Quotes from Rework

Tuesday May 22, 2012

by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

This book is largely the same as Getting Real, which you can read for free online. Both are pretty good, and pretty quotable. Here are some quotes I like, from Rework:

"Instead of describing what something looks like, draw it. Instead of explaining what something sounds like, hum it. Do everything you can to remove layers of abstraction.

"The problem with abstractions (like reports and documents) is that they create illusions of agreement. A hundred people can read the same words, but in their heads, they're imagining a hundred different things."

"Maybe it's because of the copy-and-paste world we live in these days. You can steal someone's words, images, or code instantly. And that means it's tempting to try to build a business by being a copycat.

"That's a formula for failure, though. The problem with this sort of copying is it skips understanding - and understanding is how you grow. You have to understand why something works or why something is the way it is. When you just copy and paste, you miss that. You just repurpose the last layer instead of understanding all the layers underneath.

"So much of the work an original creator puts into something is invisible. It's buried beneath the surface."

"Businesses are usually paranoid and secretive. They think they have proprietary this and competitive advantage that. Maybe a rare few do, but most don't. And those that don't should stop acting like those that do. Don't be afraid of sharing."

"There are plenty of companies out there who have educational requirements. They'll only hire people with a college degree (sometimes in a specific field) or an advanced degree or a certain GPA or certification of some sort or some other requirement.

"Come on. There are plenty of intelligent people who don't excel in the classroom. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you need someone from one of the "best" schools in order to get results. Ninety percent of CEOs currently heading the top five hundred American companies did not receive undergraduate degrees from Ivy League colleges. In fact, more received their undergraduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin than from Harvard (the most heavily represented Ivy school, with nine CEOs).

"Too much time in academia can actually do you harm. Take writing, for example. When you get out of school, you have to unlearn so much of the way they teach you to write there. Some of the misguided lessons you learn in academia:

"It's no wonder so much business writing winds up dry, wordy, and dripping with nonsense. People are just continuing continuing the bad habits they picked up in school. It's not just academic writing, either. There are a lot of skills that are useful in academia that aren't worth much outside of it.

"Bottom line: The pool of great candidates is far bigger than just the people who completed college with a stellar GPA. Consider dropouts, people who had low GPAs, community-college students, and even those who just went to high school."

"If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. It doesn't matter if that person is a marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever; their writing skills will pay off.

"That's because being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else's shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.

"You can't hide anymore. These days, someone else will call you on it if you don't do it yourself. They'll post about it online and everyone will know. There are no more secrets."

"Instant cultures are artificial cultures. They're big bangs made of mission statements, declarations, and rules. They are obvious, ugly, and plastic. Artificial culture is paint. Real culture is patina.

"You don't create a culture. It happens. This is why new companies don't have a culture. Culture is the byproduct of consistent behavior. If you encourage people to share, then sharing will be built into your culture. If you reward trust, then trust will be built in. If you treat customers right, then treating customers right becomes your culture.

Culture isn't a foosball table or trust falls. It isn't policy. It isn't the Christmas party or the company picnic. Those are objects and events, not culture. And it's not a slogan, either. Culture is action, not words."

"A lot of companies post help-wanted ads seeking "rock stars" or "ninjas." Lame. Unless your workplace is filled with groupies and throwing stars, these words have nothing to do with your business.

"Instead of thinking about how you can land a roomful of rock stars, think about the room instead. We're all capable of bad, average, and great work. The environment has a lot more to do with great work than most people realize.

"That's not to say we're all created equal and you'll unlock star power in anyone with a rock star environment. But there's a ton of untapped potential trapped under lame policies, poor direction, and stifling bureaucracies. Cut the crap and you'll find that people are waiting to do great work. They just need to be given the chance.

"This isn't about casual Fridays or bring-your-dog-to-work day. (If those are such good things, they why aren't you doing them every day of the week?)

"Rockstar environments develop out of trust, autonomy, and responsibility. They're a result of giving people the privacy, workspace, and tools they deserve. Great environments show respect for the people who do the work and how they do it."

"Write to be read, don't write just to write. Whenever you write something, read it out loud. Does it sound the way it would if you were actually talking to someone? If not, how can you make it more conversational?"

This post was originally hosted elsewhere.