Buzzwords: Deep Dive

Back Article Apr 19, 2018 By Eva Roethler

/dēp dīv/, adj.

To perform an extensive analysis of a subject or problem.

For those who remain slightly mystified upon hearing “deep dive” during a meeting, here’s a quick primer: IDEO, an early Silicon Valley consulting firm known for creating the original Apple computer mouse, popularized its complete immersion approach to design in a 1999 segment of ABC’s Nightline called “The Deep Dive.” In the episode, Nightline challenged IDEO to “reinvent the shopping cart,” and featured the frenzied team’s exhaustive analysis of shopping cart designs to demonstrate IDEO’s unique methodology.

In 2006, the firm’s approach was documented and trademarked into DeepDive, a methodology by Deloitte Consulting, with a five-step process: understand the issue and constraints, observe real people in real situations, visualize new-to-the-world strategies, evaluate and refine the strategy and implement.

The Buzz

Today, “deep dive” has evolved away from its branded roadmap and into an eponym for robust, immersive analysis. “I don’t think it’s that specific of a term, or that prescriptive of a term,” says Jonathan Kaufman, co-founder and principal of Third Plateau, a consulting firm that regularly uses both the term and the technique when creating strategic plans for clients.

“You see a lot of organizations use it to try to impress other organizations or funders or partners,” Kaufman says. “I think they use it as a way to give themselves credibility rather than going and doing the work to understand what’s there.”

Essentially, this means businesses patting themselves on the back for merely grasping a single, often obvious element of their product or service. For example, he says, a “deep dive” into audience analysis shouldn’t yield basic stats on age, gender or geography, but a holistic profile of who buys a product, their motivations, points of access and beyond.

The Word

“A deep dive is a pretty comprehensive exploration of a topic, usually in a team setting,” Kaufman says. He explains that in the consulting world, a deep dive involves examination from a variety of angles with the goal of comprehensive understanding. “Anytime you are about to invest a fair amount of resources in something, it’s good to do a deep dive to understand it,” he adds.

Deep dives are best utilized for the analysis of a multifaceted issue, when a shallow analysis won’t do. According to Kaufman, it involves “understanding the issues at play, the context around it, the various players involved, the levers driving it one way or another and the trends surrounding it.”

The key to a deep dive is rooting out potential keys or patterns that might be easily overlooked via a standard analysis.

“You can do an analysis without it being a deep dive, but a deep dive is always an analysis,” Kaufman says.