Rarely do I read business books. When I read something work-related, it is often technical: a manual, a white paper, a discussion of specific principles or process. Alternately I choose a more journalistic discussion of a catastrophic failure. The Moment It Clicks will serve as an example of the former; The Smartest Guys in the Room, the latter.
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is something different for me. Superficially, this is the sort of book that attempts to explain how to be a successful businessman. The sort of books that pack the stores at airports. Certainly not my usual fare. But then, Rework is not filled with your usual advice. In fact, Freid and Hansson actively argue against the conventional wisdom of writing a business plan, studying the competition, and seeking outside investors in order to be successful. The eighty-eight included essays (each two or three pages in length) address simple maxims learned from ten years of sustained business success in a software development company, 37 Signals. These short essays have titles like: “Learning from mistakes is overrated”, “No time is no excuse”, “Focus on what won’t change”, and “You don’t create a culture”.
I first came across 37 Signals a few years ago when we began using their product, Basecamp, to manage projects and information regarding our building. More recently, as my colleagues and I were attempting to navigate the the volatility surrounding working for Tribune Company, Rework was one of the books that garnered my attention when Konkol discussed it at lunch. What Fried and Hansson reiterate is all that really needs to happen is to stop talking and start working. Much of the matieral was first introduced on the Signal vs. Noise blog — a fact they acknowledge in the book itself when discussing the value of production byproducts. Much like sawdust is a resalable byproduct of a lumber yard, the book is a byproduct of their own experiences running a successful business.
Jason Fried and David Hansson follow their own advice in REWORK, laying bare the surprising philosophies at the core of 37signals’ success and inspiring us to put them into practice. There’s no jargon or filler here just hundreds of brilliantly simple rules for success. Part entrepreneurial handbook for the twenty-first century, part manifesto for anyone wondering how work really works in the modern age, REWORK is required reading for anyone tired of business platitudes. — Chris Anderson