What I did in 2015
“If you still don’t know what we do, well, I guess, then we have done a good job.”
–Marty Kaan, House of Lies
Inspired by Jay, here’s my attempt to collect what I’ve done professionally in 2015 to give you a better idea of what I do (Marty wouldn’t approve).
This year, Igor and I celebrated the fifth anniversary of our company Third Wave. We work somewhere in the margins between a business consultancy and a think tank. Our primary job is to help organizations make sense of what has been summed up as “digital transformation”.
This quote from Ramez Naam has become a sort of motto for us:
“To understand a thing is to gain the power to change it.”
Our goal is to give our clients agency by helping them to understand the changes happening around them better.
Our core business is monthly retainers. That means we have some clients that have booked a time budget from us each month. How they use it is up to them and varies from client to client. Some use us as sparring partners to get our opinion on ideas and develop new ones together. Others receive a more formalized report on interesting developments in their industry from us. Some, we help to execute their strategies by finding vendors, etc. But for all of them, we are long-term partners for adapting and iterating their digital strategy. We believe that this is the best way to do strategy in this age. Among our retainer clients are an aluminum facade manufacturer, a payment provider, a literature agent and the youth outreach of an animal rights NGO. So you see, we enjoy diversity.
Beyond the retainers, we’ve also done a couple of individual projects for other clients. I’ve worked a lot with different employer (read: lobbying) organizations from the skilled-crafts sector, creating a digital strategy with them to interest teenagers in doing an apprenticeship in this area.
I’m most interested in understanding the internal politics of these companies and organizations. That’s the starting point for developing a strategy that fits the organization exactly. We then help them implement it in a way that can evolve continuously.
I also spent some time this year, helping an agency with digital strategies for one of the largest infrastructure corporation in Germany. By sheer randomness, I was also invited by another part of that corporation to join a network of experts, advising them on future scenarios for their employee management and culture.
Unlike most other consultancies, we don’t work for one client for a couple of weeks or months and then move on to the next. The retainer model means that we usually switch between different client work each day or sometimes from hour to hour.
Days at the office are spent researching, brainstorming or putting a strategy document together. When traveling, it’s mostly to go to the client for a meeting or a workshop. Most of our clients these days are based in Berlin. That means no frequent flyer status for us, which we consider being a good thing.
We’ve done more workshops this year as we try to work closer with our clients. We found that providing a solution to the client is the easy part. Taking the client along with you and helping them understand the deeper changes that come with digital, is the actual challenge. One, we quite like.
We also travel to learn and make new friends. We went to Manchester for FutureEverything and I stopped by a couple of conferences and events here in Berlin.
Reports & Podcasts
We somehow ended up writing a lot less this year. We also stopped recording our podcast in April. Even so, my highlight was our framework for media companies that I wrote up for the Tinius Trust Annual Report.
I have a feeling that we will put out a lot more this year. Having both started doing a weekly newsletter, it looks like we’re getting back into the habit of writing. (Subscribe to Igor’s newsletter here).
Fun fact: the most read text, I’ve published last year, wasn’t even mine.
We still quite like our small office on Rosenthaler Straße in Berlin-Mitte, which we share with two friends. It’s a nice place to come to each day. Besides that, we’ve started to look for a new one. We like change as much as a better kitchen and a shower.
The highlights were that one week in May when I gave talks on three consecutive days, my perfectly timed 7-minutes talk at the IAM Weekend in Barcelona and the visit to Tel Aviv in September where I gave two presentations.
…that’s a rough summary of my work last year. I hope it made it a bit easier to understand what I do each day. Feel free to ask if you want to know more.
This article was first published in my newsletter Productive Procrastination.