Review of the book ReWork

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Front cover of the book ReWork

Joel Spolsky once wrote of two kinds of companies: those which enter a saturated market and grow cautiously on a small budget and the pioneer companies which enter new markets and grow as quickly as financially possible. Rework is advice on starting and running the first kind.

The book’s authors, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, run 37signals, a web design and software company based in Chicago. Fried is one of the company’s founders; Hansson later joined as a developer and became well know for his work on Ruby on Rails.

Both men contribute to the 37signals’ Signal vs. Noise blog where they write of their professional experience. When running one’s company, their blog posts advise on spending less money, time and energy. Instead, employees and owners should be smart about their work, pragmatic about their decisions. For the company to succeed, it must remain lean and flexible and, most importantly, it must be bold.

ReWork is a collection of some of the best Signal vs. Noise posts.

My first impression of the book was that of being in a 101 class: the student is given many rules without fully understanding of how they came to be and with few examples of their application. Both authors write in an authoritative, know-it-all voice which comes off tactless. There is little attempt at convincing the reader of the advice’s validity. Instead, the reader is assumed to be familiar with 37signals’ success.

Half-way through the 400 word chapters — and there are many covering all aspects of doing business — I let go of my need for explanation and examples and simply took in their advice. The advice is appropriate, particularly for people who may not have read business books before; ReWork reads like an index of behavior for running a successful online company. But I couldn’t help but think the information was too condensed to make a lasting impression. And the advice is not original, as the introduction would have you believe.

I give this book a 3.5 out of 5. It’s wide in scope but shallow in detail, which ultimately hurts its usefulness. However, for 16$ and the 3 hours it takes to read, ReWrite is a good deal.

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