Are you able to rework?

ReworkJason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are two guys from They have written a book named Rework where they question widely-known rules and assumptions to do business. In my opinion this book is easy and quick to read, something everyone should find time to read wheter they are entrepreneurs or not.

Lessons I learned were these:
1.don't think about establishing a start-up company instead of it start a business
2.know your product and try it at home
3.remember to leave something out
4.communicate with your customers
5.think what you want before doing and ready to make decisions.

Start-up companies usually wait for something big to come. They don't usually use their own money or question growing consumption because they don't have to. If you start a company with your own money and clear vision where you're heading, you can build a healthy company. Fried and Hansson don't say that there shouldn't be start-ups but most of us should start straight forward and don't waste time to search for risk funding, make beautiful websites or think too big. We should start companies with first customers and the product and growing will follow. Some companies certainly should stay small instead of building too risky strategies to employ new people and rent great office buildings. A small might be enough.

Companies start with an idea and product. You can't underestimate testing your ideas or products: if you can use it at home, it has market. When it comes to leaving something out, these guys give an example from museums: they have curators who pick right pieces of art work to be on the wall and more important is what they leave out. Many times we forget that our product shouldn't always be better than others in the market. Sometimes customers don't need too fancy products. Apple is a good example of this because their products don't gimmick with too much technics and at Apple they focus on user experience and benefits of their products. People who wait for a large amout of details are able to buy something other.

Communicate with your customers and teach them with your products. The world famous cooks usually write books and have own tv shows where they give advice. This doesn't keep their restaurants empty because a taste is still unique. It isn't necessary to hire a marketing officer or pay huge amounts of money to a pr agency if you continously communicate with your customers, your biggest audience. From Finland I could give an example how you shouldn't make business. A mining company Talvivaara had recently an enormous environment disaster when their process water slushed to lakes nearby and made it impossible to use water for drinking or bathing. Their strategy was partly to hide problems and communicate as little as possible to public – wrong! They could have had better results if they had started it at first with openess and communicated to the public and officials straight. A good example or also an example how to apologize comes from Thai airways. I bough a connecting flight ticket with restrictions to change or refund. The company changed flight schedule and it was impossible for me to get the flight. I emailed them and explained and they gave me a full refund unless they could have say me unfortunately your ticket isn't refundable. To my mind they have a nice company policy where they give people right to play sometimes out of the ticket rules just to keep a customer satisfied. Their customer service is also one of the best I know, they answer quickly and help customers to pick a right ticket or look for possibilities if customer's needs are something they can't offer.

In 37 signals they have found working solutions for recruiting: they try themselves tasks they are planning for a new employee and if those tasks are important, they hire a new person; they also think twice before recruiting a new one if somebody leaves the house, this makes in every step rethinking possible (is this really needed); and they test in small projects if the person they are planning is suitable for their culture. Nowadays and especially in public sector it's difficult to rethink before hiring. Sometimes it's important to get anyone unless a suitable person is available not to loose any positions from next year's or two plans and budgets.

In my view this book underlines highly an ability to make decisions. Some people have this and some don't so it's important for you to be the one who can. It's also important that you have enough time to work. Don't stay in meetings that are unnecessary and think twice before you waste other people's time if a meeting is only for discussion and there aren't possibilities to get decisions out. An efficient working time is usually only 2-4 hours a day and there isn't any idea to keep people overtime. Why there's only a little efficient time? Usually we have to stop our work when somebody calls or we have these useless meetings. I have found a good way to avoid this: I work sometimes out of the office of my own and stay instead some other office where I have only a little colleagues present. Also it's possible to mute phone but usually this happens only when I forget to turn muting off. After all these work for me.

Dignity – a key for success?

Kukoistuksen käsikirjoitusPekka Himanen is a professor who is often asked to make strategies for Finnish government and other political institutions. I read his book A manuscript for flourishing (in Finnish Kukoistuksen käsikirja). In this book he illustrates success factors for the coming ten years and gives advice on better economy, education, leadership (also management) and working life. 

His theory is based on creativity, confidence and culture. Examples come from Silicon valley today and ancient Athens. These examples have a lot in common: a culture and places to share ideas; a combination of companies, business and government activities; and education, science and arts. He describes how Silicon valley differs from other places by the people it appeals to, by the help university and other educational organizations play with companies for common targets and by all this is made to happen with risk funding individuals and companies. He makes a point also for culture: it's important that creative people are constantly teased by artists, musicians and researchers. The ancient Athens was rather a small town and a place where all happened but this was a very reason why everything happened there quickly and efficiently. People should be able to meet each others in a place were they can share new theories, ideas and business models with same kind of persons. Even in Silicon valley people meet each others face-to-face and without it nothing could happen so quickly.

What comes to education, we should rethink our ways of learning. Mr. Himanen says that the best teachers are those who support every pupil's motivation to learn more and develop his/her skills constantly. When I compere this to my studies, I agree with him. I can't remember those who didn't make me think more or work harder but I certainly remember my teachers who were happy what they did and saw how every single pupil developed his/her knowledge base. These persons had passion to teach and they way of doing was exceptional.

The book is also a manifest to wake up and see how earth is changing. In front of us there are new kind of diseases, global warming and economical issues. Same time we have more money to spent on food and health but we ruin it with bad habits, don't exercise enough and more likely we go home to eat in front of a telly, take a nice nappies on the sofa and don't pay attention to our families. The big risk for us in Europe is that our future will be black: Asians are running forward and we stay were we used to be, our population gets older and there isn't new comers, our companies don't compete with others in the world and basicly we will soon be only a huge hospital for old people. I don't understand why we are still thinking that our old habits and structures are from this world and time. I believe in people's bigger responsility of their life, we should make a lot more to be succesful and have better well-being by the help of ourselves rather than the state. We need to wake up.

Pekka Himanen shouts for politicians to make changes now. They should build a society which invests in future (education and learning), gives more freedom to companies (including a right to failure) and pays special attention to environment. His way of thinking relies on culture because without arts and soft values there isn't future. Mr. Himanen writes that investment in these factors is cheaper than investments in highly risky technologies or other material assets. It's a possibility if we take it.

Dangerous thoughts

Vaaralliset ideatI read during my trip to Copenhagen a nice book written by professor Alf Rehn, Dangerous ideas (Vaaralliset ideat, Talentum). He works in Åbo Akadem specializing in creativity, innovation, strategy, consumer behavior and future research. I heard him first time in 2010 in IBM's event and yeah he's a different kind of man.

I expected that some new thoughts might evolve during reading and the writer didn't disappoint me. The very basic idea is that you must be brave enough to question common truth, way of doing and even yourself. This book is about creativity but its idea isn't to show you methods, tools or anything, it just makes you think. To speak straight, in some parts you'll laugh and in some parts you'll think this man has gone nuts.

Of course a professor like Alf Rehn gives some stories about successful companies but in this book it's only a small part. It let's you be free to think, maybe have an idea or two about yourself or your company. Maybe we shouldn't be always so sophisticated and instead we should encourage ourselves and others to rethink, challenge each other and have inapproriate thoughts.

The book is easy reading for a holiday. I'll recommend it. I read the book in Finnish but there's also an English version available. You can also google Alf Rehn because you can find quite a lot on-line material, too.

Something different to think about

a run of life

I stopped by a library near my home a few weeks ago. I lent Richard Sennett's book called The Culture of the New Capitalism. Frankly speaking it's a book about working, life, human expectations and needs. For me reading it was a journey back to my university studies.

Sennett builds a basic structure of loyalism, trust and capabilities to explain chams between both thinking and doing and expactations and realities. Loyalism refers to the fact that companies and employees are less loyal to each other. An unstructured trust between employees is also getting less important and it ends to more bureaucracy and unefficiency. The more there's trust the less you have to control and keep your eyes on what others do. Institutional capability is linked to unnoticed world inside companies. All these three dependencies and lacks are based on social capital which is a glue when you build sustainable advantage what a successful company needs.

Richard Sennett has worked in the United Kingdom and the United States. One of his working phases was to help Labour party to renew itself in the United Kingdom. That helped him to understand today's man – most of the time we are not satisfied what we have and we want even more like one of Sennett's examples refers to Wal-Mart where there is too much to buy which inspires us. This is sad because this same behaviour is true in politics, too. We are not satisfied no matter how good public sector does its job. This book contains also many references to military organizations where they have a lot of bureaucracy, stonetized structures and highly meriocratic ways to go up to hill. This is needed in those organizations but it is also unefficient. We should build an organization which has the best of the both worlds.

Nowadays many workers don't see what they actually achieve in their job. In the past people were more often hand-workers and this kind of attitude is needed even now in a machine-embed life. After Sennett it is very important part of working that you can be proud of your achievements. If you don't know your targets you become less loyal to your employer. This together without knowing with who you work can become disastrous for any organization. Much to think mister Sennett, I would say.