It’s the 3rd of October as I’m writing this, a national bank-holiday in Germany to celebrate our unification. The meaning of this day has gotten much more depth for me since I’ve moved to Berlin. The changes for this city brought about by East and West Germany coming back together is part of my daily life. I cross the former border on my commute each day. It’s a constant reminder of the impossible things that became reality, nevertheless. What a great motivation to get to work in this city.
Two years ago, October 3rd was a Sunday. I remember vividly because the next day, I would meet up with Igor and Peter in Mitte to visit a notary about the founding of a company. Igor still makes fun of me for wearing a blazer to the appointment. What can I say, it felt right to dress up for the occasion. It was the boldest move I’ve ever made in my life. It’s amazing how you can be both scared and excited at the same time. That mashup of feelings never really went away.
And here we are: two years later. Not only did we make it this far, we have a great track record to look back on. I rarely use the word ‘pride,’ but I’m really proud of the work we did with our wide variety of clients. And I’m really proud of all the projects and events we’ve been involved in. I’m very grateful for all the inspiring people we had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with.
Usually we use these anniversary posts to provide some numbers about our business. But I want to take this one in another direction and reflect upon what’s at the heart of Third Wave.
When we set out to do our own thing with Third Wave, it was out of reaction to the work and the companies we’d been involved with before. We saw so many problems and possibilities to improve in our industries that we were tired of just complaining. We guessed that the only real way to change something was to do it ourselves. The thing is that we didn’t exactly know what the right way was. But we understood consciously or subconsciously that the only way to find out is to try and iterate our way to something new.
If I learned one thing in the last two years, then it’s that you have to be moving when you want to discover something new.
We could have spent years just planning, brainstorming and preparing and wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. By being in the middle of it all, the work, the industry, the media, the challenges of our clients, we gained a much deeper understanding. Trial and error truly is the way to move to the next level. Our proximity to the startup scene, where ‘the pivot’ is the buzzword du jour, might have helped with that insight.
What we’re good at
This is also the reason why we remained a bit fuzzy about what we exactly do with Third Wave. We were still finding out and still are today. But after two years, we got a much better understanding of what is needed and what we can provide. And as we have started to realize, the thing that made it hard to communicate the exact offerings of this company, the being torn between being an agency and being a consultancy, between social media and a bigger perspective, between strategy and execution, the not wanting to be part of just one box, all of this is actually our biggest asset.
We are at our best when we can work in the big gray area between the lines, between departments, fields of expertise, silos. When a client is not sure if she should hire an agency or a business consultancy, if she needs a Facebook page or to involve her employees better, if she wants to make a recent market report, if she’s not even sure what exactly the problem is that she’s facing right now and how to approach it, that’s when we excel.
As described in a recent week note, some weeks ago I helped an agency with a large pitch. But instead of providing just some strategy work, I was able to come with a new tool that helped to bring the account-, strategy- and creative departments together and collaborate much more closely. It was a small revolution for the agency and like these agencies like to do, they gave the tool its own name and logo and are now selling it as a unique proposition to their clients.
It’s a typical example of something that nobody had the mandate to do because it was outside the established structures. It needed a holistic mindset from the outside to see the elephant in the room and to come up with a practical solution.
A b2b client asked us to provide a social media strategy. After analyzing the target group and the company’s unique expertise, we came up with a solution that is a wild mashup of publishing, mobile and social that makes much better use of the in-house capabilities and the current target group’s current views on social. It also features a long-term approach that will help the company to build on it for the next years. It will help them to remain the market- and innovation-leader in their field.
Throughout the last two years, we have discovered that there are not a lot of others who seem to be able to provide this sort of consulting that we do. So we’re starting to embrace the fuzziness, the grey areas and the left-field approaches or as Dan Hill puts it
move freely across disciplines rather than within them, reveling in the complexity of a more holistic understanding of the system.
Because this is where we feel at home. And this is where we think that a lot of new solutions will need to come from. As an industry and as a society, we’re constantly facing new, extreme challenges. Too often, the solution is just a quick fix, dismissing the context of the problem. That goes for digital disruptions as much as the Euro crisis.
As Einstein said so well
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
So the next time someone says to me “I don’t understand what Third Wave is doing.” I will say “Exactly, and the next time you have a problem that you can’t get your head around, give us a call.”
Here’s to the next two years. We’ve seen nothing yet …