Rework falls into a genre of business books I call Short Attention Span Business Wisdom. Hugh McCloud’s Ignore Everybody, which came out shortly after Rework, falls into the same category.
There’s a lot to like in Rework. Certainly Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37 Signals, have learned a ton of valuable lessons on the road to building their successul company. Their lessons are—like their software—simple, to the point, and easy to consume.
One of my favorite lessons is “Why grow?” It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking bigger is better. Most VCs demand it, and many entrepreneurs presume it. It’s refreshing to know a successful software company recognizes where their own sweet spot is, and is proud to have only 16 employees. Money quote: “Small is not just a stepping-stone. Small is a great destination in itself.”
And I love “Out-teach your competition”. I love the abundant-universe approach. Knowledge is not a scarce resource. Sharing your knowledge makes everyone stronger. And in the case of product companies, that sharing makes for better informed, loyal customers.
There’s plenty of inspiration to be found in these pages, and plenty of common sense, too.
Do you sense there’s a big BUT coming?
BUT I take issue — enormous issue — with the essay entitled “Learning from mistakes is overrated.” HUH?
Another common misconception: You need to learn from your mistakes. What do you really learn from mistakes? You might learn what not to do again, but how valuable is that? You still don’t know what you should do next.
Wow. This is a remarkably arrogant attitude. In fact, it’s complete bullshit.
Mistakes are a part of every business. Mistakes don’t just teach you what not to do. They teach you better ways to move forward in other areas. Mistakes can open entirely new pathways of thought. And they can teach you a whole lot about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and where your ego gets in the way.
I’ll be curious to know if Jason and David feel the same way after they have a few good mistakes under their belts.