Bleeding Edge or Cutting Edge

In today's fast paced world, especially within the technology sector, everything is changing on a daily basis. What was new becomes common place and what was common becomes old and out of date.

In order to keep up, we need to be constantly improving ourselves by playing with, learning about and incorporating into our lives and businesses new ideas and technologies. If we were to try and keep up with everything, we would quickly become frustrated and find it is next to impossible so we must choose what to focus our efforts on. But just what should we choose then?

Of course the first choice should be on what is most relevant to you and your life. Sometimes this is an obvious choice. Sometimes what looks irrelevant could be relevant and you just don't know it.

What I like to do in these circumstances is to make my best decision and focus on what I think it the best use of my time but keep an ear open for new possibilities. I then surround myself with people who love to try out new things, especially when their interests are different from mine. Then I chat with them on a regular basis and inquire into what they think are the upcoming new ideas and technologies. I don't look into everything my colleagues bring up but I do discuss their opinions and delve into what they think is important so I can better decide what new concepts, products and services to dig into myself.

Most people do this as well. Since we cannot look into everything, we must pick and choose. And as long as we are open minded and mingle with people with different ideas and experiences, we can't help but be exposed to other options out there which can improve our lives.

But what I find a lot of people have difficulty with is determining when to dive into something new. Do you dig into it as soon as it first comes out, before anyone else even knows about it? Or do you wait until it is all the rage and spend your time on it then knowing that if everyone else is using it, maybe you should to?

The answer to this depends upon what you are doing with the new concept, technology, product or service.

Bleeding Edge vs. Cutting Edge

When something new first comes out, when almost no one has tried it out and when it is still new and somewhat untested, I call this the Bleeding Edge. When you dive into a new technology that is on the Bleeding Edge, you will find it takes a lot more blood, sweat and tears to really understand and incorporate it into what you do. For technology, the bleeding edge means it is still buggy and somewhat unreliable. This is where, when you use the new tool, you bleed a little. You pay a small price for trying out something that is not yet proven or perfected.

Over time, if a bleeding edge technology sparks enough interest in the early adopters, it can move on to be a cutting edge product or service. This is the time where those who adopt the new technology can carve out a way of living or working with a well sharpened knife. Like any tool, when it is new and well honed it is at its most effective. It is well documented or understood and the early adopters have helped work out the kinks so it has few if any real flaws to cause you problems.

Eventually that tool tends begins to become dull. There are things you can to do resharpen it and it can continue to be useful to you. However, adoption of a technology after it has passed its cutting edge stage is typically low impact on you and your business.

When To Adopt What?

If you are an industry leader or a trend setter, it is important that you pursue technologies and concepts in their early most stages. This is the bleeding edge. If you are an industry expert giving advice to others or the person people turn to when they want to know what to adopt next, you need to be ahead of the pack and it is worth the price to bleed a little.

Bleeding Edge adopters are generally the people who blog and write books about the upcoming trends. They are the people who also try to beat the competition to market with new products and services. You must take care though if you try to build a business around bleeding edge technologies. History has shown that the businesses first to the market with a new idea tend to be the ones that fail while those a little later to the game are the big successes as they build off the mistakes and pay a lower price to create their products and services.

If you are more interested in adopting technologies when you pay the lowest price for the greatest gain, you will be more interested in adopting new ideas and technologies once they have matured. This is where you will be more likely to adopt during the cutting edge stage. You have let others bleed for you as they have documented and perfected how to make the most of this new technology.

This is usually where most people want to be. It has the potential for the greatest gains without having to bleed for it. We often say that we look to be cutting edge, not bleeding edge when evaluating new tools, products or processes. We want to get the biggest bang for our buck.

Sometimes, however, a technology my just not be very relevant to you. The gains from this new and innovative product or service is just not going to help you much. This is where you may never adopt it but if you do it will be once it is common place and the rage has died out. It can become useful to you though as, at this stage, it is generally very low cost to adopt. So while the benefit may be quite small, if the cost is small enough it could be worth it.

What you choose to use and when ultimately depends on your situation. However, always keep an ear open, think of how you might be able to innovate your business around the next rage. And remember, there is a time to be bleeding edge, a time to be cutting edge and a time to wait until the rage has gone. So choose wisely and choose what best fits you.