ReWork: A great way to spend a fiver

I’ve just read “ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37 Signals.  It cost £5.49. Not bad for a refreshing confirmation of our philosophy at Red Badger. And lots of new insights and succinct rationale for doing business in a radically different way. It takes about 3 hours to read – an investment that will pay out over and over.

Some of the ideas I found most interesting in the book are around building a business that is open. Speaking, blogging, tweeting, writing, teaching, making videos. About everything you do.  A behind-the scenes documentary, if you like. Lots of progressive companies do this now and it’s incredible, today, how easily the Internet enables us to do this.

We’ve talked about this a lot as a team and are committed to sharing all our experiences with the community – good and bad, warts and all. This “open book” policy fits well with our belief that honesty is the best way to do business. Everyone wins. A blog, for example, is a great place to talk about ideas and to crystallise them in your own head. It forces you to research an idea thoroughly and to fully understand everything about it. Building a community by giving away product, IP and knowledge is also a win-win, because it builds strong brand loyalty and a ready-made channel for super effective marketing.

ReWork introduced me to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi which describes an aesthetic that is derived from the characteristics of being “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. In essence it’s the cracks and scratches that show you what’s really inside and allows the observer to appreciate the object for what it really is. Beauty, derived from honesty. And openness. The lines in our faces show the world how we have laughed and cried. Shoot me if I ever have botox!

I recently enjoyed working for 2 years at Conchango which was known for its early adoption of Agile principles. The name Conchango is derived from “continuous change” which embodies the wabi-sabi values of impermanence and incompleteness. It was a real company, with an honest surface that reflected it’s core. Small companies can do that well. When it was taken over by a large multinational its wabi-sabi was lost. It’s much, much harder for big companies to be agile, open and honest.

Papering over the cracks is the way that most businesses today operate. They create a facade that is sterile, plastic and opaque – it doesn’t let the real company through. The authors of ReWork remind us of how many times we have waited in a call queue and been told (by a machine) that we are important to them. And yet they are willing to let us waste half an hour of our life waiting in a queue. Just be honest with us, tell us you are under-resourced and call us back.  We would rather see the crack. Then we can see your beauty, trust you and enjoy doing business.

Stuart Harris
Founder and CIO
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