Chaos Theory

By Summers, Nick | Newsweek, April 12, 2010 | Go to article overview

Chaos Theory


Summers, Nick, Newsweek


Byline: Nick Summers

The new rules of management for people who hate rules. And management.

It's the kind of outcome most entrepreneurs only dream of. Last September, the financial-planning startup Mint.com was acquired by Intuit for $170 million--earning its founder a re-ported $20 million. As the kudos poured in, another Web entrepreneur, Jason Fried, assailed Mint in a blog post for selling out to a corporation it could have taken down. "Is that the best [we] can do?" Fried wrote. "Become part of the old generation? How about kicking the s--t out of the old guys?"

The company Fried founded, 37signals, makes Web-based business--efficiency tools--hardly stuff to set the heart racing. But 37signals is about more than software: Fried and cofounder David Heinemeier Hansson use the company as a pulpit for entrepreneurial evangelism. And their message--a sort of minimalist's approach to capitalism--has developed a cult following. The company's blog, Signal vs. Noise, reaches 100,000 readers a day, by offering takes on such topics as the design of -laundry-detergent jugs (Method's new one-handed pump bottle kicks ass) or a satirical attack ad for Karl Rove's book ("Does he really expect taxpayers to carry a book that heavy?"). The company's founders gleefully admit to bias, since their own second book, Rework, was at No. 10 on the Amazon bestseller list in mid-March, only a few slots below Rove's.

Rework is a Webby manifesto for post-recession success. Forget about strategic planning, they advise. And ignore your competition--unless you feel like picking a public fight. Don't waste time on meetings. Stay as small as you possibly can. The 37signals guys scoff at workaholics (masochists who compensate for intellectual laziness with brute force) and traditional ideas about promotion (emulate drug dealers: make your product so addictive that giving a free taste makes customers come back bearing cash). They believe businesses should "under-do" their competitors--do a few things well, rather than many things adequately. Their company is the ultimate hands-off employer: 37signals doesn't care where its 16 employees live or when they do their work.

Perhaps that's because in 2001, when the company was in its first incarnation as a Web-design shop, Heinemeier Hansson was living in Copenhagen. One day he read on Fried's blog (Fried lives in Chicago, where the company is based) that he needed tips on a programming language, and offered to help for free; Fried hired him instead, and for four years, they worked seven time zones apart. By 2004, the duo had developed the company's flagship product, Basecamp. The same year, Heinemeier Hansson released a spin-off, a free Web-applications tool called Ruby on Rails. Little known outside the community of code writers, Rails has become the development backbone of such megasites as Twitter and Hulu. Basecamp is used by startups and Fortune 500 companies alike; Barack Obama's presidential campaign used the project-management tool to plan the development of its sprawling Web site. "The thing that's great about 37signals is they're incredibly disciplined as a design shop," says Michael Slaby, the Obama campaign's CTO, now at a venture fund. "They don't allow themselves to get distracted by the shiny new feature, and because of that you get simple products with a low learning curve."

Their philosophy is appealing, in part, because starting a company is a lonely, risky business. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Chaos Theory
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.