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Deep diving for innovation

By Bill Eggers - October 18, 2011

Bzi_col_glb_ve_1036_low[1]You work for the government and you have to build from scratch a dashboard that measures innovation in your agency. Never mind that your government probably hasn’t even developed a comprehensive system of innovation. Oh, did we mention that you have less than a day to do it?

Welcome to the 2011 Victoria Public Service (VPS) DeepDiveTM innovation workshop. Here, innovators from the Victoria Public Service (VPS)—and earlier in the week the Australian federal government--gathered to design systems that gauge whether their innovation efforts were delivering results. And with that one-day timeframe, it wasn’t going to be easy.

That’s where Deloitte’s DeepDiveTM comes in. An approach for rapid brainstorming and problem solving, DeepDiveTM has been used hundreds of times by Deloitte to help companies, governments, and nonprofits innovate. DeepDiveTM enables teams to create breakthrough solutions in a dramatically shorter time than conventional problem-solving approaches.

But getting the hang of DeepDiveTM prototyping takes some practice. To get their feet wet, teams were told to create a game using any of the materials on their table—dice, game boards, bubbles, string, etc. In 10 minutes.

In a blink of an eye, time was up. Now it was time for the first frenzy. Their game was tested by participants from other tables who suggested improvements. After more refinement and another round or two of frenzying, participants voted on the best game.

This same frenzied activity ensued when participants moved on to developing their dashboard prototypes. Ideas flowed, were debated, and revised as each group tried to sell their prototype—from measuring the diversity of various stakeholder groups to feedback loops that determined the extent an idea was replicated by others.

Teams brainstormed and debated the best ways to assess how and if government departments were reaching out externally for innovations. One team even developed an entire system for measuring the ripple effect of an idea, from impact on productivity to outcomes and externalities.

Developing complex dashboards, in one day, that offer concrete measurement of something as elusive as innovation may sound like crazy talk. But it works. Because DeepDiveTM is not just about getting things done fast. It’s about energizing people, challenging them. Asking them to give you the seemingly impossible—and then getting it.

In the end, an energized group of public service employees, together with their partners in the private and not-for-profit sectors, took months of work and managed to condense it into less than a day. That’s what DeepDiveTM does. What can it do for you?

You can see the Victoria DeepDiveTM in action, in this short video produced by the Victoria Department of Premier and Cabinet’s office.

About the Victorian Public Service Innovation Action Plan: The Innovation Action Plan was launched in November 2009. The Plan focuses on creating connections, and on developing skills and culture, which support and encourage greater innovation in the Victorian Public Service. To learn more please visit the Victoria Department of Premier and Cabinet’s office innovation site.


William D. Eggers is the Executive Director of Deloitte’s Public Leadership Institute and the Global Director for Deloitte Research-Public Sector. Simon Townsend is a Manager with Deloitte Australia’s innovation group.

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