18 things learnt from Rework: Change the Way You Work Forever by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

1) Mistakes and Learning

  • Do not follow what other people have learnt, and do not allow them to create the rules of society of what works and doesn’t work. Other peoples mistakes are other peoples mistakes they are nothing to do with you. When you learn from your mistakes, you learn what NOT to do, but not necessarily what you should do next. Learning from your success will always tell you what to do next, therefore it is important to understand that failure is not a prerequisite to success.

2) Don’t let the past drive the future

  • Plans let the past drive the future, they are inconsistent with improvisation. You have to learn to go in new directions, because that is what suitable today. Often plans are made so long ago, and it doesnt make sense for them to plant the future, because the future changes. Don’t call them plans, call them strategic guesses, and decide what you do on a weekly basis. Dont plan too far in advance as estimating is silly and nearly always inaccurate. If you break your tasks into smaller tasks, you are much more likely to be accurate, compared to estimate something big.

3) Premature Growth means death

  • Premature growth is a death point, don’t grow for the sake of growing. See what feels right, small companies wish they were big, and big companies wish they were more agile. The bigger the company the more complex the infrastructure, therefore causing more problems then required. You end up hiring people to solve problems that were created from hiring too many people. It will just be a mess.

4) Don’t be a Workaholic

  • Workaholics create more problems than they solve. They make up for a lack of intelligence through force. They do it to feel good, not to solve problems. If you always work hard you don’t know what are considered to be real problems. They even do it sometimes to belittle others. Work hard when required, not all the time — you will burn out.

5) Let your customers miss you

  • You want your customers to feel that if you stop doing what you do, then they will feel something is missing. Build stuff you want to use, when you solve your own problem, you know how to solve it. You are therefore scratching your own itch. You are now in the position of the customer where you can identify what makes the product work in the best way possible to solve the problem.

6) Don’t be a hypocrite and stay in control!

  • Don’t be a hypocrite like these companies who say they are sorry to keep you waiting, but still put you on hold for hours! Companies that think a robot is showing “genuine affection” is silly. When you start taking money from others, you also start taking orders. Do not take money to have someone else control ur money. You will never have leverage and you will always have to give more of your company up to raise more money. This results in several contracts etc and a waste of time instead of focusing on building something great. By taking too much money from investors, you end up building what investors want, instead of what your customers want.

7) Keep it personal, and don’t build to flip!

  • Don’t buy things you don’t need, you often need less than you think. Do not have people respond to your emails, let the CEO respond. You do not need advertising, instead share your experiences and promote teaching your audience knowledge.
  • Building to flip is building to flop! Don’t have an exit strategy when you first start. Have a commitment strategy. You will never see a divorce lawyer on the day of your marriage, because it is ridiculous! You never go into a marriage thinking you are going to divorce, therefore never plan to exit

8) Focus on what you have!

  • When you are a startup, constraints are a good thing because you learn to be creative and make do with what you have. i.e. you may chose to raise funds via a crowd funding campaign like Kickstarter. However, how do you know what is important? Always start at the epicentre. Ask yourself “if i took this away, would my product still exist?” if it does, then great focus on making this the best it can be with the given resources you have available. Ignore the details, while you nail the basics. An architect never plans the floor tiles when he is starting out working on a building. If you focus on what you can do now, instead of the bigger picture you will learn to do what is good enough. The thing is, you never have to live with the decision forever because you can always change good enough to great! Long projects zap morale, instead start with something extremely basic and that way you are always making progress.
  • Learn to be a curator and stick to what is truly essential, it is the stuff you leave out that truly matters. If you have a big problem, do not try and make the whole problem better. Reduce the problem completely to the core of the problem, and polish/work on it. Think about when Gordon Ramsey goes to a restaurant in Kitchen Nightmares, often these restaurants have hundreds of dishes. He learns to scrap all of the dishes and focus on 10, then then polishes them to make them awesome! Therefore learn to cut back and polish.
  • Always remember, that the core of your business should be based on habits people want to change today, AND 10 years from now. By doing this, you are focusing on the core things that do not change.

9) Worry about the necessities.

  • A band done a documentary on its journey to progress, this captivated a very large audience. They knew they could not afford extensive marketing budgets therefore they focused on what they had. Ask yourself, if you had to achieve something in a given period of time, what would you cut out and why? When working on the necessities, always evaluate if it something which is actually useful or if your making something just for the sake of it. Whatever you decide to do, ask yourself if its adding value. Value is about balance, will your “change” actually do anything? Don’t add unless it has a real impact on your product, and avoid throwing good time at bad work!

10) Worksmart, and avoid interruptions!

  • Ask yourself when do you get the most work done? Some people work hours through the night when there is little or no interruption. The reason why they work best at this time is because interruptions are not collaborative to productivity. You cannot get meaningful things done when you are constantly start/stop. You need to focus and for long periods of time. Introduce “uninterrupted” hours at your work, where nobody talks to each other, there is no Facebook, or anything that can take someone away from working. Try this as an experiment and watch your productivity skyrocket!

11) Meetings, the right way…

  • Meetings generally are so vague they never have a goal. Your meeting should have a timer, when it rings, the meeting is over. Invite as few people as possible, and have a clear agenda. Begin with a specific problem, and meet at the site of the problem. Point to real things, and begin with a specific problem. Create a “JUDO” approach, this is when you find a simple solution to a complex problem, even if its not perfect don’t worry because you can always turn good into great later on.

12) Small victories

  • Accomplish small victories along the way. When you start small, get feedback instantly, and keep this process up until you go big. If anything takes significantly longer than expected, bring someone else in. Sometimes, the solution is right in your face. You can manage small victories by prioritising. Always create small lists (should only have 2 things on there), the thing you are working on, and the immediate thing after that. Having a list too big will be daunting.

13) Creativity

  • SLEEP! People underestimate the important of sleep. The moment you stop sleeping, you stop being creative. It is completely unsustainable to keep going on very low amounts of sleep. Be creative, and make the product about you. Do not copy anyone, focus on injecting what is unique about you into your product.

14) Make Enemies!

  • If you think a competitor sucks, say so — once you so, you will often find people will rally to your side. Making a stand always stands out — all of the biggest brands do it including windows and mac. People learn to take sides and passion ignites.
  • Focus on undoing your competition, not overdoing them. If your competitors are talking about Ghz and RAM etc, focus on keeping things simple like apple: “1000 songs in your pocket”. Highlight your simplicity as much as people highlight their complexities. By making it simple, focus on making it very easy for people to use your service, the easier you make it the more people will use your service.

15) Don’t listen to everything

  • Every time you get feedback, don’t rush to implement it. Heck, — don’t even write it down. The thing that is most important, will NOT go away. People will keep on reminding you, even if its not the same people, other people will ask you again and again, and you will not be able to forget it.
  • When implementing, always test your ideas on a small scale first. This tests the viability, it is always better to anger 100 people than a 10,000 people. By testing on a small scale, you can test if its worth it.
  • Always share knowledge with your fan base, tweet, blog, do whatever is required to keep sharing information and teaching them something. Remember, people think it’s a waste of time to teach and nobody else does it. You therefore form a bond and build trust that you just do not get.

16) Fail Gloriously!

  • Dont be afraid to fail, even when you do fail, share the knowledge! By doing this, people will trust you more. It doesn’t even matter if you have to show what you are working on, show it, even if its not done as well as your short comings. People may even help you!
  • Emulate drug dealers, give people a sample, a free trial etc. People will always be back for more if your product is good. Instant success never happens, and even if it does, it never lasts because there is no foundation.

17) Run as far as you can

  • Run with a ball as far as you can before you give it to someone else. You gain a lot of knowledge and you find out what to lookout for when you hire. Only hire when you notice quality level slipping. Dont hire unnecessarily even if they’re amazing. There will be no point, and they will soon leave. Even if somebody leaves your company, see how long you can last without them. To your surprise, you may last a lot longer than you thought without them!
  • When you do hire, never look at academics, there is no way of telling if the information is accurate. Instead, read the cover letters to see how their language and tone aligns to yours and how much research they have done. When hiring managers, always hire those who keep you free from oversight, they should surprise you with their initiative. Do not create a culture of approvals, you then create a bunch of idiots! You should make it clear you trust their decision. Also trust the people you are sending emails too. For example, most people put legal disclaimers at the bottom of every email (This email is only intended for the recipient…blah..blah…blah). Do not put this at the bottom of the email, it imposes you do not trust the recipients.
  • Even if someone wears shorts to work, do not create a “corporate policy”, just tell them not to wear it again. Be sure to not make silly policies, this will eventually create a poor culture, and people will be too restricted. Be sure not to stress your employees out unnecessarily, this will especially happen if you say everything is urgent. Then when it is urgent, nobody will pay attention (similar to the boy who cried wolf).

18) Take responsibility

  • There is always people who will call you out on your flaws, hold your hands up straight away. The highest person ranked should take responsibility and should address the issue promptly. Each one of your employees should be in touch with your customers and clients, only then will they understand the value you bring to them.
  • Everyone should be in touch with customers. If people don’t like your change, acknowledged the complains but explain you will let it sit for a while until they adjust.

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