Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writing Wednesday - "Rework" Review

In a rather unconventional manner, I first learned about this book by picking up a virtual copy as an item in Gowalla.  After reading some glowing reviews online & watching this lecture from David Heineimeier Hansson at Stanford, I decided $12 was worth the price of admission to hear the authors' ideas fleshed out.

Rework contains some fairly radical concepts by traditional business book standards.  Chapter titles such as "Ignore the real world", "Outside money is Plan Z", "Meetings are toxic", "Good enough is fine", and "Say no by default" are intentionally provocative, which is kind of the book's schtick.  However, that's not to say the premises are any less valid once the authors provide context.

Coming in just shy of 300 pages, you might think the book would take a while to navigate cover to cover.  I found I was able to plow through the entire thing over the course of 3 lunch breaks, though.  There are lots of hand-drawn illustrations to achieve idea impact, and creative use of white space throughout the book to ensure each concept can soak in.

Although I considered most of the book to represent solid business advice, there were five concepts that really resonated with me.

Make A Dent In The Universe:  This is what we all want, right?  Since our professional lives are finite, you need to be driven and passionate if you want to truly leave a legacy.

Ignore The Details Early On: It sounds counter-intuitive, but I think the authors are on to something.  If you become overwhelmed by the gravity of a project early on when trying to digest the details, you're more likely to lose motivation.

Interruption Is The Enemy Of Productivity: Getting into "the zone" is so important when you want to do great work.  The authors suggest cutting yourself off from the possibility of interruptions by not answering calls, IMs, or e-mails during set times of the day, and implementing No Talk periods.

Out-Teach Your Competition: When it comes to promoting your product, try teaching customers about how to use it, or about concepts related to it.  Teaching can prove to be "stickier" than advertising when it comes to customer loyalty.

Hire Great Writers: The book purports that "Writing is today's currency for good ideas."  In other words, if you're writing clearly, you're thinking clearly.  I completely agree with this, and it's one of the reasons I've started writing blog posts on a regular basis.  Writing forces you to add structure to thoughts that are bouncing around in your mind.  Once you have that structure in place, you can communicate your idea, and that's really the most important part.

Upon completing the book, I tweeted out that I thought Rework should be required reading on both the first & last day of business school.  I couldn't recommend this book as a substitute for a formal business education, but would whole-heartedly endorse it as a supplement to the curriculum.  I think it's important to get varying viewpoints of business methodology, and Rework is definitely skewed towards a smaller business.  Most of the case studies in a graduate-level business program deal with giant organizations, like Wal-Mart, FedEx, and Kodak.  If you can understand both view points, you can adopt the best strategies from each.

You can purchase a copy of the book via the link below:

"Rework" on Amazon

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