On July 29th Jason Fried (Co-Founder of 37 Signals) spoke at Chicago Creative Morning. These are notes from that talk:
(Disclaimer: Please don’t take all of this verbatim. There are notes, not a transcript)
Question: Can you talk about the culture at 37 Signals?
Answer: We have a culture of quiet. Noise ruins creativity. Interruption is arrogant. This gives everyone long undisturbed blocks of time to work.
We communicate all day but it’s mostly based on chatting through Campfire.
We have “no talk Thursday’s”. When no one can talk and interrupt; shit gets done.
Q: 37 Signals seems to have a flat management structure. Can you talk about how that works or why that is the way your structure is setup?
A: There is this process in businesses that when someone gets really good at doing a job When someone is really good at something they stop doing that job. A designer gets really good at designing and becomes a creative director -which means they stop designing.
We don’t want to promote them out of that job. We want them to get better at that job. It doesn’t make any sense to move someone who is really good to something else.
We’re very flat. Some people may ask “does that work, does that scale?”. Well I don’t give a fuck. We will figure it out when we get there. We have 28 people now and it works but maybe when we get to 35 people it won’t work. If that happens will adjust as we need to.
Q: 37 Signals has a 32 hour work week. Why and how does that work?
A: When you have fewer hours in the week you squeeze out the stuff that doesn’t matter.
When there is a problem we don’t sit around talking about it we say “go make the better thing. Then well talk about it.” We would rather reduce scope than spend more hours. Work 32 hours. You stop when you’re tired of it. We’ve noticed that the same amount of work gets done during 4 days a week as 5. The 3 day weekend keeps everyone happy and makes everyone work harder and more focused when they are at work.
- If somethings not working you have to kill it.
- Get things out quickly. If you spend months working on something that doesn’t work it’s hard to get out. If you spend a few days or a week working on something it’s easier to throw it away.
- Saying no is easy. It says no to one thing. Saying yes says no to lots of things.
- You can’t be awesome all the time. You need to give yourself time todo what you too. Not be scattered.
- Everything has an ebb and flow. There are cycles. The key is to know your own cycles. Know when you you’re more likely to be more creative or better at solving problems. That way you can spend the other time on the less creative issues on the more mundane tasks.
- You shouldn’t be afraid of launching anything. The only reason you would is because you have a ‘me too’ product.
- If you build it for yourself you’ll know you have a good product. If you worry about competition you’ll just shut down. For example: there are lots of pizzerias. There’s something unique or different about the ones that succeed.
- Design should reduce the number of problems that exist. A product should solve or address a problem. If they do that then they have a purpose and have a chance at success.
- Less is always an option. Doing something right is hard. Doing 100 things right is really hard. The natural tendency is to do more than you need to. Chances are everyone is doing that same thing.
- What would this look like with less? One less: color, feature, section, whatever – what would happen if you had less.
You can find Jason Fried on Twitter: @Jasonfried