Week 173

After a successful 2013, Johannes describes Third Wave’s goals for 2014. And something with about a sci-fi author yelling at Germans.


Getting yelled at by Bruce Sterling is kinda hilarious, actually. Especially when he’s mixing it with his trademark ironic speaking style. You lose any reference for if he’s joking or if he’s really angry. It’s even more entertaining to watch a room full of hacktivists, social academics, cyberfeminists and the odd politician trying to wrap their heads around how that guy wants us to react.

I might have had a slight advantage over most of the other participants at the As Darkness Falls conference last week here in Berlin. I have seen Sterling speak at quite a few occasions and I have read through the complete State of the World 2014, his yearly “conversation”1 with Jon Lebkowsky and others on The Well. Throughout that stream of thoughts, his current obsession with “the Germans” and his perception of our fight for privacy including his fondness for female German novelists who initiate global petitions against surveillance became clear. If you’ve read his latest novel Love Is Strange (A Paranormal Lovestory), you know that Sterling loves to play with national identities and their roles in the world. In the world according to Sterling, the Italians have a different approach to technology and the future compared to the Brazilians, for example. And now it’s our turn as “The Germans.”

I find it truly fascinating to get the outside view about my home country and its perceived identity and the hopes and fears and expectations that the world has for us, especially as I don’t feel a strong identity with this country myself. Igor wrote down a couple of thoughts about those expectations after Sterling’s keynote. But I bring that whole topic up because I needed a lead-in for this Week Note about what we are going to do in 2014 as Third Wave. Yeah, sorry about that.


2013 had two big goals for us:

  1. Establishing a sustainable business
  2. Pay back some loans we got to start the business

We achieved both goals fully and had a remarkable year. March 2013 was a tipping point in our company history. We have been enjoying a constant stream of projects since then and have been able to produce a healthy profit for last year. We know now that what we do can sustain us.

So for 2014, without the need to payback any loans or hustle hard for the next project, we can take it to the next level professionally with these three goals.

  1. Raise the quality
  2. Organize for flow and freedom
  3. Get more meetings

Raise the quality

Getting better at what we do is our strongest motivation. We want to deliver more insights, more actionable strategies, more Aha!-moments, more long-term success for our clients and more valuable observations and ideas for our industry, our community and our peers.

Add random quote about mastering an artisanal craft here. Preferably by a sushi chef.

This is an ongoing process, but we want to make sure this year that we demand more from ourselves than just delivering the project. We want to take more time to iterate, to “have another go at it,” to edit and revise. And to criticizes and challenge each other to dig deeper.

Organize for flow and freedom

To be able to take more time for quality and to grow means that we want to waste less time for things that don’t add to that. So we’re putting a huge emphasis this year on optimizing our everyday work structures and getting rid of distractions. We’ve started to plan our weeks and days much more vigorously. This helps us to be more accountable to each other and slack off less.

Like many others, we will also use 2014 to reflect on our use of social media. It has been of tremendous value to us as a source of inspiration and insight as much as a way of communicating and growing relationships. But as we strive for more quality, we need to find a better balance between input and output, between thinking through writing and thinking through communicating. We highly enjoy the serendipity of streams, but we also want to spend more time exploring one idea.2

Get more meetings

To this day, we have never done any serious new business development or cold calling. We have the fortune of people calling us, which makes it much easier when it’s not always so simple to quickly explain what we do. This makes us dependent on outside forces and maybe that’s just how it is for a business like ours. But we don’t know that yet and it’s time to find out. We want to take this year to create a process how we can sell our consulting business to new clients who haven’t heard of us before.

The key for us is to get the meeting. Once we’re in the room with a possible client it usually works out fine, because we can then apply our knowledge to the customer’s specific problem. But getting invited into the room is the challenge for us. A manager needs to know that we exist and why she or he should invite us. We still haven’t found the optimal way to communicate all the topics we’re involved in and all the ways a client could use us. At the end of the year, we want to have a much better understanding of how to make that possible.

So as you can see, 2014 is all about growing-up as a business for us. Just in time for Igor to invest into the next generation…

  1. You don’t have conversations with Sterling. He talks, you listen. That’s why you don’t put him on a panel. 

  2. One immediate consequence is that we’re changing the Weekly Reads to Monthly Reads. We ourselves are already drowning in article recommendations and don’t want to add too much to the noise. Choosing our favorite, most insightful reads from a whole month allows for a much better signal-to-noise level. 

Author: Johannes

Johannes is a strategist and consultant for digital communications. His work is informed by his experience of working with brands like Deutsche Telekom, MTV, Postbank, Maggi and Nike and by his insatiable appetite for finding the bigger patterns behind current developments in technology and science. Holding a diploma in Media System Design, Johannes is a regular speaker at web and marketing conferences like Republica and the Social Media Summit.