Required Reading: Jacob Cohen

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Name: Jacob Cohen
Classes Taught: Naming Essentials, Innovating with the Business Model Canvas

Jacob’s history with computers began in 1984 with a diploma for “computer excellence” from Ronald Reagan, a document held in low regard by his tech-savvy but liberal Oregon family. Over the course of his career his focus has been on creating and designing engaging experiences for users using innovative technology. He loves technologies that make life more convenient and improve communication. Over the last 12 years he’s developed a talent for building teams of designers and developers driven by a focused strategy and pushing the boundaries of technology.

Jacob is currently Principal Experience Strategist at frog design. Previously he was Senior Strategist, Digital at Wolff Olins where he worked with Smithsonian, Activision, Microsoft and the first modern and contemporary Arab art museum in the World, Mathaf.

Below are some of Jacob’s top picks.

Books

  • Brain Rules by John Medina – The way in which we make process information is key to understanding how to design systems for consumption and businesses that treat people like people. Brain Rules is a great introduction into cognitive science, showing us how we approach the world and the many factors that play into our understanding.
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – Kahneman is one of the inventors of behavioral economics. If you want to understand how decisions happen this is the book to read. A key take away for me, that I try to repeat whenever I stumble into a problem I can’t solve is: What You See Is All There Is. Read the book and you’ll understand.
  • On Brand by Wally Olins – Since Wally doesn’t work at Wolff Olins any more I guess this is only a half plug for the agency that taught me the real impact of brand. It’s a great book and one that is given to new employees. Where most branding books talk in complex terms and speak of pillars and promises, Wally defines the Wolff Olins way. Simple and understandable.
  • Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur – This is a great resource of both exercises and for rethinking how your company is positioned. I’m not a huge fan of the writing in the first half but the business model canvas, and the secrets it can unlock about your company and its habits, is a great tool.

Online Resources

  • James Burke: Connections (Video Series) – Anyone who calls themselves a “Strategist” should love this show. Started in 1977 James Burke shows how even the most mundane technologies are connected to each other. Since Strategy today is about understanding the connections between the things that make up our world and breaking the habits that keep them separated, this show is great.
  • Gamestorming – This a great resource for exercises you can use in workshops. There’s a ton of them on the site but they are well organized. It’s based off a book by the same name which could give you more clarity of how to use the exercises if you feel you need it.
  • Solve for X – Kind of my new “TED Talk”.
  • MIT Technology Review – Our world changes extremely fast, even if we aren’t always noticing, and that change is driven by the technology around us. Disruptive technology is what drives competitive advantage and allows small companies to be more nimble than large ones. Technology Review is a great resource for seeing that disruptive technology before it’s in market.

Image credit: Brainrules Media Kit, screenshot from Connections by James Burke