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Rework

A book by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

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A masterful "gutting" of traditional notions of what it takes to run a business

  • Mar 24, 2010
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+5
If Joseph Schumpeter were to design a "creative destroyer," he would probably come up with a business thinker who bears a striking resemblance to Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. To me, they seem to be iconoclasts who are impatient to build rather than anarchists whose objective is chaos. They quickly indicate a healthy respect for the nature and extent of difficulty when challenging the status quo. But they are not deterred by that difficulty, as their success with 37signals clearly indicates, and they probably have more confidence in their readers' (as yet) unfulfilled potentialities than most of those readers do.

Consider this passage in Chapter FIRST: "There's a new reality. Today anyone can be in business. Tools that used to be out of reach are now easily accessible. Technology that cost thousands is now just a few bucks or free. One person can do the job of two or three or, in some cases, an entire department. Stuff that was impossible just a few years ago is simple today." That said, Fried and Hansson realize that many people who read that passage will heartily endorse its spirit but decline to embrace and leverage the opportunities that the new reality offers. For them, the "real world" is defined by what James O'Toole so aptly characterizes in his book, Leading Change, as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom."

This so-called "real world" has advocates who, Fried and Hansson observe, "are filled with pessimism and despair. They expect fresh concepts to fail. They assume society isn't ready for or capable of change. Even worse, they want to drag others down into their tomb. If you're hopeful and ambitious, they'll try to convince you your ideas are impossible. They'll say you're wasting your time. Don't believe them. That world may be real for them, but it doesn't mean you have to live in it." By now you have at least a sense of the thrust and flavor of Fried and Hansson's perspectives on how (literally) anyone can rework what she or he does...and rework how she or he does it...to achieve and then sustain success in all dimensions and domains of one's life. Indeed, one of the most important insights shared in the book is that the most valuable business lessons are also the most valuable life lessons. For example, here are ten of several dozen that Fried and Hansson discuss:

Learning from mistakes is overrated.
Planning is guessing.
Scratch your own itch.
Not [having] enough of [fill in the blank] is a cop-out.
Embrace constraints.
Be a curator, not a custodian.
Reasons to quit [and not quit]

Note: The material in this chapter is wholly consistent with the gambler's adage, "Know when to hold `em, know when to fold `em" as well as with Seth Godin's observations in The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick).

Long lists don't get done.
Emulate great chefs.
ASAP is poison.

Granted, the tone of Fried and Hansson's narrative is sometimes confrontational, in-your-face, but I think that is necessary because their separate but related purposes are to challenge their reader to "rework" or, in some instances, "blow up" assumptions and premises about business success that are no longer true (if they ever were), and, to encourage their reader to adopt a new mindset, then formulate and execute new strategies and tactics that will achieve sustainable business success.

If you need some fresh perspectives on how to get more done with less, including less stress, and do so with more joy, look no further. And if you share my high regard for this book, you need to check out Seth Godin's Linchpin, Guy Kawasaki's Reality Check, Scott McLeod's Ignore Everybody, and Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense co-authored by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton.

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More Rework reviews
review by . November 03, 2010
Counter-intuitivism has never been this appealing or enlightening. Following uncommon, adverse advice and tips normally would seem as crazy talk, but in Rework, the approach and delivered goods are well worth the look on the naysayers' faces when you're successful from heeding said advice.      From burgeoning entrepreneurs to weathered corporate managers alike, this book works for either as a new approach to obtaining the same goal: success, and its myriad of definitions …
review by . May 05, 2010
Prior to reading Rework, I was unfamiliar with Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson, or their company 37signals. One book, however, provides the reader with the insight into the attitudes of the founders and a basis for the reasons for their success. However, if you subscribe to "conventional wisdom," this book may not be for you. The authors tend go against your experience and what has been instilled into you during your college and graduate work. Nonetheless, this is a worthwhile book, …
review by . May 26, 2010
A compendium of ideas, suggestions, do's & don'ts, warnings, tips and personal experiences.
From the opening pages of "Rework' it becomes quite apparent that Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are not your typical enterpreneurs.  As founders of the trailblazing software company "37signals" Fried and Hansson turn conventional business wisdom on its head by pursuing rather unorthodox strategies and techniques.  They have little use for planning and detest meetings. They view the world of business through an entirely different paradigm than …
review by . January 10, 2011
Business and branding books glut the market. In fact, I have dozens. But the only one that I consider my "biz Bible"? Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the brilliant founders of 37signals (Basecamp, Highrise, etc.)    I read Rework early last year and benefited enormously. Under pressure by co-workers and colleagues to "tone it down" (paraphrase), my intensity and originality were stifled, and the gradual sacrifice to "fit in" within a small niche culture eroded …
review by . June 02, 2010
These are the two chaps of 37 signals who started Basecamp and a host of other tools. They were also early advocates of Ruby on Rails. A breathless book that runs through the gamut of pragmatic business advice. You will find your self agreeing with them much more than disagreeing. Their comments on software design ( It should be simple, practical, easy to use but often is not) resonated today as I was running through Microsoft Office 2010. sigh, I can see why Open Office is attractive - Microsoft …
review by . April 11, 2010
After the buzz I've seen generated by this book, I needed to read it to find out what it was all about... Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. They are the guys who started the web company 37signals, a company that has found a sizable niche with software products that are simple and basic. There are enough features to get the job done, and no more. In Rework, they share their philosophy on how a company should be started and run, based on how they've run their own company. While I …
review by . April 10, 2010
I'd expected a book of substance, and instead I got a book of aphorisms.    As the founder of a startup, I was hoping to get some insights into how 37signals has achieved so much success. I'd hoped for stories and details. Rework consists entirely of grandiose statements ("Don't be a hero," "Ignore the real world," "No time is no excuse") followed by a couple of pages of explanation in large type. In other words, the purpose of the book is to inspire, not to inform.    That's …
About the reviewer
Robert Morris ()
Ranked #169
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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ISBN-10: 0307463745
ISBN-13: 978-0307463746
Author: Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
Genre: Business & Investing, Health, Mind & Body
Publisher: Crown Business
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