Week 125

Brut Magazin published three interview clips with Igor and me (in German). See us talking about our work and our thinking on topics like strategy, digital dualism and ethics.

Brut Magazin

This week, we have something different for you. A few weeks ago, a couple of students visited us to film an interview with us for the next edition of the Brut Magazin. Those poor guys had to listen to us for two hours, only pleading for a break when they needed to empty their memory cards.

Brut Magazin Interview Igor

You can now watch the results on the freshly launched Brut Magazin Website. There’s an 11 minutes long clip, in which we talk about who we are, what we do and why we don’t think that digital makes us stupid. There are two more shorter clips, in which we talk about ethics in our consulting work and introduce our approach to the 4-days-work-week. All videos are in German.

Brut Magazin Interview

Brut Magazin Interview

The Videos:

Our second anniversary

Two years of Third Wave already. Johannes takes some time to reflect on the journey and finds some insights into the core value of the company.

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.

Keep moving

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.

Two examples:

  1. 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.

  2. 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 …

The 4-Day Workweek

Starting October 1st, we will experiment with a 4-day workweek to explore if we can be more productive that way.

As of October 1st, we will be switching to a 4-day workweek. Technically, this will only affect Johannes and myself, because our trainees are working half of their week at VCCP and Maddie actually started with a 4-day work week contract at Third Wave.

This is an experiment and should be also judged as such. Since we are not sure if this is actually something that we can make work for ourselves, we decided to test this for the next two months. It is our goal both to learn from it and to share as many insights about it as possible. If it’s something that’s not compatible with our line of work, so be it. While there are plenty of people out there who are proclaiming that theirs is the one and only method to approach a balanced work week, we don’t belong to them. It probably helps that it is not part of our business model to write and publish a book. At least not on this topic.

So, why are we doing this? There are plenty of reasons. One of which is the quest for being more productive. We noticed two things over the course of the last couple of months. The first one is that being rested helps you to be more productive. While this might seem extremely obvious, it is nevertheless hard to achieve. Secondly, scarcity of time leads to higher output per measurable time interval. We’ve known this for a while now, but lacked the ability to make this knowledge actionable. Part of this experiment is to find out if this is actually true when implemented consistently.

It should be noted that we do not necessarily see the fifth day as a typical day off. It is our attempt to distribute our energy better into output and input days. We want to create a better way for us to focus on the work without having the fear that we’re missing out on reading something. Most of the things that we do read end up being not as time sensitive as they sometimes appear to be and we want to see if we can spend our fifth day on reading, exploring and just giving our brains the ability to wonder without instantly feeling guilty that we are not working.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that nobody will be available on any given Friday. Johannes and I will be doing our 20% shift on different days.

Let the test begin. We’ll keep you posted on our observations.

Goodbye Peter

A big change at Third Wave. Peter is leaving the company. Here are his reasons and where we go from here.

We’ve been a bit quieter in the last weeks for a reason: We’re going through a bigger change as Peter has decided to leave Third Wave. Here he is to explain his decision.

Peter saying Goodbye

I’m leaving Third Wave. Leaving a company you co-founded is never easy, I assume. Leaving a company you built with two close friends and that has been developing quite well for a couple of years and where you’re happy is even harder. Yet, recently I’ve been finding myself with an urge to think about scale and impact, and to go out and learn something new entirely. It’s something I need to do at this point, and wouldn’t work within the current context of our company. This is a purely personal decision, a kind of private change of direction after some five to seven years of full-time consulting.

I had a blast building Third Wave with Igor and Johannes and all our collaborators from scratch, running a bunch of events and publishing all kinds of things, all the way to hiring our first employee Maddie. I learned lots and lots, and I met a whole bunch of wonderful, inspiring people. Couldn’t have asked for more ever, really.

On a personal note, a big thank you to Igor and Johannes – both for the time spent together and for understanding my need to change direction. You guys rock, and I hope we get a chance to collaborate on many things down the road. Thanks also go to the collaborators in our many projects, to our clients, and all of you who continuously supported us and surely will continue to do so.

And I won’t grow bored, either: I’ll also serve as Program Director for NEXT Berlin Conference 2013 and the upcoming NEXT Service Design Conference in October, I’ll keep working on some stuff with Third Wave, and of course there are some side projects that that direly need attention. But for the next few weeks or so, I’ll take it slow, clear my mind and sort out the next big steps. For the time being, the best way to follow up is my website and Twitter.

We’re saying Goodbye to Peter

We respect Peter’s decision and are grateful for the time and energy he invested in building a company with us. It’s been quite a ride from walking around in Austin, having the idea to building something to the milestone of running a company for almost two years now. We wish him the best and can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

What’s next for Third Wave?

So, from here on up, it’s going to be the two of us, Igor and Johannes, running this company. Looking back, it’s pretty clear for us how to go on. In the 22 months since we started, we worked with over 30 clients, established a company culture and are constantly working on refining where we see ourselves going and what we can contribute to our clients as you can read in our last week note. We highly enjoy coming up with those unusual solutions somewhere between digital communications, social media and new business models for a world of perpetual change. We will continue on this path with our clients and look forward to the next projects and opportunities.

If you have any questions or want to talk to us, feel free to contact us. We are always happy to chat over a nice cup of coffee.

Introducing Jannik

Meet Jannik, one of our two trainees in Social Media Strategy, in cooperation with VCCP.

Jannik Schäfer has been working part-time at ad agency VCCP and part-time with us for almost two months. Now that he’s properly settled in, it’s time to make a formal introduction.

Where are you from, and what made you want to move to Berlin?
I was born and raised on the outskirts of Cologne, Germany and grew up always wanting to leave the countryside. While the beauty and calm of nature might be very enjoyable on occasion, the vibrant life of a big city does have its advantages for an energetic youngster. I left Cologne, as soon as I could, to study at a Business School in Frankfurt and found that it was not just any other city that would do the trick. I spent about a year abroad in Paris and have seen quite a few cities around Europe, but upon graduation was pretty firm on the idea that it would have to be Berlin next. The city combines many of the most important elements that make a great home for me. There are creative, intelligent, inspiring and crazy people, there is (still) affordable space and a hugely energetic subculture. Who would want to miss out on that?

What drew you into the world of social media strategy?
I have always had quite a good time on the internet. I started spending time online from about twelve onwards and never stopped exploring and trying to figure out the mechanics of it. When the topic of social media started popping up in mainstream media outlets, I was already sure that communication online was going to be the next big thing. I wrote my bachelor thesis on evaluating Facebook pages and social media strategy in general and discovered that classical scientific research hadn’t really caught up with reality yet. I have always, amongst other things, been interested in brand strategy and good advertising campaigns and so when I was offered the opportunity to learn and work with Third Wave and VCCP, it seemed like a great next step to me. It is probably not a shame to admit that I have spent a few hours on the social networks and the underlying mechanics of it all has often left me fascinated and thrilled in the light of untapped possibilities.

What would you most like to dig into during your traineeship?
I always had a gut feeling about what worked out online and what didn’t. I could pick campaigns or newborn web trends that would make it and ones that would fail but I never really had the knowledge to back up my assumptions. Besides the usual blogs there was never really an interesting source of knowledge I could turn to and so I was very glad to find that I had come to a place where people actually have a working concept. I wish to learn what it takes from all perspectives to make a good strategic plan come true. From the creative, strategic planning through to the real world implementation and execution. There is a lot more to be known about online strategy than what it says in the latest Top 5 list of social media trends.

What takes up most of your free time?
That is a difficult question for me to answer. I would say that as of now it is a very wild mix of things, as I have just changed cities twice within a few months and have a lot of settling-in to do. I would assume most of my time goes into enjoying friends, music, films and shows, (mostly) non-fictional reading, enjoying cold beverages with other humans and apart from that quoting The Big Lebowski. I’ll make sure to update you as soon as the self-tracking delivers new insights!

Give us a couple links that will helps us to get to know you better.
I made you a Top 5 (wink-wink):

Introducing Doro

An interview with Doro Halewska, our new trainee in Social Media Strategy with VCCP. Welcome, Doro!

Dorota Halewska, aka Doro, has been with us for a couple weeks now. She’s doing a six-month traineeship in Social Media Strategy with us and VCCP. This may be slightly belated, but nevertheless, we would like to officially introduce her with this little interview. Welcome, Doro!

Where are you from, and how did you come to be in Berlin?
I’m from a town called Stargard in northwestern Poland, not far away from the German border. As a teenager, I came to Berlin on a school trip and remember saying out loud: “I will live in Berlin one day.” Several years have passed, things have changed, but my wish stayed the same. So last year, after receiving my MA in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Warsaw, I packed my bags and well, here I am!

What would you most like to try your hand at during your six months with us and VCCP?
I was really excited about getting into this traineeship with VCCP and Third Wave. I would love to get more insights into the creative and strategic side of the game, lay the foundations in both strategic planning and consulting. Apart from that, my goal is to become a fully fledged social media strategist, team up with an open-minded client and create a great social media campaign that will change the course of the digital advertising history. (Ideally.) I love playing with languages; I happen to know three of them at the moment. I’ve always wanted to do some copywriting work so maybe I’ll be lucky enough to sit at that table, too.

Since you’re now working in social media and advertising, what’s your favorite social media campaign?
My favorite ad campaign on social media so far was created for a Polish pharmaceutical company selling… you’ll learn that at the end of my answer. It was a viral campaign, launched on social media (as a Facebook fan page) and in the form of traditional printed media. The title of the fan page was “Nie biegam” (the literal translation would be “I don’t run”). This was the slogan on every poster in the biggest cities in Poland. Couch potatoes all over the country liked it on Facebook, believing it was just another common interest fan page for expressing their distaste for jogging as a form of exercise. In a very short time, the campaign managed to attract a very – no, let me rephrase that – VERY significant number of fans. After some time, the responsible advertising agency made its next move… and updated the FB fan page title: “Nie biegam do toalety. Mam Stoperan” (or “I don’t run to the bathroom. I have Stoperan” – Stoperan is an antidiarrhoeal product in Poland). I just love how the creatives played a trick on so many people who actually fell into this trap.

What do you get up to outside of work?
Generally put, I am an art person. I am a photographer, so I try to regularly come up with new projects. In my free time, I like to grab my camera and let my ideas leak right out into the lens. For the past 3 or 4 years, I’ve managed a photo blog, where I upload sneak-peaks from my running projects or simply beautiful snapshots that move me. As befits an art person, I like going to galleries and museums, just to feed my brain and get inspired. I like it when an exhibition works as a great mind opener. One thing which really gets in the way of doing all of the above is my (not-so-healthy) affinity for spending long hours in front of the computer, for which I get told off every day.

What are your favorite places to visit on the web?
Continuing the answer from the previous question, I could spend hours and hours on watching videos like this one by Christien Meindertsma on TED. I also enjoy looking at memes, reading articles and reportages on different international media platforms like The New Yorker or looking at private blogs/websites of people who work in advertising, e.g. Tom Fishburne. I also enjoy looking at well-made humorous cartoons. More favorite places on the web? Well, YouTube for the music, FB for the gossip and many more I simply can’t think of right now.

Meet Jasmine

Meet Jasmine Probst, who has recently joined us for an internship. We’re excited to have her with us.

As of June 1st, we’ve had a new face in the office: Jasmine Probst. She’s come to Berlin for two months from a somewhat sunnier California, and is doing an internship with us as part of her Masters program, an MBA in Design Strategy. We’re excited to work with and learn from her over the coming weeks. Welcome, Jasmine!

What got you interested in coming to Berlin?
Something just sort of drew me here. I don’t have an extremely specific answer, to be honest.

My father is from Freiburg and my mother is English but grew up in Switzerland. I was born in the US with dual EU/US citizenship and always wanted to live in Europe for a bit. With a break between school semesters and the time to do an internship, I found my opportunity.

So why Berlin? I had never been to the city before but heard many wonderful things about the creativity going on here. Also, one of my undergraduate seminars was on the Pink Triangle and that had sparked my historical cultural curiosity. Over the years, various people and interests all started aligning and pointing this way. I’m following the path as it unfolds.

How did you get into the field of business and design?
Design has always been something I’ve been exposed to and interested in — I grew up in a design family; both of my parents are graphic designers and design educators. My own undergraduate degree is in electronic media and journalism. After college, I moved to New York City and started working at a communication/branding design firm, where I found a niche as a content person and writer. That realm has been my bread and butter for the past six years.

Traditionally, design and business are understood and taught as exclusive disciplines. In practice, however, they (can/should) work hand in hand. Working at the interface of creative and analytical thinking: that’s where I want to be.

When I started to get serious about graduate school, I looked into a few traditional MBA programs to “balance” my Bachelor of Fine Arts. Instead, I was quickly drawn in by the new-ish hybrid programs that foster a whole-brain approach. In May I completed my first year in the MBA in Design Strategy program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco; I’m getting a lot out of the integrated, holistic curriculum.

I think there’s an exciting and rewarding future for organizations and individuals that are agile in understanding diverse perspectives and adapting to different scenarios and collaborators.

Anything you’re particularly eager to learn about or work on while you’re here?
I’m enthusiastic about being involved in the multidisciplinary strategy work and discourse at Third Wave. It is great to connect topics I’m studying in school to real-world projects, while absorbing the flow and insights here in the office — I’m impressed and refreshed by the intellectual curiosity and productivity.

I’m also happy to apply my own experience dealing with content to help crystallize some of Third Wave’s communication materials about process, etc. It’s a nice bridge between the kind of work I have done and the kind of work I’m transitioning into.

What are you reading about these days?
I’m addicted to The New Yorker, so anything that shows up in that publication usually passes through my eyes. For daily news, I check The New York Times.

I did a ton of reading for school this past year — many, many, many articles and books about innovation, business models, design strategy, marketing, communication, economics, leadership…for example, Business Model Generation, Switch, and Designing for Growth.

The next book I plan to crack is The Information. Also, my husband recently picked up a copy of the Spring 2012, Means of Communication issue of Lapham’s Quarterly for me, which I’m excited about.

Could you give us a few links to help us get to know you better?

  • My professional website is a good place to get a glimpse of the branding work I’ve done. It needs to be updated with samples of research and strategy projects I did in school — a potential side project if I find the time this summer (not very likely since I expect to be out exploring when not in the Third Wave office).
  • To learn more about my graduate program, check out the CCA MBA in Design Strategy description and student blog.
  • When I need to shake things up mentally during the work day, I like trolling FastCompany’s blogs.
  • If I flip on the radio, it’s for NPR. If I turn on the TV, I tune to PBS.
  • In my daily personal life, I enjoy yoga and good food. One of my favorite places to find recipes is 101 Cookbooks. While I’m in Germany, I’m trying a membership with YogaVibes, a website where one of my favorite teachers from the studio I went to in Venice, CA, has some videos.
  • I spend so much time online these days that, when I get the chance, I really love to disconnect.

Welcome once again, Maddie!

Starting this week, Madeline Maher joined the team once again, this time as a full-time strategist and researcher. Welcome!

Almost exactly half a year ago, Maddie joined us as a trainee. Starting this week, she’s joined us again, as a full-time strategist/researcher, and officially our first team member outside our merry crew of three founders. This is awesome, and so on behalf of the three of us I’d like to say once more:

Welcome to the team, Maddie!

So now with a half year to look back on and compare to, let’s revisit some of those questions you answered last time as well as a couple new ones.

What are the websites or feeds without which a day just isn’t complete these days?
This Is My Jam, as ever, though I have been a bit remiss in posting lately. I also just started trying out Prismatic, which is kind of like Google Reader, but it tries to learn what articles and topics you like and don’t like, and pulls quite interesting things from your Twitter feed that you may otherwise have missed. It allows me to sort by topic rather than by source, which seems more natural and logical. Also, Aleks Krotoski has been running a seven-part show called The Digital Human on BBC Radio 4 that I’ve been downloading and listening to every week as the episodes come out.

After working “in the field” for six months, where do you see the biggest challenges for digital strategy?
Digital strategy can only be effectively applied on top of working interpersonal communication within an organization. The more people work in an organization, the more the system tends to behave like a game of Broken Telephone – unless ideas and goals are communicated clearly to everyone, these messages will get distorted as they’re passed from one person to the other. Communication with the public can’t work properly unless communication within the organization works properly, too. I think one of the bigger challenges is overcoming the common misconception that internal issues can be safely ignored while developing a digital strategy.

What are the bigger issues you are thinking about these days, the problems you’d like to tackle?
I’d still like to find ways of using digital strategy to fix things that are very broken in secondary and post-secondary education systems. Perhaps we could find a way to team up with organizations like the Science Gallery in Dublin or the Hive Learning Network to work on these things.

What’s your coffee setup at home?
Ah, about that. I have beans, and I have a percolator. I don’t have a grinder. So for now there’s only tea. I tend to get most of my non-office coffee from Café CK around the corner on Oranienstraße and KaffeeBar on Graefestraße.

Where can folks find more of your stuff online?
My blog has grown a very little bit in the last six months. I collect images and assorted other things I like on Gimmebar. Things I’m reading or would like to read are either on Pinboard or QuoteFM.

The Essentials – Our best blog articles

These are our favorite articles from our blog. If you want to know more about us and the topics we’re interested in, this is a good place to start.

Our Publications

Our Thinking (Out Loud)

You want to dig deeper? These articles will give you a good insight into our thinking:

The History of Our Company

We’ve been writing notes to reflect on our work. Combined, they tell the story of our company.

to be continued

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: