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Web 2.0 Expo NY: Jason Fried’s “10 Things We’ve Learned at 37signals”

I was really looking forward to seeing Jason Fried of 37signals speak because he has a particular reputation — I suppose you could call it a big ego. In all honesty, he didn’t phase me at all. Maybe I’m jaded. While I didn’t agree with all of his points, I found his perspective rather refreshing. I like that he’s no holds barred, and I look forward to talking to him at IDEA.

My Twitter notes from the session:

  • Some projects take so long that interest level wanes over time, so @37signals learned to make projects short. Always excited-mode
  • “Plans are vastly overrated.” @37signals doesn’t do roadmaps, specifications or projections.
  • “Decisions are temporary” @37signals posted on blog that they’re taking Fridays off, paying for employees’ hobbies, etc. For now.
  • “Focus on today, don’t worry about tomorrow. If you have to change, change”
  • There are currently 12 people @37signals. 1/2 in Chicago, others elsewhere.
  • “Need, can’t, easy, everyone, nobody” words that get thrown around, creates animosity among employees.
  • Few things are necessities. Few things can’t be done. “Easy is a word you use to describe other people’s jobs”
  • When Jason Fried and other co-founder started working together realized they get less done when they work together in same room
  • “Interruption is the enemy of productivity”
  • “A fragmented day is not a productive day” “Focus on what doesnt change” Think about what matters today & what’ll matter 10yrs from now
  • Your competitors will be chasing the next best thing. Focus on your core and you’ll be better off
  • Better to sketch with a big thick marker than a ball-point pen; you can’t create detail with a marker.
  • It’s expensive and difficult to win the Cold War. Instead of one-upping your competitor, think of one-down. Go simpler
  • “Only two things are meant to grow forever: business and tumors.” — Jason Fried
  • Don’t be in a hurry to grow. Find the right size. Grow slow
  • Oxford University is one of the best universities in the world. Why aren’t there Oxford Universities all over the world? Not the same
  • “Follow the chefs” The celeb chefs “out teach, out share, out contribute” They’re not afraid to put their ideas out there
  • “Sharing is one of the best ways to build yourself a market.” What’s your cookbook?
  • “Company is lucky if it has customers, luckier if it has fans, even luckier if it has an audience” – Jason Fried
  • Always ask questions: “Why are we doing this? What are we solving? Is this useful? Are we adding value? Will this change behavior?”
  • “Give up on hard problems. There’s nothing wrong with being lazy. There’s an abundance of easy problems to focus on” — Jason Fried
  • “This industry is plagued with overworked workaholics. If you work people less, the work is better.” 32-hr work week @37signals, no Fri
  • “Most of the week is focused on shit that doesn’t matter anyway. The less time there is in the week, the more you’ll get done”
  • Project management is communication, it’s not control. Everything added to Basecamp has to benefit communication or doesn’t get added
  • Audience Q: “What do you do when you’re in a company where half of the people believe in strict process and you don’t have control?”
  • Find a small little project that you can do. Show how you did it in a lot less time with less process. Prove it works
  • “Don’t do projects that take 6-7 mos. You have an idea that might take that long. Release half first. Get quick feedback. Think again”
  • “First version of a product should be barely releasable.” — Jason Fried
  • “Get out of client work. It’s depressing, it’s not that satisfying. You’re lucky if in your career you have 3 great clients”
  • Audience Q: How do you hire people who understand lack of process and planning? “We only hire when it hurts.”
  • Campfire is most important product to the operations of @37signals. People in the chatroom all day long that’s how they work
  • Tend to hire people they’ve worked with before. Hire from the open source world so they see their code beforehand. Temporary hires
  • “People love to give feedback, so make a lot of mistakes if you want cuz you’ll find out about it”
  • Most feedback you get is negative, but that doesn’t mean people don’t love your product. That’s just who gives feedback
  • Jason goes straight from paper sketches to HTML. Skips Photoshop because it’s an abstraction. Fonts are the same, etc. Wants real thing

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