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Happy 3rd Birthday Digital Tonto!

2012 August 5
by Greg Satell

A brilliant and accomplished editor, one who I respect greatly, used to tell his staff that they should write for the fourth floor, where the sales and marketing teams sat.  The idea was that journalists should write for the dull and dim comprehension of the business world.

As a perennial inhabitant of that floor, I resented the implication.  For me, business has always been a lively intellectual endeavor where ideas are more than dreams; they are tested in the marketplace.

So, in a certain sense, this blog is a retort to my old friend.  Alas, since I moved away, he no longer comes over to drink whiskey and certainly won’t send me any presents. Therefore, as in past years, I’m celebrating Digital Tonto’s birthday with a list of my favorite posts.  They weren’t necessarily the most popular, but they’re the ones I like.

Triumphant Tales of Heartbreaking Desperation

Stories of great success usually come to us in an unvarnished fashion.  Someone with incredible ability enters the world and enjoys an exciting, unhibited rise to the top.  The truth, of course, is far messier.  Most of the people we revere today didn’t have it easy, but fought through long periods of hardship and self-doubt.  This post tells the story of three of them.

As far as I’m concerned, this is the best thing I’ve written.  It didn’t get a lot of page views or tweets, but for me it’s still number 1!

Read it now


The 7 Greatest Ideas in History

This is one of the rare posts that I liked a lot and was also very popular.  From Ancient Greece to CERN, it covers seven ideas that changed the world.  It also attracted some excellent comments, so check them out as well.

Read it now


The Semantic Economy

I think it’s pretty clear to everyone that there has been a fundamental change in the way in which our economy works.  The drastic reduction in transaction costs have eliminated many of the economies of scale that favored large enterprises in the past.  This post does a good job of explaining what’s important and why.

Read it now


The Future by Design

One of the most important aspects of the new economy is that we don’t make things anymore as much as we design them.  Robotics, 3D printing and eventually programmable products will drive this trend to its logical conclusion – a fully automated and customizable manufacturing process.

The upshot is that an increasing amount of the value of products is information and the nature of competitive advantage has changed dramatically and forever.

Read it now


The Passion Economy

While the posts on the semantic economy and the future by design did a good job explaining what’s going on at a macro level, they are somewhat useless for managers.  At a micro level, what is really important is the role of the firm.  If scale and manufacturing are no longer crucial to success, why do companies like Google and Facebook still hire thousands of employees?

As I argued in this post, just like industrial firms in the era of atoms excelled at allocating physical resources, successful new economy enterprises are adept at focusing passion.

Read it now


The Difference Between Strategy and Innovation

I think one of the great misapprehensions in the corporate world today is that strategy and innovation are the same thing (or at least very closely related).  In reality, they are fundamentally separate disciplines, requiring different people, processes and values.

Read it now


The Changing Game of Strategy

Back in the good old days, when men were men and Sean Connery played James Bond, intelligent villains bent on world domination inevitably played chess, the game of kings. Winning was all about seeing several moves ahead and moving the right pieces to the right places.

Today, in our fast-moving, anything-goes business world, all the evil geniuses are playing video games.  They don’t plan as much as they quest.

Read it now


The Improbable Origins of Modern Computing

I posted this recently.  Unfortunately, since I did so on the first weekend of the Olympics, many of you missed it.  Here’s your chance to check it out.  You can’t move forward without looking back…

Read it now

Why the Lunatics Really Do Run The Asylum

Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in a management position and has even an ounce of good sense quickly realizes that it’s almost impossible to get anyone to do what you want.  To be a successful leader you have to inspire others to want you want.

In other words, the lunatics run the asylum.  All management can do is help them run it right.

Read it now


4 Types of Innovation (and how to approach them)

The toughest problem concerning innovation is what you should do about it.  Should you leave it to experts in the field, finance basic research, bring in outsiders or set up a special unit to tackle a thorny problem?  All of those approaches have proved to be successful in different contexts, but which one is best for your particular situation?

In this post, I set up a  simple two by two matrix that provides a good framework.  Since I posted it last spring, it continues to get significant daily readership, so I must have been onto something.

Read it now


5 Principles of Creativity

Creativity is one of those mystical things.  Many believe that you either have it or you don’t. While some people are endowed with a certain flair, in truth creativity is a skill that anyone can learn.  Here are five principles to guide you.

Read it now


Crappy Innovation

Many people assume that innovations arrive on stage like Steve Jobs; crisp, clean and, of course, mind-blowing.  In actuality, innovation is often crappy.  This post explains why.

Read it now


The Story of Networks

One of the biggest developments over the past decade is the emergence of network science.  Here’s the story of how it came to be.  I find myself linking to this post quite a bit.

Read it now


How Viral Ideas Lead the Revolution

You say you want a revolution.  Well, you know…

We’ve all watched in amazement the events known as the Arab Spring.  How can we foster similar change in corporate life?  In this post, I relate some of the things I observed during Ukraine’s Orange revolution, how they fit into social network theory and how you can apply them to change within your organization.

Read it now


Exploding the Influentials Myth

Legend has it that there are mythical beings running around who tell the rest of us what do, buy and say.  There has never been any evidence to support such a notion and plenty to refute it, but nevertheless, many still love to tout “influentials.”

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story, but the influentials myth is such a flagrant case of marketing malpractice I just had to speak up.

Read it now


Stupid Strategy

Everybody wants to be clever.  Nobody wants to be stupid.  That’s a shame, because the best strategy is often the most obvious.  If you have to work that hard to see it, it usually isn’t there.  Unfortunately, strategists like to be clever and that’s where they run into trouble.

As the great mathematician G.H. Hardy said,  “For any serious purpose, intelligence is a very minor gift.”

Read it now


How to Blame Your Clients

This one practically wrote itself.  I was at a dinner one night with a bunch of corporate types throwing around the usual bullshit.  I combined some of the choicest phrases into a dialogue and viola!  – an absolutely hilarious post:-)

To make the whole thing even funnier, I later heard from some of the people who were at the dinner and read the post.  They told me they loved it and never seemed to realize that I was quoting them:-)

Read it now


How to Cop Out

This post is a tribute to the time-honored corporate tradition of copping out.  Often much maligned, copping out is a mainstay of business life.  It will save you time, keep underlings at a safe distance and help you avoid pesky questions.

Learn the right lessons and you’ll never actually have to achieve anything again!

Read it now


Thanks to everybody for the amazing support over the last three years.  I hope you’ve liked reading Digital Tonto as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.  I’m looking forward to another great year of learning from all of you.  The best is still yet to come…

– Greg

11 Responses leave one →
  1. August 5, 2012

    Some of these are also my favorites.

  2. August 5, 2012

    Thanks for all your support Valeria!

    btw. Check out her fabulous blog at

    – Greg

  3. Ajoy Vakil permalink
    August 6, 2012

    3rd Birthday! Congrats Greg! And keep up the good work! There’s a lot to learn from your blog!


  4. August 6, 2012

    Congrats on the 3 years Greg! I’ve been enjoying your posts immensely and you’ve provided me with loads of inspiration and instruction. I’m looking forward to the next 3 years!

  5. August 6, 2012

    Thank you Ajoy.

    – Greg

  6. August 6, 2012

    That’s very kind of you to say.

    Thank you.

    – Greg

  7. August 6, 2012

    Hey Greg!! Although I comment very few times in your blog, I have always enjoyed reading your thoughtful posts and your thinking has quite influenced the way I think about marketing! I remember my first introduction to Digital Tonto through the widely retweeted Story of Networks. Been an avid fan of your works since then! Wishing you great success in all your endeavors!

  8. August 6, 2012

    Thank you Venky. I’ve enjoyed your comments.

    – Greg

  9. August 6, 2012

    Happy 3rd Birthday Digital Tonto! I always enjoy reading your perspectives and often share your work with colleagues. Wishing you many more years of success.

  10. August 6, 2012

    Thank you for all your support Sue!

    – Greg

  11. August 7, 2012

    Happy birthday 😉

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