6 lenses to look at Third Wave

We work in a funny business, one that’s at the same time very old (consulting) and very young (focusing on emerging technology and behavior changes). This puts us squarely between the metaphorical stools, terminology-wise: It’s in the very nature of our work that we work in a zone of semantic ambiguity.

Five years from now, looking back, most likely it is going to be painfully obvious how our work can be coined, framed and talked about.

Now, there’s a certain kind of client that it’s a dream to work with, the gold standard of client work, so to speak, for the context I’m most interested in. This type of dream gig is a top level strategic project inside a highly innovative organization:

dream client map

Mostly, this is the kind of gig that requires a long-standing, trusting relationship, and often a personal connection. Yet, additionally it should be as easy as possible to find out for any potential client who fits that description who to call for a project like this, based on their background, goals and overall situation. So I always try to make it as easy as possible to understand when it makes sense to call my company. In other words, answer the question: “In my given situation, is it worth calling Third Wave? Will they be able to add enough value to make it worth my time?”

From today’s perspective, I find it a quite useful mental model to look at what we do through different lenses depending on the context. Depending on who I’m talking to and what the context is, it helps to use one lense or the other to explain what we do and how we can add value. As a potential client, this is how to figure out why and when it would make sense to call us, and when it wouldn’t.

6 ways to look at Third Wave (sketching) Personally, I visualize these lenses as a six-sided die.

It’s a mental model I use for myself, and a work in progress at that. Let’s see how it will evolve over time, and how it will hold up looking back five years from now.

Six ways to look at what Third Wave does

I’ll try to capture the meaning of these lenses in some lead questions that help triangulate where we most effectively can add value. Some of these questions overlap, and depending on the organizational structures one might fit better than the other. Taken together, they help guide the initial exploration and get the right people to sit down and start the conversation.

1. Organizational

This is who we connect with inside a company.

The lead questions to ask are:

  • Which department or part of the company hires us? CEO, marketing, communications, product development?
  • Which budgets are we paid out of? Innovation, R&D, pilot projects, marketing?
  • Which functions are we augmenting? Do we pitch in to optimize internal structures? Get the teams to leverage new technologies? Do we help develop products?

2. Service portfolio

This is the what.

Lead questions:

  • What kind of services do we offer?
  • What can you hire us for? Are you looking for support in product development, helping you set up a new internal unit, or an impulse workshop to open up minds for new ideas?

3. Formats

This is how we add value.

Lead questions:

  • How do we work? We like to kick things off with some proper research, typically by looking closely at your competition, what’s being said about an organization, and – maybe most importantly – we believe that talking to the relevant teams inside the company surfaces a deep and valuable knowledge.
  • What do typical deliverables look like? Typically we run workshops, compile and present reports for the teams, or top level executive reports. Some of this is standardized, often times we highly customize deliverables to clients’ needs.

4. Innovation curve

This is when in the process we can add most value.

The lead question here is just one:

  • When do you hire us? The answer depends on your industry. If you build a product for the web, during the early ideation or concept phase would be a good time. If you provide a service of some sort, the moment you realize you want to seriously embrace social media or the web in general is the best moment – before you have made any concrete decision on how to best procede. Rule of thumb: We develop strategies, so the earlier we get on board, the more value we can add.

5. Topics

We spend a lot of time thinking about where things are headed.

If your company aims at always having a competitive edge over the competition, good questions to ask are:

  • Which topics are you currently working on?
  • Where do you think things are headed in our field right now?

Scribbling like this helps me sort out my thoughts, and hone my arguments. That said, feedback is always appreciated.

6. Value

Maybe the most relevant angle, this captures why you we get hired.

Lead questions:

  • Why would you hire us? Is it because your people and our people share the same mindset and beliefs? Because we can serve as a connector between the US and Europe? Because we can give impulses for innovation?
  • How can we add value? Do we add value through our skills (strategy development, analysis etc), through topics we know well (future of cities, quantified self, digital communications), through our network?