“You have to fail often in order to succeed sooner. “

Robert Cavorsi, Director of Energy Division at CME Wire & Cable Inc, once asked me: “Do you know what a Deep Dive is?”  My reply was quickly replied back “no” and so began my story of diving into the corporate sea of America. Deep Dive is a term that is coined as the combination of brainstorming, prototyping, and feedback loops merged into an approach that executives use with teams to help develop solutions.  Originally, it was developed by the IDEO group for rapid product development.  Now, the Deep Dive technique is widely and increasingly used for innovation not only in product development but process improvement and customer service strategies. The method used by IDEO was documented by Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer (of International Institute of Management Development (IMD) business school), who latterly further enhanced the process and sold the rights to Deloitte Consulting in 2006.


1) Process: Understand the market/ client/ technology and constraints (internal & External SWOT analysisPESTLE analysis and PRIMO-F analysis).  Observe real people in real situations.  Visualize new-to-the-world concepts and ultimate customers.  Evaluate and refine prototypes.  Implement new concept for commercialization.  Prototyping facilitates learning about the product, service or process.  Prototype multiple ideas on a small scale to demonstrate, build on something you can see, feel, and experience.  The purpose of market research is to engage end users and to immerse yourself in the associated product environment.

2) Organization: It lies on an organization with a flat structure focused on learning. No type-casting allowed.  Your culture needs to trust in team members where it is vital and central to this methodology.  Don’t always listen to the “boss.” Do the contrary! 

3) Culture

4) Leadership: The team leader only facilitates, they are not the expert. Their role is sole to coach the process, but not involved in ideas. This allows freedom. This process is consistent.  A strong leader needs access to ideas (creativity) and the ability to deliver results (risk taking).  Creativity is the ability to produce (unconventional) ideas and when we are facing difficult challenges, we need new ideas most.

Strategic thinking is defined as the generation and application of business insights on a continual basis to achieve competitive advantage.  It is different from strategic planning.  We can define strategic planning as the channeling of insights into an action plan to achieve goals and objectives.  Strategic thinking consists of 3 disciplines: acumen (which helps you generate key business insights), allocation (which focuses resources through trade-offs), and action (which requires executing a strategy to achieve goals).

The IDEO Process  can be broken down into 5 steps: understand and observe, synthesize, visualize, prototype,  and implement,  The scope of the project needs to be defined first when researching entering into a new market. Learn first-hand about people and contexts of use for the project.  Translating research insights into opportunities for design are key.  By creating visible and tangible experiences, you can improve design ideas by making them physical, so users can interact with them.

Step 1: Understand and Observe

Understand the market, the client, the technology, and the perceived constraints on the problem. Observe real people in real-life situations find out what makes them tick, what confused them, likes and dislikes, and latent needs not addressed by current products or services. Go to the source; not the “experts” inside an organization.  Inspiration comes from observation.  Start with a “what do you know” session.  Do an intense “state of the art” review.  Seeing and hearing things with your own eyes and ears is a critical first step in improving or creating a breakthrough product or service.  Focused observations of people are key.  New ideas come from seeing, smelling, and hearing-being there.  Good, insightful observation combines careful watching with occasional well-chosen “why” questions to get at the underlying psychology of a person’s interactions with products and services. (Do not use focus groups).  Often the most interesting insights come from the gap between what is said and what actually happens.  Observe people who break the rules rather than follow directions perfectly.

Step 2: Synthesize

All information from Step 1 is collected in the project room. This room becomes the key tool for translating the information into opportunities for design. Photographs, diagrams, and drawings are all mounted on the wall to prompt discussion and illustrate key insights. The room becomes a tool for sorting and recording the ideas that develop.

Step 3: Visualize

Be visual is a primary rule of IDEO brainstorming. Visualize new-to-the world concepts and the customers who will use them. Creating visible and tangible experiences is enhanced with computer based rendering, physical model, or prototypes.

Step 4: Prototype, evaluate, and refine

Prototypes shape your ideas. Prototyping is the shorthand of innovation.  A series of quick iterations (fail early and fail often, but learn from those failures.  Don’t get attached to the first, what counts is moving the ball forward, achieving some part of the goal, not wasting time).  Even prototype a bad idea.  There’s no stopping-you stop when you have to meet the deadline and get it out in the marketplace

Step 5: Implement

Design changes can be systemic or highly localized. Implementation is the longest phase and most technically challenging. Time to complete the above five steps could be from a few days to six months. Over the years IDEO has identified some important practices. These are:

  • Watch customers and noncustomers—especially enthusiasts.
  • Play with your physical workplace in a way that sends positive body language to employees and visitors.
  • Think “verbs” not “nouns” in your product and service.
  • Break rules and “fail forward” so that change is part of the culture, and little setbacks are expected.
  • Stay human, scaling your organizational environment so that there’s room for hot groups to emerge and thrive.
  • Build bridges from one department to another, from your organization to your prospective customers, and ultimately from the present to the future.


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