I’ve been following the unique style of 37 signals for several years now and I believe they have come up with some very sound business practices, both in their direction as a company in developing web products and in how they promote a creative and motivational environment for their employees. In the interview I linked to below, Jason discusses many of these principles from trying to let each other work without distraction (avoiding meetings and working in the same room), to improving team collaboration using web tools (like Campfire), shortening work weeks, and streamlining development cycles.
Jason discusses his views of not needing Venture Capital, at least at the beginning. He discusses simple design, not watching your competition, not planning too far in advance, and not spending a lot of time up front designing and planning but instead doing and learning from the outcomes.
If you’ve listened to or read Jason or 37 signals in the past there isn’t much new here, but their thinking is so far outside the stuffy and constraining boxes of the Enterprise and corporate America, that you really can’t hear this enough. I hope it catches on, and I continue to try and preach the same principles and put them in practice in my own projects. I think many people instinctively recoil away from some of these ideas, but I urge you to resist the comfort of, “we’ve always done it this way…it must be working”, and instead consider the principles behind these ideas and the desired outcome of some of this new way of thinking and doing business. I’ve experienced first hand the flip side of these practices in the IT corporate world for the last 15 years. It never ceases to amaze me how every corporation does the same thing with the same results over and over again, including wasting employees time, working on large projects with huge complicated processes that burn time and money and burn out their employees, needless bloated meetings, emphasizing quantity of communication over quality, treating employees like worker bees or worse yet children by requiring them to be in a certain location at a certain time clearly showing them you have no trust in them, and by discouraging their individual thoughts and creative inputs.
I’ve worked with many employees with great potential who were figuratively bound and gagged, stripped of participation and thereby emotional involvement in the project, which demoralizes and prematurely burns out the employee. 37signals does exactly the opposite and you can see it by following the employees of the company, seeing the quality of their projects, and the passion the leaders of the team speak and write with.