Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

THE LITTLE RED BUSINESS BOOK FOR GENERATION Y WORKERS; Tangled Up in Endless Emails and To-Do Lists? Philip Delves Broughton Profiles a Web Firm That Strives to Cut through the Mesh of Modern Technology

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

THE LITTLE RED BUSINESS BOOK FOR GENERATION Y WORKERS; Tangled Up in Endless Emails and To-Do Lists? Philip Delves Broughton Profiles a Web Firm That Strives to Cut through the Mesh of Modern Technology

Article excerpt

Byline: Philip Delves Broughton

BASED in Chicago, 37Signals is a small company with an outsized punch. It employs just 16 people in three countries to build online web tools. But thanks to its software and a talkative founder, it has developed a disproportionate influence among those attempting to change the way we work.

Technology has been promising for years to liberate us from traditional working habits. And while there may be more people working from coffee shops these days, many technology solutions have become added burdens. Wireless communication made us far more mobile but it also made us permanently available.

37Signals' business is in taking the disorganised spaghetti of emails, documents, calendars, contact lists and to-do lists and creating something usable. It makes just six products, which are used by three million customers to talk, communicate and organise online. The firm's sole investor is Jeff Bezos (pictured), the founder of Amazon.

But it is quickly becoming better known for a management philosophy laid out in a new book, Rework, by the firm's founder, Jason Fried, and lead programmer David Heinemeier Hansson.

The book is about half the size of most business books. Its intention is to demystify business and entrepreneurship, to strip them from the hands of professional managers and MBAs and return them to people with good ideas who are ready to work. It argues that business is often made far too complicated. The lessons are all drawn from 37Signals' own 11-year history. It is written with the bravado of a manifesto, with an ambition to become the Little Red Book of Generation Y workers.

The basic lesson, explained in 12 chapters, is that business need not be about HR departments and tedious meetings. There is an advantage to being small, nimble and independent. Rework argues that small firms should embrace the constraints of their size to create simpler, cleaner products.

In one chapter, on Workaholism, the authors write: "Working more doesn't mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more. Workaholics wind up creating more problems than they solve... They try to fix problems by throwing sheer hours at them. …

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