Week 75

A reflection on our process with details about our research at the beginning of a project and what we’re aiming for as the result of our strategy work with a client.

A reflection on our process

As mentioned in the last week note, I was in London a week ago to give a presentation at Ogilvy. My good friend Matt Gierhart had invited me after countless conversations to talk about how we approach strategy with Third Wave and give some insights on our process. I’m really enjoying opportunities like this as they feel like they give me an official mandate to meditate on how things have emerged out of our daily work. As I might have mentioned before, we have a pretty agile approach to our process. We dive head first into our work, relying heavily on our instincts and experiences instead of following a pre-defined formula. Afterwards, we recapitulate the whole development and look for patterns that seem to work for us. Our process comes from an abstraction of best practices from our work so far. I refer to this approach simply as “do & reflect.” This is how we came up with our social media strategy framework and this is also why it took us some time to carve out a clearer definition of what we actually do as Third Wave.

Learning about the client

So when Matt asked me to talk about our process, it was actually the first time I deliberately sat down1 to put it into words, to be honest. Nevertheless, the result was very insightful for us as a company and we’re already using the process to better explain to future clients how we work2.
The reactions and questions of the audience at Ogilvy further helped to figure out how we do things a little differently around here. They seemed to especially be interested in the broad amount of research we do at the beginning of a project to get to know the client inside out. We try to have as many interviews with involved stakeholders on the client side as possible as we’re not only interested in the details of the projects but also in the internal politics. We’ve seen too many projects fail not because of the wrong strategy or approach, but because of one person having a problem with another or one department’s goals not aligning with those of another. We also want to find the people at a client company who are the most passionate about the stuff we are hired to work on. They are our key allies to make sure that the developed strategy will actually come to live in the company.
And as it turns out, most clients realize quickly that the investment of a research phase at the beginning will save money in the end as it prevents endless iterations due to missed details and clients ending up with something unactionable because it’s too far off from the realities of their work.

The goal of our process

An other major insight came from Matt asking me how we deliver strategy. Thinking about it, I realized that in the end it’s not deliverables like a presentation deck, a handbook document or similar stuff. In the end, it boils down to a changed mindset in our client combined with a sense of ownership for the developed strategy. I’ve seen my fair share of strategic documents rotting in drawers, never getting implemented because the agency or consultancy developed something that was too far removed from the realities of the client. This is why we put so much emphasis on the upfront research and why we try work as closely with our clients as possible. If I want to make sure that a strategy can come to live, I have to involve the client. Not only to get the details right but also to make the client so much part of the process that they feel that they have developed it with us and want to see their own work being implemented. I have my proudest moments as a strategy consultant at meetings with a client’s management, where the strategy is presented and the people we worked with at the company answer the questions the management directed at us. I’ve seen people who were very reluctant to participate at the kickoff meeting. But after we went through the development process with them, months later they defended the created strategy with passion like proud fathers and mothers. This is what I’m always aiming at now. If I hear our partner at the client evangelizing the strategy, I know that my work is done.

Media attention

One of the bigger weeks for Third Wave in the media. Igor was featured on Germany’s public TV station ZDF in one of the major news shows, talking about the cloud. A radio interview Peter gave about the Quantified Self recently is also online now. Both interviews are in German.

Traveling

Igor is in Moscow to be part of panel on mobile. I will be in Belgrade from Thursday to Sunday for the resonate.io conference.


  1. Stood in front of our whiteboard, to be precise. 

  2. We’re working on a visualization of the process and will publish it here when it’s finished. 

Week 74

Last week we released a forecast report, a glimpse into the near future. Also, we traveled a fair bit: Igor went to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Johannes spent some days in London, Igor and Peter did a presentation in Münster.

A glimpse into the future

Last Tuesday, we released the results of a little side-project of ours, an exercise in forecasting: A glimpse into the near future, subtitled “Insights, Expectations & Hopes for the next 3-5 years”. The idea was simple. We’d ask a few of our smartest friends what they a) expect and b) hope to happen over the next few years. The result is maybe the longest blog post we’ve ever written, and certainly the most fun one I had to write in a long time.

If you’re into embedding image-rich presentations, we have something for you too. We put more or less the whole blogpost as slides on Slideshare.

Again, thanks to the participants, I hope you all feel well represented!

Travel & workshops

Igor briefly swung by Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. While the fair itself isn’t all that exciting, more and more companies use this conference for their big mobile announcements. Well worth the trip. The day after, Igor and I went to Münster to deliver a final presentation for a client. I’ve really come to relish those wrap-ups: It just feels good to come full circle on a project, and to see the progress between start and finish.

Meanwhile, Johannes was in London for a speech at Ogilvy where he talked about the strategy process we work with most of the time. It has to a big part been informed by our experiences working with and for larger agencies, and shows what we think can be done better. We’ve been reflecting about this quite a bit recently and Johannes will cover some of that in his week note next week. And of course, while he was in London, he scooped up some nice freshly roasted beans by Has Bean, one of our favorite roasters.

Event updates

Preparations for Next12, Ignite Berlin and our as-of-yet unnamed Quantified Self event with Hybrid Plattform are coming along well. For the latter two, feel free to signal your interest on the respective websites. More updates on all three soon.

What we read this week (24 Feb)

Mike Arauz shares his thoughts and a nifty visualization on strategy, bots get rich trading like crazy on Amazon, Facebook is losing e-commerce, and there’s a new emerging job profile, the social media researcher. Enjoy!

Today, of course, we’ve got books and computers and smartphones to hold our memories for us. We’ve outsourced our memories to external devices. The result is that we no longer trust our memories. We see every small, forgotten thing as evidence that they’re failing us altogether.

Joshua Foer

We, the Web kids; we, who have grown up with the Internet and on the Internet, are a generation who meet the criteria for the term in a somewhat subversive way. We did not experience an impulse from reality, but rather a metamorphosis of the reality itself. What unites us is not a common, limited cultural context, but the belief that the context is self-defined and an effect of free choice.

Piotr “Pastebin” Czerski

  • Undercurrent – What is Strategy?
    Our good friend and occasional collaborator Mike Arauz wrote a great piece on the Undercurrent blog – nice infographic included. If there’s one company out there we really share an understanding with of what strategy is, it’s Undercurrent. Must read.
  • GOOD: Who Can Profit from Selling 1-Cent Boks on Amazon? Robots.
    “What do you call a thriving marketplace of robots buying nonexistent books from other robots for millions of dollars? Apparently, Amazon.com.” – Read a fascinating tail about the algorithms that “live inside Amazon”.
  • New Web Order – Facebook Is Losing E-Commerce
    When it comes to Facebook and what it’s capable of, there are always multiple views on what works and what doesn’t. This is an insightful analysis on why E-Commerce and its little brother Social Commerce might not work on Facebook as others say.
  • In the Future Everything Will Be A Coffee Shop
    Titles likes this obviously catch our attention. While the author starts with a rather US centric view on education, he goes on explaining how most of retail will be transformed and eventually become a coffee shop. It’s a bit of a stretch, but an interesting thought experiment nonetheless.
  • Facegroup: Emerging Roles Profile: The Social Media Researcher
    Out of all the job descriptions that contain something with Social Media in them, the Social Media Researcher emerges as one with the most interesting profile. Jess Owens from Face Group explains what its all about.

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.