Book Review: Rework
One of the more prominent Internet success stories from the past decade has been 37 Signals, the Web site design firm turned software company. Their Web-based software products like Basecamp, Highrise, and others have been well-received and heavily-adopted.
Along the way, the group has earned a great deal of acclaim from the mainstream media and online community for their approach to software and business. They have developed (and seem to freely share) their recipe for success. Some of their musings can be read on their blog, Signal vs. Noise. While they are fairly blunt (and perhaps even brash), it’s hard to argue with their success. Prominent reviewers who have heaped praise on the book include Seth Godin, Tom Peters, and Mark Cuban.
The founders (Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson) have recently released a book called Rework which shares some interesting concepts and details regarding their approach. The book’s layout and tone, like their approach to business, are both creative and unconventional. The format is choppy (more a collection of ideas than flowing narrative), but in a good way. The accompanying imagery is edgy and creative.
While much of the book focuses on entrepreneurship, there are many insights and lessons for those involved in Web projects. A few of the takeaways for Internet marketers include the following:
- Make something that you yourself would want to use.
- Don’t be afraid to narrow the scope of projects; when it comes to building something great, eliminate the parts that are merely good.
- Don’t worry too much about details at the beginning; when doing your planning, stick to the broad strokes (they even advocate using Sharpie markers instead of ballpoint pens when planning).
- Look for by-products of your products that you can sell. As the authors put it, “when you make something, you always make something else.”
- Launch (or Ship, as Seth Godin advocates) your product even if you have other ideas and enhancements to add.
- Decommodotize your offerings by inserting yourself into the equation; if you do that, you can’t ever be truly duplicated.
- Out-teach your competition instead of trying to outspend, outsell or outsponsor them.
The book is a fun read from a successful group. You’ll undoubtedly find some really surprising assertions and arguments (a whole chapter on emulating drug dealers, for example) from a proven company. And those that manage Web projects will find some particularly interesting insights about online success from a team that knows more than most about that topic.