Book Review: ReWork

Book Review: ReWork

The recommendation to read Rework* came to me through the Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast. It had been mentioned on a number of occasions and I thought I should take a look. After reading it, I can understand why many are recommending it. In this book, the authors, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson share the secrets of their successful company 37signals. I am very interested in how companies broke the code and became successful. I believe these lessons can be leveraged for my current work as well as non-profits I am engaged in. There are definitely lessons to be learned from this book.

This book is a collection of short essays, and although it weighs in at 288 pages, it took me around 2 hours to read it. There are 12 major sections divided into 5 to 12 essays. Each essay is 2 to 3 pages long and focuses on a specific theme. The major themes include:

  • First
  • Takedowns
  • Go
  • Progress
  • Productivity
  • Competitors
  • Evolution
  • Promotion
  • Hiring
  • Damage Control
  • Culture
  • Conclusion

While each major section had something valuable to offer in terms of understanding how 37 Signals operates, there were sections that really resonated with me.

Do not get too big for your britches

One of the major takeaways was to stay lean. Do not become a large company for the sake of becoming a large company. Large companies are not agile. Do not take on debt to build your company. Do not hire unless you feel the absolute necessity. Do not look for a larger footprint until there is no choice. Each time you add on, it increases the complexity of your organization and ultimately holds you back.

Don’t try to do everything

Focus on what you are good at. The authors admonish to not keep adding on features, programs, functions, etc. simply because your customers want it. Focus on the core purpose and discard the rest. Everything you add to the core siphons resources and energy from the core product. Fried and Hansson illustrated this point by discussing the show Kitchen Nightmares. Gordon Ramsey turns a failing restaurant into a successful one by first reducing the menu (Fried & Hansson, 2010, p. 83). Simply reducing services offered reduces complexity while increasing product quality.

Give it away

Here is another book that emphasizes the importance of giving it away. What the authors wrote in their Emulate chefs essay drove it home for me.

“You’ve probably heard of Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Julia Child, Paula Deen, Rick Payless, or Jacques Pépin. They’re great chefs, but there are a lot of great chefs out there. So why do you know these few better than others? Because they share everything they know. They put their recipes in cookbooks and show their techniques on cooking shows” (Fried & Hansson, 2010, p. 176).

These chefs are not afraid that you will put them out of business. No matter how much they share, they bring something else to the table. People follow these chefs because they tried what the chefs offered and became fans. As educators, we should be readily sharing everything we know. If you look around, our known educational thought leaders are the ones who are prolific and share.

We should also be sharing what we are doing. Again, Fried and Hansson clearly illustrated this point with another great example.

“Even seemingly boring jobs can be fascinating when presented right. What could be more boring than commercial fishing and trucking? Yet the Discovery Channel and History Channel have turned these professions into highly rated shows: Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers” (Fried & Hansson, 2010, p. 179).

Looking at the last organization I was with, Extension, there were countless things that could be shared, everything from range management to food safety. Now working with the Jamestown Community College, there are a wealth of different activities that could be videoed and shared: nursing, sciences, music, theater, etc. We can stand to do a better job of sharing.

What I read in this book was in line with other books I have been reading. Before I bought the book, I did not know what it was about only that it was recommended. I personally was pleasantly surprised and walked away with a number of important lessons learned. As I move forward, I will continue to share, but I also realized the importance to hone in on what is important to offer the JCC community. We cannot be all to everyone. If you are looking for a quick read with lots of important insights, I would recommend this book. Please understand, these are lessons that made 37 Signals successful. Experiences may vary with other organizations.  If you do read the book, please share what you think about it.


Fried, J., & Hansson, D. H. (2010). Rework (1 edition.). New York: Crown Business.

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