40 Articles and Books that will make you a Great Digital Strategist
Everything a digital strategist needs to know, from McLuhan to Russell Davis to Steve Blank.
Updated May 29th, 2014
This is my attempt to recreate Noah Weiss’s wonderfully link-baitey listicle, 48 Articles and Books that will Make you a Great Product Manager, except for digital strategists. Noah did an incredible round-up of PM links, so be sure to check that out too. Thanks to Mike Arauz, Clay Parker Jones, Aaron Dignan, and Johanna Beyenbach for providing many of the sources.
- The Cluetrain Manifesto — Rick Levine. The first book you should read about the Internet.
- Understanding Media (1964)— Marshall McLuhan. As new channels emerge, OG McLuhan becomes even more relevant.
- Software is Eating the World — Marc Andreessen.
- Customer Development Manifesto, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 — Steve Blank. This is how clients should start thinking about product.
- Getting Real — 37 Signals. An incredible document that clarifies how small teams ship faster, better.
Level up your Client: Org Design and Operating Systems
- Scaling Agile @ Spotify — how Spotify organizes its 1,000 person product team to function like a startup (into squads, tribes, and guilds)
- The Operating Model that’s Eating the World and The Last Re-org You’ll ever do — Undercurrent’s (by Aaron Dignan) latest theory on how digital firms operate.
- The Innovator’s Dilemma — Clayton M. Christensen. Theory on why clients struggle with disruption.
- Stevey’s Google Platforms Rant — Steve Yegge. Building an org that is connected and platforms-focused.
- Inside Instagram—Mat Honan. On understanding scaling decisions and how small companies can build great things.
- The Uncanny Valley of the Functional Organization and Why Microsoft’s Reorgnization is a Bad Idea—Ben Thompson.
- Gabe Newell on Valve—this article is relatively new (Jan, 2014), but really distills how the next generation of companies will operate. Gabe is also a legend in the industry.
How Ideas Spread, Content Theory
- Transmedia Planning — Faris Yakob
- Thinking Allowed, Part 2, Part 3 — Russell Davies
- Permission Marketing — Seth Godin
- Buzzfeed’s Strategy — Jonah Peretti
- How to make something go viral (Gawker study)— Neetzan Zimmerman. Understand primary and secondary sources for content on the Internet.
- Distribution…Now — John Borthwick (Betaworks). One of the first articles to discuss the stream and its impact on sharing.
- Spreadable Media — Henry Jenkins
- Stock and Flow — Robin Sloan. One of the most important articles on how clients should approach small and big bets in content.
- Why Gawker is Moving Beyond the Blog — Nick Denton
- 10 Web Content Urban Legends — Ricky Van Veen
- On the Bubble—Rick Webb. One of my favorite articles on how brands think about digital and channels.
The Art of Strategy
Too often are a strategist’s recommendations fluffy bullshit. Here’s examples on how to write a strategy that directs an organization on exactly what to do.
- The 2012 UK Digital Strategy and Audit— the gold standard for an excellently written strategy with coherent actions. I believe Russell Davies was involved in the recommendations.
- The leaked NY Times Innovation Report —similar to the UK strategy, this is a thoughtfully written audit and strategy with crystal clear recommendations.
- Don’t Let Strategy Become Planning — By Roger Martin
- What is Strategy? (Michael Porter) and What is Strategy? (Mike Arauz)
- 1997 Letter to Shareholders — Jeff Bezos. This is what a long-term looks like — a nearly unchanged vision for the past decade and a half.
- Business Model Generation — Alexander Osterwalder
- Good Strategy, Bad Strategy—Richard Rumelt
Products and Solving Needs
- Product / Market Fit — Marc Andreessen.
- The Startup Pyramid — Sean Ellis. How to evaluate product/market fit.
- Why Wesabe Lost to Mint — Marc Hedlund. Why “better” features sometimes don’t matter.
- How Spotify Builds Products—Henrik Kniberg. Includes Spotify’s build process.
- What Hackers Should Know About Design Thinking—Interview with Gentry Underwood. What you need to know about design thinking/human-centered design.
- Social Software: The Other ‘Design for Social Impact’— Gentry Underwood. This distills some of the most important nuances to product design that involve human-to-human interaction, including the notion of “ethnography by prototype.”
Communities and Collective Action
- Why I Love Bees: A Case Study in Collective Intelligence Gaming — Jane McGonigal
- Why Youth Heart Social Networks — danah boyd (bonus: Youth, Identity, and Digital Media).
- Entrepreneurial Design 101, SVA — this is the syllabus from an SVA course on entrepreneurial design. It is brilliant.
- Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup—Stanford, Spring 2012