Week 177

Changing the new business rhythm. Igor highlights a new approach and our focus on the future of work.

A long time ago, I used to work for what today is Lufthansa Systems AG. You can think of it as a oversized IT department that grew large enough to be considered a company in itself. Those constructs aren’t rare for airlines. It’s a complex IT business and a few players in the field invested a significant amount into infrastructure in the 80s. At that time my employer maintained its own backbone as well as the size-wise largest data center. In addition, the company employed many people for an enormously long time. Some of them well over 15 years. Which made their jobs as secure as they can get in a free market society.

While being a separate unit – a company, not a department – the airline maintained full control over the company. More importantly most of the revenue came from Lufthansa itself.

At the time when I was there, the order came down that the revenue stream – well over a billion Euros at that point – would need some diversification. A goal was set out to reach 50% revenue from non-Lufthansa companies in three years. An ambitions goal for an organization that has grown slowly, humanely and failed to motivate to remain interested and competitive.

The goal meant that the company would have to compete with the likes of T-Systems, IBM, SITA, etc. I only witnessed the first 12 month of the new strategy. From what I could tell, it wasn’t going well.

It is easy for management – especially with high fluctuation – to set out goals. On paper, they don’t seem to be unreasonable. The hard part is to align strategy with the capabilities of the people who will be charged with executing it.

This is all a long pre-text for saying that we are trying something similar.

Changing a rhythm

For three and half years now, almost all of our business comes from people approaching us. They usually find us through one of the following categories:

  • Preceding relationship (either a former co-worker or client from previous employments)
  • Recommendation from our network
  • Search Engines

That works out fine for us, but it also means that at times we have to accept jobs that we are accepting mostly because they help us pay the bills. I know that this is not something that people talk about, but I also know that even those big names out there do that. No reason to hide behind facts, not everything out there is awesome.

We decided that while it has worked great so far, we want to explore, if we can change that a bit. And in our case the people in charge of strategy are also the people executing it. A significant vantage.

One of the things that we never succeeded in doing is to make ourselves more approachable to others. We are good in telling the overall story, but not the details. Those matter. It’s the small bits that people hire consultants for at first. Few people are ready to handover the keys to their company to a bunch of guys they don’t know. Easing into bigger, more elaborate jobs through smaller engagement is a natural process.

How are we doing this?

We decided to start with one topic: the future of work. According to a study by the Oxford University, 47% of all jobs in the US are at risk to be replaced through automatisation. We will help companies answer questions like:

  • How will this affect my company?
  • What does it mean for my employees?
  • Who is going to by my products, if algorithms replaced such a big chunk of the work force?

Johannes gave a well received talk on the subject last year, we’ve been writing and giving interviews on the matter for a long time. Mr. Kleske even managed to end up on the cover of the Brand Eins Magazine that focused on said topic a few years back. We know a lot about, it we have the skills and the methods, we just didn’t make it easy for people to talk to us about it. We decided that there are three overall goals for our new business strategy:

  • Enable our network to recommend us
  • Extend our network
  • Approach industry relevant conferences and events to target executives

The deck we made is aiming for German speaking companies. Specifically their management and / or their HR departments. The time is ripe to talk about it. It’s a well publicized topic, there is awareness for it, but very few answers. We are not aiming high. The goal is get hired for some speaking gigs behind closed doors, maybe some extended workshops. If the chemistry is there, we would want to proceed from there and see where we can help the clients. This is a subject that will be around for years and years to come. We are ready for it.

If you yourself would be interested in speaking with us on that topic, let us know. If you know somebody who can benefit from our expertise, please consider forwarding them this article.

Week 133

In this week note, Igor is thinking out loud about our strategy and current hiring plans.

Real long-term strategy is exhausting and requires a tremendous amount of patience. It’s a balancing act. It’s figuring things out as you go along according to the intangible plan that lingers in the back of your had.

Third Wave has been changing a lot. To the better. The shape of the company has been adopting to our needs, to our expectations and we are moving towards a new phase. When Maddie told us that she will be quitting, Johannes and I decided very quickly that we have no intensions of growing right now. At this point in the companies history, we are performing at an exceptional pace even by our own standards. Between a full pipeline of client projects, we are exploring various new topics, partnerships and even products. It is as if for the first time we actually have the right setup to perform all of this without any unnecessary friction.

Things will change. We will grow at some point. Recently we had the pleasure to get a different perspective on what is generally possible to achieve as a small company in the innovation business. To get there and beyond will require patience, persistence and great deal of hard work.

I’m very much looking forward to it.

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

Week 69

In this week note, we discuss a topic dear to our hearts: how do people perceive us.

Wait, what? January is almost over? That was rather quick, wasn’t it?

Perception and arrogance

This is a tricky topic, so please bear with me for a bit.

How a person or a company is perceived by its peers and the public is a complicated question. Third Wave has always been rather fortunate in that regard, but with a tricky twist. Somehow, we have been always perceived as cool and professional. The design of our website only emphasized that. But especially in the beginning, people struggled to describe what we do.

Some people knew us from our previous jobs and we didn’t do a good enough job to help them understand how Third Wave picked up on that. Others encountered us through our new work and often through the Cognitive Cities conference. For them, it wasn’t instantly clear why “those guys are trying to do what they’re trying to do”.

All of this is part of an ongoing process. It’s about syncing what is in our heads with our public perception. But finding the right words about what we do, what we want to do and our stand on the many things that are interesting to us is not always easy. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation and framing.

Over the last few month – and I’m being perfectly open about this – some people told us that we are arrogant or at least can be seen as such. We are grateful to those people who spoke up. It created an opportunity for us to reflect on this and retract some actions where we might have been unkind or ignorant. Obviously there are two sides to every story. In those cases when our way to communicate wasn’t appropriate, let me say this: point taken and we will work on this. Both as a company and as individuals.

Nevertheless, we stand by the fact that we’re not satisfied with the status quo of our industry and will continue to call it into question. And that means that people will be challenged by us doing things differently. People will continue to believe that we think we’re better than them just because we choose to do things differently. We can live with that, but we’d rather have them take up the challenge to progress and outpace us with new ideas, approaches and being plain better.