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37signals’ Jason Fried: If You Have a Big Idea, Chop It in Half

Big ideas are usually too big, says Jason Fried, co-founder of the software company 37signals and co-author of the workplace manifesto “Rework.” “If we have a big idea, let’s chop that idea in half,” he says. “Let’s chop it in half again.  Let’s figure out what the core thing is, what the three things you need to do are and let’s do those things really, really well.”

In his most recent Big Think interview, Fried talks about his innovative and provocative ideas about how to run a company in the new economy.  Fried says it’s important to remember that “interruption and collaboration are two different things. In the modern workplace with the open work space and lots of hard materials everywhere, and people cramped in really close to one another, it just encourages interruption. It doesn’t encourage collaboration.”

He’s also not such a big fan of companies that are funded by venture capital. “A venture-backed company on day one has to spend money,” Fried said, adding, “A bootstrap company, like ours—we are self-funded—has to make money. … I think on day one, if you have a choice, do you want to make money or do you want to spend money, you’re better off as an entrepreneur learning how to make money and not learning how to spend it.”

Fried also speaks about why “free is fine,” adding, “We like to liken it to emulating drug dealers, basically.  So, drug dealers give people a little taste, they get them hooked and then people buy more.  And you know, I hope our products are as addictive as crack.  They may not be, but I hope they are.  But the idea is that, that model works really well.  And so our products, you can try them for free.  You can try them as long as you want for free.  And then if you need some more of our products, more features or more capacity, then you can pay for them.”
37signals has a policy of hiring infrequently and only when absolutely needed. Of resumes, he said, “it’s spam,” adding, its a “general purpose document that you give out to a lot of people.  If a cover letter is generic, I don’t want to talk to that person.  If a cover letter is written for us clearly, and you can tell in a cover letter, then you definitely want to consider that person because they actually want your job, not just a job, but your job.”


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