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37signals’ book on alternative ways to run a business has become essential reading in the startup world. Let’s take a closer look to see if it’s worthy of that status.

On a weekly basis, I have this cringe-worthy moment with my co-workers where I sheepishly paraphrase something from 37signals’ blog Signal vs. Noise. I’ve always been a bit nervous about anything evangelical in the tone of my voice, and nothing makes me more embarrassed than quoting Jason Fried or worse yet, one of his twitter-rific apostles. The problem is, these guys are thinking so hard, about the things that we in the tech industry take for granted, that they’ve turned themselves into inspiration machines.

REWORK is their condensed sampling of some of their favorite blog posts from over the years, converted into a New York Times best seller and to expand their audience beyond those interested in reading a blog on “design and usability.”

Is It Worth The Read?

No question, if only so that you’re able to carry on a conversation about startup philosophy in the tech world. This book is referenced so frequently that you’d expose yourself as either a little out of the loop or not much of a reader. Beyond that the book is packed with gems that have the power to truly re-shape an organization’s approach to creation, for example:

If you build software, every error message is marketing.

And ideas that may come be incredibly reassuring to self-conscious startups…

Small is not just a stepping-stone. Small is a great destination itself.

The Elephant In The Room

Here’s the kicker with this book: it’s inspiration, not a manual. If you tried to implement all of the suggestions in the book, you’d run the risk of collapsing your business. Let me give you an example:

Workaholics don’t actually accomplish more than non-workaholics. They may claim to be perfectionists, but that just mean they’re wasting time fixating on inconsequential details instead of moving on to the next task.

The truth is, sometimes they do accomplish more than their non-workaholic brethren. Sometimes one gal pushes hard enough to move the company forward one late night all on her own. Everyone has been that person at one time or at least seen the results. I don’t doubt that being a workaholic isn’t exactly a viable way to operate, but most of us don’t see ourselves that way; we put on the superman cape for a day and we go back to being Clark Kent the next.

The Trick To Enjoying This Book

That’s right there’s a trick to enjoying this book. It’s worth it though. The trick is to remind yourself that not everything in this book is for you. Some of the ideas are going to be a perfect fit for your business; some are going to make you roll your eyes, and those ideas are either dead wrong or they’re for some other guy’s business.

37signals prides themselves in making a few waves. This book is almost entirely waves and if taken literally, it’ll prove a little choppy and a little obnoxious for most. For added obnoxiousness try the snarky audio edition. But if you can temper your reactions, this book is an incredible read and a great toolbox of thoughts for shaping the place you work into somewhere great. Not to mention, the snarkiness is half the fun.

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