Week 100

After our 100th week, some reflection on coping with major changes, and a report on some events we’ve been attending.

Adaptation

Things have been changing around here, and we’re working on adapting to new conditions. It seems at times as if this September is far too busy a month to work in some rest and relaxation, and being so busy creates a hesitation and sometimes slight guilt towards properly switching off. However, as advocates of naps and work-life balance, we also realize that taking vacation, as Johannes and Igor are quite wisely doing this month, provides a good opportunity to reassess the situation, reset the mindset and approach work a couple weeks later with a more flexible, relaxed mind.

A mindset adjustment is definitely necessary, since we have less manpower, some organizational loose ends (“Who’s going to water the plants?” is among them), plenty of work to be doing, and questions about goals and direction. Some of our restructuring demands some rewiring of our internal communication. It can be surprising how much one variable alters the entire equation. No matter how well we all get along, when the line of command changes and even small teams are restructured, we have to relearn to a small extent what to expect of each other, when to ask things and when to try to work them out yourself, how to talk to each other so that everything is understood exactly the right way. Fortunately, getting along well makes it a lot easier to tweak things, and speaking openly and quickly about any concerns really helps.

Identity

Adapting to a changed system leads us to think even more about our identity as a company, and corporate identity in general. Circumstances are liable to change at any time. One might, for example, win the lottery and not want to work another day in one’s life, or one might simply change one’s mind and move on to something new, like antique restoration. For this reason, it helps to build a corporate identity based partially on the constituent personalities, and partially on the types and styles of work being performed, or the corporate mission. The personalities play an important role in that we, the members of the company, are people that clients and readers can identify with. This helps to create trust: We place our trust and respect in people more reliably than in companies. The work/mission component allows people to gauge to what extent our work could help their company, whether we share professional interests that would allow us to collaborate well on projects, etc. Examples of our work allow us credibility and authority on given topics.

An identity that consists of both these components is more resilient to inevitable change, since the solidity of one at any given point in time is insurance against change in the other. When one component begins to change, the company still can be identified as itself, and clients’/collaborators’/readers’ feelings towards it hopefully don’t have to be revised too much.

Johannes’ week in events

Johannes joined about 90 other so-called “influencers” on Thursday evening for an event called Zeitgeist Project, initiated by the UK event agency FreeState. They invited eight “curators” to give their perspective on current trends in consumer electronics (it was the evening before the IFA started). Among the curators where people like Richard Seymour and Simon Waterfall and Third Wave friends Bobbie Johnson and Kati Krause. The whole evening somehow felt pretty random in the sense that nobody seemed to really understand what it wanted. Johannes described it as a little over-produced and under-programmed. Some clarity about the purpose instead of too much eye (and ear) candy would have been nice.

On Friday morning, Johannes took part in a meeting, set up by Berlin Partner for the visit of a Finnish delegation from the Koulii project. It was an interesting morning of conversations around how to set up innovation projects in education and city neighborhoods.

Week 86

In which we think about growing, team dynamics and implicit values, and wrap up our May event marathon.

Growing pains (are sweet)

We’re about to grow, and quite significantly given our small team: With Maddie, we’ll have our first non-founder join us. As we three, as founders, are all employed by Third Wave as well, that makes her employee number 4, and as such the first real addition to the core team. Additionally, two trainees for VCCP are going to join us for six months, and we’ll have an intern join us from her home in California for two months over the summer. That brings us up to 7 people total, from 4 right now.

This is exciting, and we’re figuring out how best to prepare for the influx of smart team members. This goes from more lofty things like leadership questions down to the banal side of things, like ordering chairs and sorting out document folders.

Personally, I’m really curious to see how team dynamics change, how we can keep the information flow going strong without creating too much overhead, how to foster knowledge transfer without too much redundancy. It’s a good challenge to have, and we’re happy to take it on. We’re also all looking forward to discussing ideas in this larger round, and to figure out together how to make the best out of all the energy & capacity that we now have, combined.

Implicit values

We’ve always been thinking about values, and how to run a business. Keep in mind that one of the founding resolutions for Third Wave was to set up a sustainable, responsible business. I’m mentioning this because I just read about Etsy becoming a B-Corp, and there’s a lot in the blog post about Etsy’s values, neatly in bullet points. There’s always a bit of an inherent risk of sounding blasé or just corporate-y by trying to sum up something as big and rich as values in bullet points, but I think Matt & Co actually did a great job.

So Third Wave is built around some inherent, implicit values that we’ve always consciously avoided writing down. But let’s just say that building sustainable relationships instead of unnecessary upsell, top quality instead of scale, and openness instead of obscurity & lock-in are all somewhere close to the center of how we want to run this thing. Despite having never put down a “mission statement” or a “values” document, these things are always implicit in what we do.

Wrapping up Next12, Digitale Selbervermessung (#dise12) and Ignite Berlin

If you’d like to read up on how things went at Next12 and #dise12, you can now find some documentation online, namely a photo gallery and a brief wrapup of #dise12, and a growing archive of videos of Next12 talks and interviews. And if you missed the live event, all the Ignite Berlin talks are now available online.

What else?

Thursday, I had the honor of being invited as a guest to Prof. Faltin’s Labor für Entrepreneurship, a long-running series of interviews around entrepreneurship and related fields. Prof. Faltin interviewed three guests that night – Olympic bronze medal winner Ditte Kotzian, life & startup coach Jana K. Scharfschwerdt and me. Videos will be up on entrepreneurship.de soon.

On Friday, while Igor was on jury duty for the LeadAwards, the rest of us set up the projector to watch the berthing of the Dragon on NASA TV, which needless to say was awesome. We did so while I was having the Campusparty Europe team over, who are planning one heck of an event. (Hint: it’s going to include 10.000 geeks camping out on a former airport; robots; bio hacking; and lots of flying things.) I’m happy to report that we might get involved in one way or another. Once that was all set, together with our office buddy Matt we all sang the 2001 theme song while the ISS’ Canadarm connected with Dragon. In other words, just your normal Friday afternoon in the Makers Loft.

Week 83

Both last and this coming week are all about events. Why and how we organize conferences, as well as notes on some events we’ve visited and that we’re currently working on.

This week it’s all about events: The why, the how, as well as some things we’ve attended and that we’re planning. Let’s start at the beginning.

Cognitive Cities Photo: Cognitive Cities by Tam

Why we organize events

Running events is, on many levels, exhausting. There’s an inherent chaos, time pressure, financial restraints, strong communication needs and demands.

Running events is also, on just as many levels, rewarding. The dynamics, the joy of putting something together that matters to people, that helps build connections and fosters collaboration and inspiration, is tremendous. Maybe even a bit addictive.

As you might know, we tend to go with the latter of these two ways to look at things. But why do we put the effort in? Usually, our events are not for profit. We might break even or even turn a small profit, but usually and across events we usually just about even out, and that’s not counting our own time. So these events are a bit of an investment of sorts, and one we’re happy to make.

First, you get to know a whole lot of smart, interesting people. Speakers, participants and fellow organizers, there are many good folks to meet, and organizing events is a pretty smooth way to do it. Giving someone a chance to speak at a big stage can also really be a bit of a leg up for those who are relatively new to the game, and if they’re good at what they’re doing then everyone will be happy for them to get some stage time.

Second, it’s a fantastic way to get inside a topic you knew little about. Doing the research, finding the right speakers and having plenty of conversations along the way, putting together the program for a conference is like a fast track to become a (meta-level) expert for something. Being in the business of helping people understand emerging technologies and behavior changes, running events has turned out to be a perfect vehicle for us. At these events, we explore new topics and help spread ideas from innovators in one field to the early adopter crowd. Then, one step later, we help larger organizations to understand the changes these emerging topics trigger, and identify new business opportunities for them and ourselves.

Also, if somewhat more fluffy, it has the side effect of being invited to other great conferences and parties, and who are we to complain?

How we organize events

Over the last few years, all of us individually and collectively have been involved in all kinds of events, from Barcamps, TEDx and Ignite to larger stuff like our own Cognitive Cities Conference or Next. We did this either as lead organizers, as part of larger collectives, as curators or advisors. We also speak a lot at conferences, and attend even more. In other words, we breathe these kind of events. And so over the years, we’ve learned a few lessons.

These notes go particularly for small to mid-sized events and those with a low or very low budget. If you actually have a fundraiser and a full-time team to throw at organizing something, this might not be the right list for you. That said, what are the tricks, the nitty gritty of how to put together something memorable while working full-time on something else?

  • Keep it simple.
    Experimenting with formats is ok, but the easier the better. Simple food and drinks are the best solution as full-on catering tends to use up a fair bit of both budget and time to organize (after all, you’d want to pick the best caterer, sample the food, sort out logistics etc). Make sure to have plenty of vegetarian food, too, as chicken sandwiches aren’t the most exciting lunch. Use simple, self-service buffets if possible, or even just book lots of tables in nearby restaurants. Don’t try to be too artsy about the sign-up process. Simple rules, simple tools.
  • Curation is key.
    Selecting the very best speakers, as opposed to the biggest names, makes all the difference. Numbers don’t matter much: Five top notch talks beat ten big names any day. And always consider younger, less experienced but eager speakers too. While it can be a bit of a gamble, the chances of them delivering some unexpected, kick ass talk are good. We always try to go for a healthy mix of more experienced and less well-known, emerging speakers, and our experience so far has been great.
  • Treat your speakers like the rockstars they are.
    Particularly if someone agrees to speak for free at your not-for-profit event, they deserve the best, most personal and warm treatment you can possibly give them. Just alright isn’t good enough.
  • Not-for-profit is OK!
    If faced with the decision if you should go fully non-profit or try to make a few bucks along the way, opt for the free way. As the saying goes, either charge fully or work for free, never work for cheap. The same goes for conferences.
  • Form follows function.
    Things don’t have to be fancy to be great. Get your priorities straight: Do you want people to connect? Provide areas with comfortable chairs or sofas and snacks. Want the speaker presentations to get the full attention? Put up a bigger stage and a big screen. Want to reach as many people as you can? Make sure you have the best documentation you can afford.
  • Involve the sponsors.
    If you take on sponsors, make sure not to pick the one that would just throw some money into the pot. While that might sounds tempting, it’s a bad idea. You need partners who want to contribute, and who commit. If you pay attention, you’ll notice early on if a sponsor really wants to help build something great or if they just want their logo up on the screen. If need be, help coach their speakers.
  • Communicate clearly.
    I can’t stress this enough: Let everyone know at any time whatever relevant information they need. For speakers, this means clear travel arrangements early on. Participants need to know the logistics and confirmation they’re in, and what to expect. Your team members and volunteers need to know things, too: When to be where, who to call, how much time to set aside at which stage.

What we attended this week

Look back at the week, it’s conference week craze. Under the umbrella of Berlin Web Week, Republica (rp12) and Next joined forces and now basically serve as anchors to a whole slew of smaller web-related events all over town in the past and current week.

We all spent some time at Republica, one of Germany’s first “blogger conferences”, as it used to be called. It’s grown up to be one of the biggest web conferences in the country with some 3-4K participants. If there is one place and time to meet up with half the internet scene in Germany, this is probably it. Timed around Republica there were a bunch of parties, meetups and soirées one or two of us joined for a bit, which leaves us in dire need of a break. (Kidding, keep it coming.)

At Betapitch, as a member of the jury I got to enjoy a fantastic set of startup pitches at Betahaus. The overall level of pitches, the energy, vision and ambition of the presenting teams was great and contagious. It was a particular pleasure to see two teams I know and respect tie at the top, and share the price. Congratulations, Knowable and Somewhere.

So which events are we currently involved with?

Tuesday & Wednesday (8/9 May), Next12 is on. Having put together three tracks as curators, we’re all looking forward to meeting face to face with the speakers and to learn how the audience enjoys our pick.

Friday & Saturday (11/12 May), the Quantified Self-inspired (free and in German) event Digitale Selbstvermessung (sign up here) should be good. With a maximum of 100 participants it’s much more intimate than Republica and Next, so that should be a nice change of pace.

A week later (23 May) Ignite Berlin will bring us an evening of quickfire talks, and I’m really looking forward to this one. We’ll have a speaker list up on the site soon.

Meet you soon, at an event near you.

Event: Digitale Selbstvermessung – Leben nach Maß?

Together with Hybrid Plattform, we organize an event around the idea of the Quantified Self: “Digitale Selbstvermessung – Leben nach Maß?” The event will be held 11/12 May 2012 in Berlin.

Gemeinsam mit der Hybrid Plattform, dem Ort für transdisziplinäre Projekte der TU Berlin und UdK Berlin, veranstalten wir am 11. und 12. Mai 2012 ein Symposium mit anschließenden Workshops zum Thema Mensch und Datensammlung in den EIT ICT Labs in Berlin.

Aus der Ankündigung der Hybrid Plattform:

Mit jedem verkauften Smartphone gewinnt die Thematik der Selbstvermessung und Selbsterfassung an Relevanz und an Brisanz. Es handelt sich dabei um die eigenständige Erhebung und den Vergleich von Zahlen um Körper-, Gesundheits- und Lebensdaten mit Hilfe von digitalen Geräten. Die Anhänger der Quantified Self-Bewegung sind davon überzeugt, dass die Analyse von humanen Daten wie Schlafzeiten, Blutdruck usw. jedem Einzelnen hilft, sein Leben zu verbessern. Die weit verbreitete Bewegung hat weitreichende Auswirkungen, und zwar nicht nur auf den Einzelnen.

Das Symposium am ersten sowie Workshops am zweiten Veranstaltungstag beleuchten die Thematik Mensch und Datensammlung aus den unterschiedlichsten Blickwinkeln: Welche Daten kann man sammeln und was ist daran ablesbar? Was passiert mit den Daten? Welche gesellschaftlichen und wirtschaftlichen Auswirkungen hat das Sammeln der Daten? Welche Entwicklungen dieser Technologie zeichnen sich ab? Welche humanen Wissenschaften werden in welcher Tiefe eingebunden?

Diese Fragen möchte die Veranstaltung gewohnt transdisziplinär und hybrid angehen, um durch die produktive Kollisionen neue Erkenntnisse für unsere Zukunft abzuleiten.

Wenn wir Sie auf dem Laufenden halten sollen, können Sie sich hier eintragen. Wir behandeln alle Daten vertraulich und nutzen sie ausschließlich, um weitere Hinweise direkt zu dieser Veranstaltung zu senden.

Hybrid Symposium Digitale Selbstvermessung

  • Datum: 11.05.2012 14:00–18:00
    12.05.2012 10:30–14:30
  • Location: Co-location Center, EIT ICT Labs, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, 10587 Berlin Die Teilnahme ist gratis.
  • Konferenzsprache: deutsch

Please note that the event will be held predominantly in German, thus the German-only announcement. If you don’t speak German but would like to attend, feel free to drop me a line and we’ll see what we can do.

Quantified Self @ Hybrid Plattform

With our good friends over at Hybridplattform, we are planning an event around the Quantified Self. While we are working out the details, let us know if you want to contribute.

With our good friends over at Hybrid Plattform, we are planning an event around the Quantified Self. While we are working out the details, here’s the basic deal:

Date: 11/12 May 2012 Location: Berlin Price: Participation will be free (you might have to buy some workshop supplies) Primary language: German, with some English talks

To gauge interest, it’d be great if you let us know in the Google form below if you’re interested to participate, and in what role:

Week 67

While we finished last the last year with a brief break and recharged our batteries, this year starts with a flurry of activities.

While we finished the last year with a brief break and recharged our batteries, this year starts with a flurry of activities.

As Igor and Johannes are heads-down working on a big presentation later this week, I had the chance to put a little time into a research/forecasting experiment. At this point, we’re gathering input from a few friends and colleagues. Too early to go into details, except to say: A big thank you to our participants! More on that when we have more.

Newsletters

Last week, Igor hinted at a premium newsletter we’ve been working on. We’ve been getting quite a bit of interest and valuable feedback over the last week. Seems like there’s quite some demand for “executive summary”-style digests that give a brief overview while putting emergent developments into context. Especially in larger corporations this kind of overview is essential: Those in charge need to process huge amounts of information on a daily basis, and are expected to always be on top of things. “Glanceable” information that makes it easy to decide if skimming is enough or if you need to dig in can help people be better at their job.

Interestingly, one of the big questions here isn’t so much the content, but rather if you’d better go with a one-size-fits-all newsletter or a highly customized one. After all, the economics of these two models differ vastly. We’ll keep iterating on this.

Speaking of newsletters, you can also get this blog (weeknotes + weekly reading recommendations) delivered straight to your inbox. We see more and more people signing up, so it seems worth pointing out once more. (Sign up here.)

Events

A brief update on two events. One, we’re finalizing the speaker lists for Next Berlin, where Igor and I each curate a track. No names before the Next team announces them, but I can tell you that I’m very excited about the upcoming line-up. Two, there’s a Quantified Self event on the horizon. We’ve been working with a great partner on this, so once we’ve locked down the details, you’ll be the first to know. So keep an eye on our blog and our tweets at @thirdwaveberlin.

Interviews

It seems that interest in self-tracking, the so-called Quantified Self, isn’t waning anytime soon. Just a couple of weeks ago, dradio Kultur interviewed us about how and why more and more people track their behavior. Last week another journalist prepared a radio feature on the Quantified Self and how this trend might impact society and the individual. We really enjoy these interviews and practically use them as sparring practice. While we look forward to hearing the result, we’ve also been asked to write a couple pieces on this subject that should be out soon. We’ll provide links once we get them.

Congratulations, Gidsy!

Sharing an office, we’ve had the chance to see Gidsy grow from idea to company to final product, and now we get to see them move on to the next level. Over the weekend, Gidsy announced their first big round of funding. Yes, Ashton Kutcher is among the investors. This is a huge step for any young startup. Edial, Floris, Philipp and the whole Gidsy crew: We couldn’t be happier for you guys. Congratulations! Next step: World domination. Definitively keep an eye on these guys. Or even better, go to their website right now book an activity.