I recently finished Rework, the latest book by 37 Signals, and the first one that went straight to print. So far, it seems to be well received and Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson certainly have a nice collection of well-deserved praise from various influential business folks.
Overall, I enjoyed the book – it was an easy, very conversational read. I also had the privilege of hearing Jason Fried speak about some of the key points from the book at a recent AIGA event in Philadelphia, so hearing his take on things first-hand was interesting, as well. On the whole, though, while I thought it was an interesting and useful book, I didn’t think that it was as transformative as Getting Real, their earlier book on the right way to build software. Getting Real was more or less a new way to look at building software that opened the eyes of many people to 37 Signals’ unique perspective. Rework tries to do the same for business, but I feel that in expanding its audience, it loses some of its punch.
That said, there were a couple of really very good points from the book. Thoughts like the ones that I discuss below did make the book worth the price of admission (both in dollars and in time to read). Some of the points I thought were good takeaways:
- Build A Rockstar Environment (pg. 253): talks about how companies are hiring “rockstars” and “ninjas” and how companies should actually focus on making sure their environment is conducive to doing the best work, rather than filling the room with individual rockstars. Specifically, the section discusses how many companies lose potential by having it trapped by “lame policies, poor direction, and stifling bureaucracy.” I really espouse hiring people smarter than you that also have a lot of drive and motivation (key qualities that I think make someone a rockstar), but I’ve also seen firsthand how talent is no match for environments that stifle that talents’ ability to do anything. The amount of talent at IBM was incredible, however, a lot of it got lost in the big company environment and this happens a lot to large organizations. Granted, a startup has a big advantage over an IBM in its ability to create an environment to tap this full potential, but I think that Fried and DHH are correct that too few businesses really take the time to optimize this.
- Sounds Like You (pg. 262): this section discusses how businesses try to sound artificially big, when they miss out on a key benefit of being a small company – being able to have a simple and straightforward conversation with their customers. This one hit home for me – I remember the days of working to build my web development consulting company and how it seemed like the key to making the company successful was sounding like it was a bigger entity than it was. Instead of using the size advantage to emphasize that the company could provide really personal service and great communication, it felt like the right thing to do to pretend to be larger and almost impersonal with the marketing copy. I realize now that this was a key advantage not emphasized enough and Fried/DHH make a point here that isn’t discussed enough for new startups.
- Inspiration is Perishable (pg. 271): the conclusion of the book succinctly touches on how the motivation to go out and tackle an idea you just had is short-lived and you need to take advantage of it while you have it. Things come up and you lose this initial drive. A great way to conclude the book (and a subtle way to emphasize that the reader needs to go out and start to figure out what to do with some of the ideas in the book!). Things never get easier and you never have a clean plate to tackle things in isolation – while it’s important to not get distracted and lose sight of your key goals, this is a key point, as well.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Other points readers should be sure to takeaway?