5 things innovators can learn from the world of diving

Written on 8 June 2016

Everywhere we look, we are seeing how new digital operating models are challenging existing businesses. It is no longer just about technology, business improvements or automation. Looking the under your bonnet is no longer good enough. Real innovation must start with immersion, and unsurprisingly there is a lot we can learn from deep-sea divers. 

Immersion is key to transform business systems and software design. Without the right tools, approach and discipline the results of work and efforts will ultimately fail.  Lack of immersion is easy to spot. No week goes by without me talking to at least one company that failed to immerse and deeply understand their customers. These companies suffer from poor user adoption, additional costs to redesign their software and failure to adapt to changes in their competitive environment. In contrast, other companies are getting it right.

So what can we learn from diving?

For many years I have been a keen scuba diver. I have dived in many seas and oceans across several continents. In a strange way, the only close sporting comparison to diving is that of skiing with the realisation that you are a visitor in a different environment where the awe of nature makes you appreciate the small part you play. The amazing diving experience has evolved considerably; technology and techniques have changed considerably to help aid the immersive experience. 

As part of a team of UX design consultants working with clients, I can see multiple parallels to the wonderful world of diving. It is important that my team really understand the environment, becoming familiar with the terrain and immersing themselves deeply into the lives of customers.

1. Evolve your tools

Many pioneers got killed before sleek, usable and accessible equipment became today’s norm.

As a diver, there are some basic equipment needs that help to ensure you enjoy the experience and although still a visitor, are able to operate seamlessly as part of the surroundings. The same can be said of the way to operate within the UX world. The tools in our case could be as simple as a good analytical mind, a pencil and paper (coupled with industry knowledge and insight into the evolving research and techniques). 

2. Live and breathe

The air cylinder/ tank is key to allowing a diver to live and breathe beneath the waves.  UX design teams also have to live and breathe within the surroundings or environment of their clients. Without breathing with regularity throughout an engagement the environment is only partially understood.

The tank also gives the diver timing. Like a consultancy project, there is a finite time either before the tank is re-filled or you run out of air.  It is important to know why the timeframe is in place and what can be achieved within that timeframe as a result.

3. Plan the dive

It is important to remember the old adage. “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Consultants need to assess which obstacles could flag potential dangers, and get to the real route of approach starting with information gathering. In a similar way, divers need to examine the area they are going to dive, looking for dangers and currents that could take them off course. For businesses, stakeholders pulling in different directions or having different agendas are similar to currents pulling you into an abyss. Preparation and understanding are key for both.

 4. Keep learning

As a diver it is important to record what has been seen – whether it be the detail of aquatic animals and plants or the topography of the environment you have visited.  A UX design consultant needs to record the engagement methodologically so the output of the engagement can be noted, analysed, presented and referenced for the future. These learnings are used to continually improve performance and deliverables. 

In the case of Tobias & Tobias, this is not our rookie season. There are not many areas of front-end design and strategy road mapping that we have not encountered in the world of Banking, Asset, Wealth Management and Insurance. Our consultants are the best in the game. No one does a better deep dive, navigating the currents and obstacles that may surface in the path of the user. We are not complacent and our team is constantly alert and aware of the dangers or obstacles that may come to us as part of a project.

5. Take the plunge

Designing more usable and better experiences is now in everyone’s lexicon and agenda. If you are serious about transforming the experiences that your customers have and create a real competitive advantage then you need to adopt an approach that is based on deep immersion, deep actionable insights and a methodical approach to innovation. 

If you haven’t been diving, what are you waiting for? It is an amazing world to be part of.  PADI Gold star resorts are the world’s best diving centres with equipment that is checked and rechecked with the best diving experts to take you on that journey.

Enjoy the dive!

[Hero Image by Talia Cohen on Unsplash]

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