Deep dive

Deep dive provides a detailed qualitative and quantitative analysis of how a specific issue can be expected to evolve over time.

The future is a multi-layered thing, a layered story of history, science and archaeology. Something is happening with a mix of popular science and popular culture that is more than a linear projection into the future, the unknown building on the known. Deep dives are stories and sub-stories which come from our life history, and from the culture in which we live but project our experiences forward with a mixture of evidenced forecasts, examination of underyling assumptions and projection of potential change.

Uses of the method

  • Critical and in-depth strategic thinking on future developments and possibilities.


  • Draws together all the previous research on the issue 
  • Full informs the reader of the issue
  • Draws together the emerging challenges that will affect an organization over a defined time horizon including potential game changers, discontinuities, and surprises
  • Identifies the key drivers for later analysis e.g. through scenario planning
  • Provides the evidence base for future discussions and decisions during and after the deep dive


  • Requires excellent writing, research and synthesis skills requiring external expert
  • Can be costly 
  • Time-consuming: most completed Deep-Dives take professionals around ten days of intense research and writing; non-professionals will take considerably longer

Steps to complete

  • Before writing your Deep Dive it is vital that you discuss and agree the key question to be answered about the issue. Do not start writing your Deep Dive until you are sure you have scoped the issue or you will potentially waste a lot of time or finish up with highly unsatisfactory answers.
  • Determine your writing style. We use the following style guide:
    - Business/ journalistic rather than research/ academic
    - 360 degree view of political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental potential future drivers of change - Story style:
    - balancing evidence and creative insight, in a process of disciplined imagination
  • - Direct, lively language - not passives
    - Not loaded with abstract nouns
    - Make EVERY word count
    - Business, so not too informal or dry
    - Explain any acronyms / abbreviations used
    - Interpretation of implications but NOT personal ‘I think’ piece

    - Not a personal rant but evidenced argument of what is happening out there
    - Offers strategic options and evaluates the robustness of options in relation to     potential futures
    - Develops and retains the potential for reflexive strategizing in organizations

    - Assists a particular organization to engage effectively with potential futures
  • Once the question is agreed begin by researching the issue adding evidence as Insights, Issues and Influencers and populating the template with your findings. Initially, this can be done in bullet-point form, much like an author would lay out the chapters and what will be included in each before putting pen to paper. This is a particularly  useful strategy if you are creating your Deep Dive in a workshop
  • Follow this example brief and associated PowerPoint courtesy of Health Canada to see what the finished product should look like
  • Populating the brief will be messy to start with as ideas and evidence belong in different places of the template. Concentrate on populating one field at a time but add material you come across to other fields in raw form until you reach them
  • Synthesize the key points keeping track of and noting your sources in the Deep Dive. and ensuring you are not plagiarizing others work. You should find the Further References here a great help in researching your Deep Dive
  • Every few hours tidy up your research findings into a more finished product, identify gaps to fill and close these through repeating the steps above
  • Leave the Summary and Forecasts to the last highlighting the fixed elements, critical variable, Unique insights and Conclusions described below as the key points to draw out of your research
  • Determine the fixed elements (almost certain hard trends) that will inform your strategic response: slow-changing phenomena e.g. demographic shifts, constrained situations e.g. resource limits, in the pipeline e.g. aging of baby boomers, inevitable collisions e.g. climate change arguments
  • Capture critical variables i.e. uncertainties, soft trends and potential surprises. Both these and the fixed elements will be key to creating scenarios and examining potential future paradigm shifts
  • Capture unique insight into new ways of seeing that can be utilized by the organization.
  • What conclusions can we draw from the exercise(s)?
    • How might the future be different?
    • How does A affect B?
    • What is likely to remain the same or change significantly?
    • What are the likely outcomes?
    • What and who will likely shape our future?
    • Where could we be most affected by change?
    • What might we do about it?
    • What don't we know that we need to know?
    • What should we do now, today?
    • Why do we care?
    • When should we aim to meet on this?
  • When you have written your near final Deep Dive use the De-bias method to check you have followed its guidance. Ask others to read your Deep Dive and to give you feedback through the De-bias tool too.

This method and your response can be shared with other members or kept private using the 'Privacy' field and through the 'Tag', 'Report' and 'Forum' functionalities. Use 'Tag' and/or 'Report' to aggregate your analyzes, or add a 'Forum' to ask others where they agree/disagree and encourage them to make their own analysis from their unique vantage point.

Click the 'Invite tab to send invitations to other members or non-members (colleagues, external experts etc.) to ask for their input. You can whether or not you want anonymous responses.  These can be viewed and exported within the Responses tab.

Further reference

Contact us
Even with all the advice and tools we have provided here starting a foresight project from scratch can be a daunting prospect to a beginner. Let us know if you need help with this method or want a group facilitation exercise or full project or program carrying out by us. We promise to leave behind more internal knowledgeable people who can expand your initiative for better organizational performance.

Contact us today for a free discussion on your needs.

Are there other enhancements or new methods you would like to see here? Let us know and we will do our best to respond with a solution quickly.

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