Most thinking about commercialisation still suffers from a binary approach based on significant attention paid to the early stages of innovation and research, coupled with concerns about the poor rate of commercial adoption of innovations by established commercial entities. As a result, most of the focus is on start-ups; even discussions about scale-ups are treated as extensions of the start-up process, and sometimes even this distinction is lost.
This approach ignores the diffusion-driven translation process which covers the many steps on the commercialisation journey before an innovation can result in commercial, social, and environmental impact. Successful growth depends on understanding the precise maturity of a proposition because that enables businesses to design and implement ‘interventions’ which can accelerate progress along the commercialisation journey.
Rogers(1) was the first person to explicitly describe the commercialisation journey, using diffusion theory to describe cumulative customer growth. His idealised model described five different types of customers: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Sadly, this idealised model of five different customer types is not supported by any reliable empirical data.
However, our data-driven research based on over 3000 companies globally confirmed that this growth can be described by the diffusion equation, albeit with discontinuities. The Triple Chasm Model describes how the commercialisation journey consists of spurts of diffusion-driven growth with interruptions at three Chasms, characterised as follows:
Chasm I - the transition from Product Concept to a Working Prototype, with Proto-customers
Chasm II - the transition from an early Product to a fully functional Product with a sustainable Business Model, with Charter customers
Chasm III - the transition from Charter Customers to full adoption by Mainstream Customers
The Triple Chasm Model(2) approach to maturity mapping is based on integrating two key measures:
Cumulative customer growth relative to the three Chasms.
modified technology readiness levels (effectively commercialisation readiness levels) based on adapting work done previously by NASA on mission-readiness.
The modified technology readiness level (or mTRL) operates on a scale of 0-9, with values of
0-3 pre-Chasm I
4-6 between Chasms I and II
7-9 between Chasms II and III
Maturity Mapping is based on assessing the position of any new product relative to the three Chasms, and then refining the precise position based on the mTRL value.
The relevance of the 12 meso-economic vectors (or drivers which shape the journey) changes with the maturity of a proposition: the maturity mapping exercise can reveal the key things that a company needs to worry about at any point in its growth trajectory, based on the data-driven insights provided by our ‘longitudinal’ research programme over the last decade.
The available research data shows that companies face the most difficult challenges when crossing Chasm II.
Companies need to understand their current level of maturity when exploring their strategic and tactical options.
Rogers, E.M. (1962), Diffusion of Innovations, Glencoe, Free Press
Phadke, U.P & Vyakarnam, S. (2017), Camels, Tigers & Unicorns, WSP, UK