clients about digital transformation and innovation, someone will often bring up blockchain, mixed reality, or the latest trend dazzling tech media. The desire to engage with new developments is understandable; it feels cutting-edge and is interesting.

But is it productive?

When we poke holes in an envisioned use case, it usually deflates very quickly. Many ideas for new technology implementations do not support a real business case, and it is just too early to really engage.

How can big corporations keep track of the latest developments and reap the benefits when the time is right, without missing the train?

The Tiger Approach: track and pounce

There are two existing frameworks that provide good guidance on the timing of adoption: the Gartner Hype Cycle and the Innovation Diffusion Theory.

We decided to build on these and introduce a new framework called the Tiger Approach. It consists of two parts: track and pounce.

Here’s a brief overview:

Gather information and build proofs of concept

To time a large investment into a new technology right, it is critical to understand the technology well first.

Once it lands on your radar, the best start is to have a few employees spend time to understand the technology and its potential. Have them build proofs of concept (PoCs) to really understand its current limitations and applicabilities. Then, have them present these findings to the relevant stakeholders. This generates a basis of learning which you can build on.

Engage with the community

After understanding the basics and getting some experience, start to engage with the community. Visit meetups and conferences, speak with entrepreneurs in the space, and see what other people are working on and how they solve their challenges.

Share your thoughts and problems as much as possible, as it provides validation to others’ ideas and might give you valuable insight. Useful resources to identify relevant events include:

Invest

If you have a corporate venture fund, invest small in a few interesting companies that are utilizing the technology in your space or in adjacent ones. Speak with the founders on a quarterly basis to get their first-hand validated learning and insights. Nothing is more valuable than experience from the front lines and understanding the development of the technology and the market through their eyes.

This will expand your initial knowledge base with the validated learning of entrepreneurs pivoting their way to a business model.

Mentor

If a dedicated venture fund is not part of your toolkit, become a mentor with an accelerator focused on the technology you are interested in. Industry mentors are valuable and highly sought after to provide real-world insight and feedback, helping entrepreneurs refine their value proposition and business model. Share and learn as much as you can. Mentoring for accelerators is a very valuable relationship.

Useful resources to identify relevant accelerators include The MBA is Dead, Seed-DB, and similar sites.

Doing this will also add to the validated learning you have about the space, as well as position your company in a positive light as an active contributor.

Important things to note

Here are the important topics to monitor throughout these different steps:

  • Technology maturity: How far away are real functional, scalable deployments for their use cases? What are the remaining gaps? Who is addressing those? How strong is the support behind the technology?
  • Market maturity: Is the technology’s targeted market ready to use it? Do its customers understand the benefits? Are they willing to pay for the product? Are any PoCs already underway?
  • Talent market: How difficult is it to find the specialized talent needed to build products with the technology? How difficult is it to train an adjacent domain expert?

Following the above actions and hence tracking the development of a technology will enable you to estimate its maturity well. The information sources you build will give you great indications on the landscape and also a view of who else is active and engaging in the space.

Once all the indicators are pointing in the right direction, it is time to pounce (read: adopt an innovative technology).

Time to pounce

Build

If the use case is core to your business or has great revenue potential, building a new solution is a valid option. This can either be done with your existing team (if there is enough expertise) or in collaboration with outside partners who have the necessary expertise.

Utilize your previous learnings well to avoid any pitfalls in the build process. Use pre-mortems and involve industry experts in your thinking.

Partner

Teaming up with a startup or other corporations can help to share development costs and increase chances of broader adoption and usage through combining the expertise and markets of each party.

Especially when looking to define industry standards, a partner-based approach with equals is very promising in making sure that it really finds widespread adoption throughout the industry.

Approaches like the one used by GS1 (a non-profit organization with relevant industry members), which maintains standards such as the barcode, have seen resounding success in driving collective industry agendas that major players buy into and collaborate with.

Buy

As with any technology, startups and technology corporates will launch off-the-shelf solutions into the market, which might be well suited to your intended use case. Evaluate the landscape carefully and engage sellers in conversations about their technology roadmap and their willingness to support the features and customizations you might want to see down the road.

Similarly, buying startups that are working on relevant use cases is a potential play as well.


Timing the adoption of an innovative technology and a potentially sizable connected investment correctly is difficult yet extremely important. Engaging too early often means burning your budget and running out of internal enthusiasm, while being late to the party means facing significant competitive disadvantages.

By getting your feet wet early and becoming part of the ecosystem, you can establish a solid information stream to track the development of a technology and get a better feel for when the time is right. Choosing the right innovation play at the time of engagement will help make the best out of your investment.


Sebastian Mueller is Chief Operating Officer at MING Labs.

MING Labs is a leading digital business builder located in Berlin, Munich, New York City, Shanghai and Singapore. We guide clients in designing their businesses for the future, ensuring they are leaders in the field of innovation.

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