Building connections for serendipity

The whole notion of serendipity is just marvelous. You cannot, by definition, plan for serendipity. We believe it’s possible to foster and embrace serendipity. This is core to our work. Also, we always ask ourselves how we can add value.

The whole notion of serendipity is just marvelous. You cannot, by definition, plan for serendipity. Yet, we believe it’s possible to foster and embrace serendipity. This is core to our work.

When asked what we offer to clients, that’s almost a loaded question as it asks primarily: What can we book you for? Which really means, What can you invoice us for? There’s another aspect to that question, though, that I think should be asked more often. How can you add value to what we do? There’s a world of difference between the two.

One aims at booking a certain skill for a certain task, with a clear expectation of what should be done and how. The other is much more open-ended, explorative. It operates on the assumption that if you put the right people in a room, something good will happen for everybody. We believe in that approach. It is centered around serendipity.

So when we get asked what services we offer, we say something along the lines of our about page:

We develop strategies and ideas for the digital world and are part think tank, part agency and part business consultancy. Our expertise comprises the fields of strategy development, innovation consulting, marketing & public relations and social media & social business.

This is true, and helps our potential clients fit us into a certain professional grid/model/raster.

What I believe is the answer to that second question, the open-ended, serendipity-embracing one, is this:

At the core of our our work is a holistic understanding and serendipitous thinking. This allows us to draw on expertise in various fields and apply it in many, often unexpected ways and contexts.

This is why sometimes we curate conferences, publish reports or forecasts, or work with startups to improve their products.

As you notice, this doesn’t really describe what we do, but how we do things. It’s our mental model, that we believe is solid and highly productive. The output, however, can take many different shapes or forms, depending on context and needs: It could be one of the professional services mentioned in the first answer. Or, and that’s what I’m aiming at here, it could be that we find a completely different way of adding value. Maybe we can help give your product a “social” overhaul, maybe we run a workshop or do some research for you, maybe we can provide you with some interesting sources or connect you with the right talent. To paraphrase Clinton’s classic election campaign slogan: It’s the context, stupid!

Instead of going very narrow and deep, a strong vertical, we look through a wide-angle lense and look at three things. Connections: Who and what should be involved? Implications: What will this mean for all players involved? And patterns: Is this part of some bigger trend?

It works for us. Maybe it works for you, too. Be that as it may – the next time you hire someone or are hired by someone, try it out. Just ask that other question. Ask how they, or you, can add value to whatever is going on right there. You won’t be disappointed.

So, in summary, here are three rules of thumb we try to follow in what we do:

  • Think in connections, patterns and implications!
  • Allow and seek a wide range of influences and inputs!
  • Foster and embrace serendipity!

Author: Peter

Peter is a digital strategist who enjoys connecting people, insights and ideas. Before founding Third Wave he worked as a freelancer with clients like ARTE, Wolters Kluwer, Bertelsmann Stiftung, Google, SPD, Tumblr and several public broadcasters. He organized events like TEDxKreuzberg, atoms&bits and Likemind. Peter holds masters degrees in Communications and Media from Freie Universität Berlin (MA) and The University of Sydney (MMP). Peter has lived in Berlin, Sydney and Washington, DC.

One thought on “Building connections for serendipity”

  1. I think this mental model makes sense to us (marketing and social media professional) guys. But what you have to consider is that many businesses have multiple audiences/dialog partners for different departments (vs. connections), less knowhow (vs. implications) and are driven by short-term success (vs. serendipity and/or trends). This it what makes it hard to establish your steps in daily work, isn´t it?

    But no matter what the answer is: Adding value to any project should be the first goal in every step you are as a professional.

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