If Conventional Wisdom Drives You Crazy, Think Rework

By Daria Steigman, founder of Steigman Communications, LLC and author of the Independent Thinking Blog.

I’ve been pondering the American expression about “needing to take your medicine.” It’s all about how the tough stuff is, well, tough. So a book that challenges you to rethink business needs to be dense, statistic-filled, and hard to read, right? Well, not exactly. Especially if that book is Rework.

37 Signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have written a deceptively simple manifesto for entrepreneurs that is all about challenging conventional wisdom and the way that business ought to be done. It’s written in brilliant one- and two-page bursts of ideas held together by big-picture business themes, much as the authors believe that you should focus on actually getting work done rather than spending all your time planning out what you should, could, or might do.

Or, as the authors write, “If you want to do something, you’ve got to do it now.”

Here’s some sample fare from Rework:

  • Make a Dent in the Universe: “This doesn’t mean that you need to find the cure for cancer. It’s just that your efforts need to feel valuable. You want your customers to say, ‘This makes my life better.’ You want to feel that if you stopped doing what you do, people would notice.”
  • Throw Less at the Problem: “When things aren’t working, the natural inclination is to throw more at the problem. More people, time, and money. All that ends up doing is making the problem bigger. The right way to go is the opposite direction: Cut back.”
  • Underdo Your Competition: “Conventional wisdom says that to beat your competition you need to one-up them… [But] defensive companies can’t think ahead; they can only think behind. They don’t lead; they follow. So what do you do instead? Do less than your competitors and beat them… Instead of one-upping, try one-downing.”
  • Delegators Are Dead Weight: “With a small team, you need people who are going to do work, not delegate work. Everyone’s got to be producing. No one can be above the work.”

I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe Rework since the book landed in my hands three months ago. Since then, I’ve found myself diving back into random sections almost daily for inspiration. As entrepreneurs themselves, Fried and Hansson “get it”; they understand that you can create a different path and succeed. They’ve done it, and we can too.

How are you reworking your business?

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