Shiny New Objects in Echo Chamber Are Duller Than They Appear

Shiny New Toy Syndrome has two polar variants.

The first kind manifests itself in hypomanic pursuit and evangelization of anything just out of the gate. Examples include using services like Foursquare with absolutely no idea why. Although the tool may have its uses, the early adoption phase tends to be saturated with mimicked obsession.

The second kind is characterized by a complete lack of awareness of what’s going on in the world. Examples include companies that never heard of “a Twitter” until Chad in Corporate Communications discovers that some fourteen year old kid has been impersonating the company on Twitter for years.

You see, it’s easy to do one of two extreme things when it comes to technological evolution: 1) keep your eyes glaring over shiny new objects or 2) close them to what’s happening around you.

Living in the echo chamber of early adoption and gazing onto shiny new objects is a lot like looking into bent mirrors: the objects are duller than they appear.

This is why so many early adopters have such a hard time convincing the laggards.

So when you walk into C-suite carrying what you think is a shining ball of light, they see something far duller. It’s hard to illuminate minds with something that doesn’t shine in their eyes.

The true sheen of a shiny object is somewhere between how you perceive it and how laggards do.

In fact, laggards have the advantage of watching you make a fool of yourself.

Today’s technologies and media evolve with such speed, that credibility won’t be based on adopting early. It will be earned by those with the speedy wisdom to break away from the crowd.

When driving down the road of innovation, never forget: shiny new objects are duller than they appear.

And never assume that the laggards are duller than you. That’s your blind spot. 🙂


0 Replies to “Shiny New Objects in Echo Chamber Are Duller Than They Appear”

  1. Hi Phil

    Following on from the conversation on @KentBottles’ blog, I enjoyed – as usual – your post.

    It’s more of a blastbeat than a rat-a-tat reveille, and I like it all the more for that very reason. You know my loathing for all things #shiny. I am the anti-magpie of healthcare communications 😀

    There’s an Angry Birds joke in there somewhere.

    Definitely a meme that will continue into 2011 – but I hope its siren call is heeded, rather than just retweeted.

    If people were going to get ‘passionate’ about anything next year, I wish this would be it: roll the shiny around in the mud, and close the door of the echo chamber behind you.

    1. It’s hard to do – we’ve all been there. And we’ll all dip into to the echo chamber from time to time.

      Rolling in the mud can be fun.

      Someone should found Mud Wrestle Chat. 🙂

  2. Phil. Interesting post but it left me wondering, ‘so what do we do?’ Zealots should be less overzealous and laggards should learn to be more open minded? Passionate early adopters drive broader adoption and that was happening long before Twitter.

    1. Excellent question, Bryan, and I’m glad you asked.

      There’s lots to do actually.

      First, I’d point out that being passionate and being inside the echo chamber are two different things. You can be both at the same time, or one or the other.

      We’re not talking about early adoption. Not at all.

      We’re talking about obsession with new technologies based mostly on mimicry. Does that spread ideas and thus boost the chance for wider adoption? Yes, it can and it does.

      But that’s not the only factor that drives wider adoption.

      Laggards aren’t in the echo chamber. So the idea behind the innovation has to come to them – one way or another. Often that isn’t from the early adopters talking within the echo chamber.

      It comes from those outside it, who then spread it even farther.

      Delicious is a perfect example of what happens when something never leaves the echo chamber: It’s been around for 5 years and has been a huge hit among the early adopters. But it never made mainstream adoption – not even close.

      Why not? Why didn’t Delicious get the attention of CNN, unlike Twitter?

      Because the value proposition wasn’t clear to most people outside. It was a shiny object to some of us, but an utterly dull object to others.

      So here’s what to do:

      1 – Connect with people outside the echo chamber. If you know nobody outside of it or how to reach them, it doesn’t matter.

      2 – Acknowledge and promote the ideas that come from outside the chamber. In fact, actively seek out those with opposing and critical views.

      3 – Critically think about the underlying values of technologies to people other than yourself. Ask: “what are the limits of this technology to the people I think may benefit”.

      4 – Create new ways of seeing the technology. “How can this be re-purposed in a way that meets the needs of this or that group”.

      As I said at the end of my post, the credibility of passionate advocates will go to those who can go beyond the echo chamber.

      Beyond the echo chamber is where the action is.

      Short answer to your question, therefore, is:

      Go to where the action is.


    2. Beware the ‘curse of knowledge’ – the more you know about something the more difficult it can be to simplify it such that others can understand it or embrace it.

      This may be a slight twist on your original premise – the disconnect may not always be about the hyperzealous passion over the shiny silver object, but it may just be a basic inability to explain it in terms the non-adopter can understand.

      I say, be passionate about the value you see in new technologies AND be passionate about simplifying that value proposition so others can embrace it!

  3. I’ve found that most of the hype around new Web 2.0 tools is around speculation, which can make things even more frustrating. Imagine the possibilities when this thing scales… Yeah right, what can it do for me today?

    The “So What?” value proposition test has helped me immensely when personally evaluating services on-line. How does it make my life easier or better, is really all I need to initially know.

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