Jason Fried was recently interviewed on John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.
We spent a fair amount of time discussing the workings of their newest offering, a CRM app known as Highrise…As is usually the case, 37Signals chose to do some of the primary CRM functions elegantly and leave the others to, well, others. It’s worth a look.
And let’s play some catchup: Here are summaries (posted by others) of a couple of Jason’s 2007 conference presentations…
2007 MIMA Summit Wrap Up mentions red flag words like need, can’t, easy, just, only, etc.
The afternoon Keynote was an eye opening look into a new way of working: silent. The guys at 37signals have found out that talking to each other is a big productivity killer. To help fix this, they have days where no one is allowed to talk. Their example was to think of it like sleeping. If you constantly get interrupted, you never get a good night sleep. Work is the same way. By being silent and only communicating via IM or email, you are more apt to get into the zone and crank out more quality work in a shorter amount of time.
Another tip was to avoid meetings as they can be toxic. Some meetings can be an hour long, but really, the meeting could be 15-20 minutes and have the same outcome. It seems people are more apt to fill the time than have shorter meetings.
I have to say, Jason had some great ideas. I’m not convinced that they’d work out for all companies, but there was one take away that I can start doing today; and that’s avoiding “red flag” words. Words such as need, can’t, easy, just, only and fast are all words that don’t come across well in communication as it means you’re making assumptions.
“We just need this one feature.” “It should be easy to just add one more thing.” “Let’s do it fast and get it done with.”
These types of statements make it appear as if the sender is assuming that the receiver’s job is simple. The receiver may feel insulted or under-appreciated. Avoiding those “red flag” words can help out communication quite a bit. I know I’m going to print them out and do my best to try and avoid them.
Jason Fried: Say No More sums up the Mossberg/Fried interview at The Business Innovation Factory.
Mossberg began by saying they weren’t going to be talking about technology, but it quickly became clear that he meant they weren’t going to talk about technology from a technical standpoint. Instead, Mossberg focused on what Fried knows best: what makes technology good. Anyone who has read anything from 37Signals can guess Fried’s answer: simplicity.
Fried introduced 37Signals as a company that makes software for small businesses, but quickly corrected himself, “We don’t really think of it as software,” he said, “we think of it as tools to get things done.” 37Signals focuses on the simplest way to solve a problem and then “gets out of the way,” said Fried. The problem with traditional software is that it often gets in the way. It gets complicated, bloated, and hard to use.
The reason, argued Jason, is that the software industry is structured to build crap (borrowing the term Mossberg used to describe Outlook). Software is designed to make money on new versions shipped every year or so, and in order to convince users to keep upgrading developers feel pressure to add new features. 37Signals, on the other hand, offers its software over the web as a service. When people are paying a monthly fee, the company can release updates on a continuous basis and focus on making things work as simply as possible, rather than adding more features.
Always the skeptic, Mossberg didn’t buy it. How do you balance your mantra of simplicity with demands of self selected vocal customers who want more, he asked. How do you avoid feature creep?
Echoing a post he made on his company’s blog this morning, Fried said that good software needs editors. The same way a museum needs a curator or a writer needs an editor, software development too demands a leader with a clear voice who is willing to say, “no.” “You have to be a hard ass,” said Fried. 37Signals is what Fried calls an “opinionated company.” They believe in their way of doing things, and users who agree with those ideas will have a great time using their software. Another company built in this mold is Apple.
“But Steve Jobs is a dictator,” said Mossberg of the comparison to Apple. “And I love that,” said Fried. “I think it’s unbelievably fantastic.”
In their book Getting Real, 37Signals talks about making software for a core group of customers. “The customer is not always right,” they write. “The truth is you have to sort out who’s right and who’s wrong for your app.” The number one person who is right for you app is you, the developer. If you’re not making software that you would use, and is built with your vision in mind, then the software will suffer because as a result. As Fried told the crowd here, “Fundamentally, people need to say no more.”