IMD International

Mega Diving into the next dimension of learning

A new process of refining and evolving ideas in order to develop insights that can make a difference 

How much can one remember after an executive learning program? How many concepts can be recalled and directly implemented after a development course? While we’d like to think a ton, statistics on the subject suggest our brains are limited in their ability to retain information, no matter how much we’d like to keep and use it.

As far back as 1885 when Hermann Ebbinghaus brought forward the concept of a forgetting curve, numerous psychologists and learning specialists have studied the area and all with similar results – the speed at which we forget is astonishing with somewhere between 70 -80% of information forgotten after just one day of learning.

But IMD intends to break the mould on that concept. With the right executive program, optimized for real results, we can offer more. That’s why IMD’s Orchestrating Winning Performance program in Singapore incorporated an interactive and high-energy Mega Dive as a full day program finale.

“It was the perfect close to a very intensive build-up of knowledge during the program,” said Elena Gil Lafarga, Chief Financial Officer at Daimler Group Services in Madrid. “The Mega Dive was something new to me and it reinforced the messages of what we learned during the week, allowing possibilities to better interchange different views and to develop on the emotion, motivation and human aspects surrounding business ideas.”

“We are enhancing the learning environment to put what is theory and concept into action. Not only will participants leave with inspiration and knowledge about today’s business environment, they will also gain tangible ideas and a tool they can use back at the office,” said OWP Program Director Mike Wade of the Mega Dive.

Crash course – What is a Mega Dive?

Flipcharts, iPads, markers, post-its, stickers, Legos™, pins, scissors, string and more – like a giant lab for idea creation, these are the tools scattered across numerous tables for generating innovative new ideas.  
A Mega Dive is a giant team approach to developing solutions to challenges or opportunities by combining brainstorming and prototyping. And, with over 120 business executives taking part in the OWP Singapore dive, the concepts they brought forward focused on numerous challenges designed to re-invent management and organizations to make them fit for the 21st century. Hierarchical mobility, holistic performance, human to human communication, creating diversity, job rotation, and corporate objectives were among the key words scattered around the group’s flipcharts.

“The Mega Dive takes learning to a different dimension,” said IMD Professor Cyril Bouquet who first created and orchestrated Mega Dives for a number of IMD clients prior to bringing this process live at OWP. “By mixing people from different industries with different challenges and perspectives on the same issues, we are able to test and refine ideas and turn them into workable solutions. It’s amazing to feel the creative energy and passion these dive evoke.”

In preparing for the Mega Dive, participants selected among leadership topics of interest for their business and were divided into groups accordingly. But the groups didn’t have the luxury of being stationary for too long. In chaotically organized ‘frenzies,’ the groups scattered and inter mixed to propose their ideas, get feedback and even vote for the best ideas.

“It was interesting to talk with others not related to the same businesses. We were able to take very wide ideas at the beginning, reiterate and narrow them down,” said Davide Rossi, CEO of the startup GoGo World based in Japan. “Ideas evolved throughout the process and in the end we found something I think very close to what we could use in business.”

How cool is it? How feasible is it?

The spirit of the Mega Dive involves taking ideas and putting them through a brainstorm machine. First, after an idea is formed, a group evaluates its value using the criteria listed above. Next, the idea is further worked with your peers and then again with the peers of your peers to get their views. And still you haven’t yet finished. The fun part begins now as you evolve your ideas a few more times based on later cycles of feedback you get! With assigned listeners, moderators and seven professors engaged, the Mega Dive places a big part of its success on the live interaction it creates among participants.

At IMD, we believe a good idea is the product of a good conversation” said Bouquet. “The mega dive is in itself a process that structures and facilitates the emergence of good conversations among people. We get them to confront different viewpoints and collaborate very quickly on the search for ideas. That’s how we leverage the power of the collective.”

“Getting the groups together and moving made for an intense energy boost around topics that we often tend to find very challenging,” said Wade. “In being forced to cooperate and advance under the pressure of a stopwatch, we put people in situations where they had to act rationally and take from many lessons given in prior days of the program.”

Beyond idea generation and innovation, the Mega Dive also deepened connections made during OWP.

“The Mega Dive really projected on how we look at different behaviors and allows us to see the personality of the brain. Each person thinks in the context of their own thoughts and words and everyone in fact makes sense. We just have to redefine ideas so they make sense to a larger collective,” said Nada Borisly, an analyst for executive performance at Kuwait Petroleum Company. “The entire experience was helpful to bond with other participants and really solidified the networking that was done during the program.”

“What we got here was an approach that presents successful proven results,” said Ibis Reynolds, Director of Human Resources at Aggreko. “By refining an idea to connect the dots, I see the Mega Dive approach would work for my business.”

The origins of the dive

The learning process during a dive is the result of two dimensional thinking, divergent and convergent. It reinforces process, organization, culture and leadership. Participants are agents of their own learning and champions of their results.

While the large scale Mega Dive may be a first for the OWP program, Professor Bouquet designed this collaborative methodology to engage big groups of executives in large corporations. The first mega dive was run late 2014 with 650 executives from the French railway SNCF – as they collectively decided to envision a new future for their organization. Other mega dives were then run with Stora Enso, UBS, and the Thai Ministry of Commerce.

And the dive concept itself has even deeper roots in IMD. In fact it scales up a process that was first developed in part by an IMD team of which Professor Bill Fischer was a member, which took the IDEO design methodology and applied it directly to addressing managerial challenges.

While Professor Fischer and his colleagues have conducted countless deep-dives in his teaching, seeing it done effectively on such a large scale was testament to a new dimension of learning and one that puts innovation at the forefront.  

“Innovation is something that is no longer an option for business and innovation can utilize processes such as this to serve as catalysts for generating better ideas,” said Professor Fischer.

“What’s most fantastic is that Mega Dives require no investment and no permission. Anyone who is familiar with the process can engage it to better their hunt for ideas and workable solutions. I’m confident that everybody who finished the dive at OWP Singapore is capable to initiate it again with their own colleagues and partners,” Fischer added.

After running such a large scale brainstorm at OWP, one thing is certain, taking a Mega Dive today means going to new business depths tomorrow.

Learn more about IMD’s Orchestrating Winning Performance program, follow on Twitter at #imdgloballeaders or check out OWP pictures on IMD's flickr account.

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