Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rework: A Review

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is a fun to read volume which shares the wisdom gained from the authors' starting 37signals. Released in 2010, it's a refreshing approach. Instead of drawing conclusions from the prescribed laws of business, the approach is simply sharing what has been learned inductively to be true.

Written like a blog with plenty of art, each "post" is somewhat autonomous, even though they are organized under chapter headings like Takedowns, Promotion, Hiring, Damage Control, Culture, and more. One of the better posts is on using an economy of words to improve the clarity of your message. They cut the book from 57,000 to 27,000 words and thus, the book reads like a charm.

The book debunks conventional myths and sources of needless stress, such as workaholism, meetings, growth, planning, out-doing the competition, decisions and experience: "How long someone's been doing something is overrated. What matters is how well they've been doing it." Accordingly, ASAP is poison: using this inflationary word will "create artificial stress, which leads to burnout and worse."

Contending that resumes are ridiculous, the authors argue that the cover letter is a much better test: "If the first paragraph sucks, the second has to work that much harder. If there's no hook in the first three, it's unlikely there's a match there. On the other hand, if your gut is telling you there's a chance...then move on to the interview stage."

Writing itself, the authors explain, is making a comeback everywhere, because whether it's an e-mail, text-message, blog or website, writing "is today's currency for good ideas." Moreover, since writing skills pay off whatever you're doing, hire the best one. A good writer is a good thinker and clear communicator, knowing how to make things easy to understand for their audience.

You can enjoy a fairly quick read of Rework the book; however, the ideas in it will prompt reflection and will challenge you to rethink old maxims which have proven to be somewhat useless in practice.

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