Aug 10

Book Review: REWORK

Truly unconventional. REWORK is in the league of those extraordinary books that blows away the traditional pillars of the business world. Written by Jason Fried, the co-founder of the web application company 37Signals and David Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails web framework (who is also partner at 37Signals), the book rewrites the rules of building a business and provides a fresh approach to various disciplines associated with business.

Rework is one of the most readable business books I have ever come across. Authors consciously avoid any kind of fancy business jargon and still offer powerful ideas and insights that can change the way you operate your business or the way you look at work forever. Most of these ideas and insights are based on the experiences of 37Signals, however, there are some examples culled from the outside world as well. The book is divided into the following 11 major sections :

  • Takedowns
  •  Go
  • Progress
  • Productivity
  • Competitors
  • Evolution
  • Promotion
  • Hiring
  • Damage Control
  • Culture
  • Conclusion

Although each section is sharp and concise in nature, the great suggestions in each of these sections can equate to a book twice (or even more) its size.  It is one of those books that can be read in a couple of hours and yet change your perception about various aspects of business. Who can say it better than Seth Godin – “This book will make you uncomfortable.”

Here are a few of the highlights that particularly made me ponder and introspect:

  • Learning from mistakes in overrated: Authors make a rational point here. The only thing we learn from mistakes is what “not” to do again and not what should be done next. “Evolution doesn’t lingers on past failures, it’s always building upon what worked. So should you. “
  • Planning is guessing: I couldn’t agree more. Fortune tellers are fake and long term planning is a fantasy. Technology and business changes extremely fast and planning 10 years ahead is entering a danger zone.  Not many people (and I have not met any) are doing things exactly as per their plans they formulated even 5 years back. Plans should be short term and should not kill your ability to improvise.
  • Scratch your own itch:  The best way to create something of great value is to make something you want to use.  From Facebook to 37Signals to James Dyson to Vic Firth,  the world of business is full of such examples.
  • Building a flip is building a flop:  “Would you go into a relationship planning the breakup? Would you meet with a divorce lawyer the morning of your wedding?”. Instead of an exit strategy, a business should have a commitment strategy. What we focus on goes a long way in deciding the future of our business. If the focus is to build something for acquisition, then the eye will be set on who is buying what instead of customers.
  • No time is no excuse: This is one of the “super points” that I really loved.  “When you want something bad enough, you make the time – regardless of your other obligations. The truth is that most people just don’t want it bad enough.”  It, in fact, reminded me of a saying that I read somewhere – “A busy man has time for everything.”
  • Decommoditize your product: Your product or service should reflect your thought, your opinion. It should reflect you. “Inject what’s unique about the way you think into what you sell.” Competitors (or in some cases copycats) can steal a recipe but they cannot steal or copy the “you” in your recipe and this “unique you” is what matters at the end of the day.
  • Own your bad news: I can safely say from my own experience that this thing works for the good and goes a long way to build a strong relationship with customers. “People will respect you more if you are open, honest, public and responsive during a crises.”
  • Inspiration is perishable:  Do it now. Adrenaline rush that is experienced now might not flow in tommorrow. “Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator. But it wont wait for you. It is a now thing.” Ideas don’t die.  Inspiration does.

These are just a few of the ideas and the book is packed with similar cases and unconventional insights. I enjoyed reading it and I am sure any earnest student of business will enjoy it as well. Final two words – Highly recommended.

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