Week 61: Developing Strategies

How to develop a strategy with the help of mindmaps and whitewalls, the difficulty of teaching community management and our well received series on the Quantified Self.

A strategy emerges

After finishing up our initial research project for our biggest client, we’re now deep into the main strategy work. A lot of insights and ideas have been created and it’s now time to bring order to the chaos of our material to develop a strategy that can be the basis for the next years.

At this stage, I like to get going with a big, fat mindmap. My mind comes up with all kinds of thoughts and little ideas, but never in the right order. So I can either try to focus on the part of strategy I should be working on right now and throw all the irrelevant stuff that belongs to other parts out the window. Or I can embrace the weirdness of my mind and just capture everything that it spits out into a mindmap that makes it really easy to restructure everything all the time.
I’m not a big fan of first creating a structure and then trying to fill it. My brain just doesn’t work like that. I prefer to capture all the stuff that comes to mind and then start to sort through it all. I want to discover the structure that emerges out of the material, rather than pressing the material into a prefabbed frame. I use tools like frameworks only afterwards to test the structure and see if I’ve missed something.

My favorite mindmapping tool is mindmeister. It’s a web app that also allows my colleagues to review and enhance my maps. mindmeister has done a remarkable job, especially with their latest version. They also provide apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. I’m a happy paying customer.

After capturing all the material in a mindmap, I make several runs at organizing it. What helps me at this stage, is putting the major topics and ideas on our office walls with the help of “magic paper”. It’s much easier to spot the red threads when I can take a few steps back and look at the whole picture. It’s the opposite of diving deep into a mindmap branch to flesh out a detail. The walls with the ideas are also super helpful when I’m discussing them with Peter and Igor. At this point I’m so deep into it all that I often can’t see the forrest for the trees. Two of us reflecting back on what the third has worked on, is one of the biggest joys of working together. It always takes us to a new level.

So there you have it. Mindmaps, white walls with magic paper and smart colleagues are the secret to my strategy work.

DDA Community Management Lecture

I spent last Thursday in Hamburg to teach a four hour lecture about community management at the dda. It always feels a bit strange to teach these kind of topics as it seems like there’s not really an agreed upon way to do Community Management or other topics in Social Media. And it’s all changing constantly. So my approach is to teach the mindset of how to approach social media. I talk much more about passion for communicating than how to choose one software over another. My hope is always that the audience will understand that a professional involvement in the social web is about constant learning and experimenting, driven by enthusiasm. Especially community management can be a very exhausting task that will sometimes make you lose your faith in humanity. If you just see it as your current job that pays the bills, you will fail and burn out inevitably. But if you discover your fervor for it, it can be a very fulfilling work.

The Quantified Self series

It took us by surprise how well our series on the Quantified Self has been received so far. We’ve gotten a lot of nice feedback which definitely has encouraged us to keep going and write more about the topic. Last Wednesday, Peter and I have been interviewed for a show on that topic on Deutschlandradio Kultur. It’s always very cool to get asked some smart questions that make you think beyond the stuff that you already have on your mind. We can’t wait to hear the results on air.

#FatSIX and coffee

As we’re heading into this christmas season, we’ve decided to postpone our official Friday afterwork drinks #FatSIX until spring as it’s much more difficult to bring a lot of people together when you can’t stand outside. But that doesn’t mean that we will stop having drinks with friends and acquaintances throughout the winter. If you want to come by for a coffee or would like to join us for some drinks after work, just ping us. If we can make it, we’re always happy to join.

Week 57

An apprenticeship with VCCP Berlin, more work for NEXT12, an update on our work for Postbank and more in this week note.

Hello there. Thanks for tuning in. In case you don’t follow our blog on a regular basis, we had two bigger announcements last week.

Apprenticeship with VCCP Berlin

First off, we have teamed up with our friends at VCCP Berlin to create a new form of apprenticeship for young strategists. The demand for talent is enormous, especially in digital communications. Strategists with the perfect mix of well-trained skills and in-depth experience are almost impossible to find. The hope is with the younger talents that are well-educated but still lack the hands-on experience. That’s where we come in. In our joint project with VCCP, we help them find and hire a rookie strategist. For 50% of her time in the first months, the person will work with us while we show her the ropes and get her up to speed. The other 50% the person will spend at VCCP, getting into the clients and projects, she will be working on full-time later. Instead of sending someone to some evening seminars or master programs, we think that our approach is more effective for real-world experience and practical skills. We’ll soon find out if it will stand our own expectations. The details including the job description are here.

NEXT12

After hosting the social media track at NEXT11 this year, we’re stepping it up a notch for NEXT12. We will be hosting two tracks and none of them will be the social media one. We’re going for the more experimental stuff this time and will, again, bring some fresh faces and ideas to Berlin that will – you know it – distribute the future more evenly.

Gidsy is live

Our good friends and office neighbors Gidsy have been designing and coding the nights away for the last few months. Last week, they finally draw back the curtain for the world to see their ‘market place of experiences’. And they’re getting some well deserved attention for it.

Postbank

We’re in the middle of our initial research phase with our most recent client. Like Peter mentioned last week, we’re having a great time diving deeper into this company and the internal setup. It not only gives us a much better starting point for developing a strategy but also all the interviews with the stakeholders help to create a closer relationship right form the start. The interviews are not only a good way for us to learn about the company, they are also a good opportunity for the stakeholders to get to know us better and build some trust in our work.

Social Media Keynote

A keynote I gave a couple of weeks ago at the Social Media Convention in Zurich has gotten some attention for our approach to social media. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the video here (in German).

Traveling

Igor just landed in New York to spend a couple of days with meetings and coffee dates before he flies on to San Francisco for Science Hack Day. Peter is in London for the Mozilla Festival and Internet Week Europe until Tuesday. I will be at Barcamp Hamburg on Saturday.

If you know anyone who might be interested in what we’re doing or thinking about, always feel free to forward this newsletter or pass on a link to our website.

Have a great week, enjoy this beautiful autumn and remember to let the water cool down a bit before brewing your coffee.

Week 55

New client, new office, new roommate, new talk – and some thoughts on our company culture.

We’ve been pretty much heads down, working on a number of short-term projects as well as a big one that’s going to keep us busy for more than just a few weeks.

New client!

We had only been hinting at it for a while. But last week, we were finally able to announce officially that we have taken on the Postbank AG as a new client, with a project that’s quite big for our little three man shop. Thanks again for all the nice words and congratulatory tweets – What a nice way to celebrate our first anniversary!

New office!

What’s more, we’re really settling into our new office space. You saw the basics on some photos in last week’s weeknote, but this is just the beginning. The whole Makers Loft still needs some renovations, but it’s going to be huge. Expect an opening party of some sort or another later this year.

New roommate!

Speaking of the new office, we are also very happy to welcome a new roommate, so to speak. Our friend Matt Patterson just moved over from London and is going to be working from our HQ.

New talk!

Igor spoke at WINnovation, an event organized by our friends over at Brainjuicer in Hamburg. We’ll post the video once we have it. Until then, enjoy Igor’s write-up.

Pick it up-culture

We always enjoy studying and discussing organization cultures. Every company is completely different based on the cultures they nurture (or don’t), encourage (or discourage), let emerge (or try to squelch). As anectodal as it is, read Steve Yegge’s post about how the corporate cultures of Amazon and Google differ – it’s fascinating!

So, we talk about this a fair bit, and like to try out new things. One of the things that has emerged over time is a certain kind of “pick it up” culture: When one of us notices something that needs to be done, we try to never just say “we should do this!” Instead, you either do it yourself, or if you can’t, you ask one of the others. No task shall go unassigned!

This is something I can highly recommend; it needs nurturing, especially when there’s pressure and deadlines and whatnot. But once you get to this point, stuff just gets done so quickly, it’s like a breeze. And it helps prevent all kinds of overhead and organizational clutter.

In an earlier conversation, Christoph Fahle – one of the founders of the fantastic Betahaus – mentioned one particular culture the Betahaus team follows: When you notice someone’s not getting all their stuff done, you may remind then to do it (if you must), but then that person loses their right to finish that task, and you are allowed to pick it up. How awesome is that? Tasks not as duties, but as privileges. It’s the next level of what we’ve been practicing here at Third Wave, and something to work up to. Anyway, I love the idea.

What’s next?

We’ll be splitting the week between Berlin and Bonn – before a series of trips kicks off basically all through November. Also, as this post goes live we’re trying out a topic sprint, a half-day of concentrated work on one topic. Expect more on this soon, once we know how well it works.

Third Wave meets Deutsche Postbank AG

Today we are happy to announce that Deutsche Postbank AG has commissioned us to be their lead agency for the development of their Social Strategy.

We hinted in our week notes that we won a big pitch and today we are happy to announce that Deutsche Postbank AG has commissioned us to be their lead agency for the development of their Social Strategy.

Pitching

As you very well know, we usually do not participate in pitches. Previous experience taught us otherwise. At first, we were reluctant to even participate in this pitch, but fortunately Postbank had good arguments for wanting us in this pitch. Our one condition to ourselves for this pitch was: no compromises.

Not that compromising is per se something evil. But pitches have often a very specific dynamic, and we wanted to use this one to show our full expertise, our conviction of how to approach Social as something that is substantial, complex and not only focused on technology (as in choice of platforms) or campaign-based.

The fact that we won certainly emphasizes that we are on the right track, but it also shows how much Deutsche Postbank AG understands what needs to be accomplished. Our commission comes with an extraordinary display of commitment and trust towards us. We are very well aware and excited about that.

What we will do

As you would imagine, we cannot go into details. There is a lot of real strategy work to be done. That includes an in-depth research phase, getting to know the company, communicating our decisions in a way that is understandable to every party involved. Big corporations are complex entities, full of individuals. Often enough the best strategies fail due to lack of explaining. To put in the words of our friend Matt Gierhart:

Don’t blame clients for not “getting” it. You didn’t tell the right story.

We are fully committed not only to tell the right story, but to create a fully operational framework for a strategy that works as a living organism and evolve over time. This will be a challenging task, no doubt about it. Globally, the future of finance is uncertain – and that is why now is the right moment to prepare, change and adapt. So far, we’ve experienced the work with one of the largest consumer banks in Germany as immensely gratifying and we are looking forward to collaboratively shaping the future of how social is applied in the finance sector.