Strategy Books Every Digital Executive Should Read

Strategy Refreshers –

Digital Foundry has worked on hundreds of digital projects ranging from early modem-to-modem e-commerce and database-driven websites in the early 1990s to digital service design and IoT system implementation in the current year. Through the years, we’ve recognized a common pattern among our clients. Those that have a collective understanding of their strategy (or at least have a willingness to talk about it) tend to have a more successful project outcome. For this reason, we encourage our clients, partners, and team members to revisit some of the classic books on strategy and explore some of the more recent studies that contemplate strategy as it relates to digital.

Here are a few strategy books that Digital Foundry recommends to digital executives.

Competitive Strategy

by Michael Porter

Competitive Strategy, PorterPorter introduces the Five Forces in the first chapter and builds on that model throughout the book. First published in the 1980s, the tools introduced in the book are still used by business strategists today. While some of the case studies are dated, they are clear and understandable. Competitive Strategy is a classic that provides a necessary foundation for the businesses strategist.


Competing for the Future

by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad

Competing for the FutureHamel and Prahalad challenge managers to identify their company’s core competence. It’s not as easy as it seems and the exercise forces business leaders to evaluate their current position in the marketplace and determine if today’s core competence will translate into a competitive advantage in the future. Managers must then consider how to change the company today so that it can compete in the future.


The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life

by Dixit and Nalebuff

The Art of StrategyDixit and Nalebuff use a diverse series of case studies from business, sports, and TV to demonstrate the benefits of strategic thinking. While much of the thought process is common sense, the more complex concepts at first appear counterintuitive. Learning to anticipate your competitors next move provides a strategic business advantage especially when you realize that your competitor is also analyzing your next move.


Adding digital to Strategy

Digital strategy needs to merge past (and proven) notions of strategy, product development, and team organization with the growing complexity of delivering new products and services in this digital age. The book recommendations below provide themes and principles that can help you blend those two worlds, combining the tried and true frameworks that current digital methodologies have grown from with more contemporary applications – from the battlefield to the corporate design meetings.

The following books provide a view into three core principles of digital strategy: strategy, operations, and experience.

Playing to Win

by A.G.  Lafley and Roger L. Martin

– Strategy –

Playing to WinIn an environment where it’s so easy to fool yourself into “just getting started” it’s important to remember that product development and business strategy exist for a reason. The main takeaway from the book: delaying or completely foregoing a strategy can have grave consequences. Though “just in time” has the sex appeal, defining your goals and ensuring you have a gameplan up front has been a critical part of business for years and only increases in importance as corporations dedicate large budgets to new digital initiatives.

Team of Teams

by General Stanley McChrystal

– Operations –

Teams of TeamsEveryone loves the idea of Agile and Scrum’s streamlined efficiency and constant delivery, but very few take the time to understand how it actually works and how they must adapt their management style and structure to utilize it. Team of Teams describes the advantages and disadvantages of an “Agile” approach in very tangible terms – the Joint Special Operations Command units structure in Afghanistan.


This is Service Design Thinking

by Marc Stickdorn, Jakob Schneider, and 21 other service design practitioners

– Experience –

This is Service Design ThinkingThink of digital experience as a cohesive system not just a beautiful interface. That’s the underlying principle of service design and one we at Digital Foundry fully endorse. Thinking of user experience in the context of a service – a user’s journey, their emotional response to it, and the various touch points involved – will help all digital groups better grasp the true scope of a new digital offering.