April 6th, 2010
(Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, 2010))
This is the latest business book by the founders of 37signals, who have become famous for creating Ruby on Rails. The tagline, "change the way you work forever", sets the tone for this book, it promises a lot. This seems to be the style of 37signals, they are very good at creating a hype around themselves, similar to Apple. Before I get to the content, I have to say that I am very much annoyed by this behaviour, it's too aggressive and phony for my taste. But their success proves me wrong.
The book is a quick read. It has almost 300 pages, but the font is very large and there are lots of illustrations. I managed to read it in about two hours. The individual chapters consist of essays, which are headlined by a thesis and cover about two pages, and feel like blog posts. Overall, the book consists of about 90 essays.
The language of the book is very clear and straight to the point. There is no beating around the bush, the authors make their points and move on. The key messages are "take initiative" and "focus", it puts the reader in the driving seat, and creates a positive vibe towards work. In this way the book is a success.
One thesis mentioned in this book is "sell your by-products". The authors argue that each company does some work that is not harvested although being potentially valuable. For them, creating books like this is a by-product. The amount of money they make from it proves them right, however this is also the point where it fails: It truly feels like a by-product, it doesn't feel like it has been written by a focussed and passionate person. At some stages it feels redundant, at others it feels artificial. Maybe we have to get used to books like these.
Nevertheless I managed to take some interesting aspects out of it, I especially liked the essays "Scratch your own itch", "Be a curator", "Say no by default", "The best are everywhere" and "You don't create a culture". Just for these, the book was worth reading. It's not a book I love, and will not change the way I will work forever, but it's a decent book to read and even to revisit later on.