I'm taking the summer off to do lots of backpacking, biking, and reading. Here's some summer reading for you, including my best Medium essays, along with the books that most inform my thinking.
Gib’s note: In each “Ask Gib” essay, I draw from my experience as VP of Product at Netflix and Chief Product Officer at Chegg to help product leaders advance their careers. This is essay #53.
Big Event on Nov. 10th: The 2021 Product Leader Summit (Virtual)
I have co-hosted The Product Leader Summit, a gathering of VP, Director, and Heads of Product, for five years. Each year more than 1,000 product leaders apply to this 120-person invite-only event. We build a “class” that is 50/50 male/female and 20% Black/LatinX, then bring everyone together for talks, workshops, and other activities to help product leaders build a community of peers. It only takes two minutes to apply: ProductLeaderSummit.com
Here are my other upcoming public events:
Click here to purchase my self-paced Product Strategy course on Teachable for $200 off the normal $699 price— the coupon code is 200DISCOUNTGIBFRIENDS. (You can try the first two modules for free.)
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Click here to ask and upvote questions. I answer a few questions each week.
I have taken July and August off from my crazy pace of talks, workshops, executive events, and writing. My wife and I bought a house in Bend, Oregon, and we’re doing four weeks of backpacking in the California Sierras, along with lots of mountain and road biking. At the moment, I’m visiting my parents in Stonington, CT.
Growing up, my parents paid me $1 for each book I read, so I was well motivated to read a book each day of the summer. Today, I write more than I read. Reading is a great way to learn, so I am re-sharing the best essays I have written, along with my favorite books and essays from other authors. This reading list is focused on product strategy, management, and tech startups.
1. My Product Strategy and Management Essays
Here are my top five essays based on claps and Net Promoter Score. (For perspective, an NPS of 50 is considered good/great, and 70 is world-class.):
Hacking Your Product Leader Career (5K claps, 82 NPS). This is white-hat hacking, focused on tactics to accelerate your career and build career satisfaction.
How to Run A Quarterly Product Strategy Meeting (7K claps, 64 NPS.) This essay focuses on tactics to keep strategy front and center in your organization.
Branding For Builders (11K claps, 60 NPS.) How to define your product’s positioning and brand in a way that connects directly to your long-term product vision.
How to Define Your Product Strategy (10K claps, 81 NPS.) This twelve-part series outlines a step-by-step process to define your product strategy.
A Brief History of Netflix Personalization (2K claps on Medium, 70 NPS). This essay illustrates the combination of patience, strategic thinking, experimentation, and culture required to build innovative products.
2. Strategy books
These are my four favorite strategy books:
7 Powers: Foundations of Business Strategy by Hamilton Helmer. This book describes the foundation required for building a “hard to copy” advantage. Tip: Each chapter includes both prose and economic theory — it’s ok to skip the theory.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters. This is an extremely well-written book focused on startup product strategy.
The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen. This was the bible at Netflix. The management team read this book each year then discussed it as a team.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. This book framed my initial thinking on the importance of metrics. Yes, it’s about baseball (and I don’t even like baseball!).
3. My favorite startup books
I love to experience startups vicariously, and each of these books gives access to the minds of fascinating people. There are many takeaways about entrepreneurship, product management, and strategy, plus lots of inside dirt.
Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance. This has three startup stories in one book — PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX.
No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier. From startup to acquisition by Facebook.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Excellent writer.
Whistleblower by Susan Fowler. This book forces you to reflect on the “Bro” culture in Silicon Valley. This is a must-read, and Susan’s early upbringing is fascinating.
The Everything Store by Brad Stone. The Amazon startup story.
That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph. Marc was the co-founder of Netflix. He chronicles the very early days.
Powerful by Patty McCord. Patty ran HR at Netflix and advocates radical honesty, saying goodbye to employees who don’t fit the company’s emerging needs and motivating with challenging work, not promises, perks, and bonus plans.
Obviously Awesome by April Dunford. This book focuses on startup strategy and positioning.
4. Additional resources
Paul Graham’s essays. He was a co-founder of Y Combinator, which disrupted traditional VCs. He’s also an engineer and skillful essayist.
Y Combinator’s Startup Library. Start with “YC’s essential startup advice.”
Stratechery by Ben Thompson. The original strategy newsletter.
First Round Review. A treasure trove for consumer and enterprise technology companies.
Remains of the Day by Eugene Wei. He was early at both Amazon and Hulu, then worked on Oculus. He always has an interesting take on products.
How I Built This by Guy Raz. Like my startup books, each of these podcasts gives insight into product and strategy.
How to Build an Iconic Company by Keith Rabois. These are three-minute podcasts that talk about startups, leadership, management, and strategy.
Lenny’s Newsletter. A weekly Substack product newsletter that pulls together lots of highly relevant resources.
What I’ve Learned From Jeff Bezos By Reading Every Amazon Shareholder Letter by Parsa Saljoughian. (Read Bezo’s original shareholder letter, too.)
One last thing!
Before you go, I’d love you to complete the Four Ss below:
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I hope you enjoy this summer reading! And if you are a “Head of Product” and have not applied to the November 10th Product Leader Summit, click here to apply.
PS. Got a question? Ask and upvote questions here:
PPS. Once I answer a question, I archive it. I have responded to 56 questions so far!