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Industry Literature: Rework by 37Signals

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I’ve been hearing about Rework being mentioned in one place or another for many years now in the business communities. First when I was in the tech startup world about 5 years ago, I started hearing about this book as the one that would reshape the way I’d look at entrepreneurship. And even as I transitioned myself into the events industry, I recently saw a Bizbash article declaring this as one of the top books that event planners should read. Finally, I determined to set out some time and give this book a try.

First of all, what I didn’t know before picking up this book was how brilliant the formatting is. Amongst business books, it’s very rare to find literature written in the style of blogs: chapters divided into sections so short, that each takes less than a few minutes to read. This 280 page book marked the first time in a long time I was able to sit down and read an entire book from start to finish in one sitting. No chapter is over 5 pages long. Many are one page, and in terms of actual wording more like half a page. The writing style is very casual to the point of feeling intimately conversational, with just the right mix of funny and didactic. Each short chapter represents a piece of wisdom, anything from “Decommoditize your product” to “Don’t be a hero”.

There is a tremendous array of case studies and interesting anecdotes, but for the most part the book gets right to the point on these things. No lengthy explanations. No convoluted analyses. It’s here’s one piece of advice for you, I’ll tell you what I mean, now let’s move on to the next one. Very unique format. Very engaging content. One of the best books on business I’ve read in a long long time.

This book writes mostly to an audience looking to either build a business or start some form of personal venture, but I can definitely understand why Bizbash calls it one of the top books for event planners specifically as well. Much of the wisdom passed on in this book are about a general approach to life as a businessperson. More specifically, the chapters in aggregate that make up the book becomes a mindset on how to approach a life of entrepreneurship (or “starters”, as this book would call it).

Though this isn’t an event-industry-specific book by any means, some of the most relevant chapters on event management work can include ones like “Embrace Constraints”, which talks about how parameters (like those set by clients and vendors and suppliers and etc. stakeholders of every single event every planner has to deal with for a living) actually can be leveraged to boost creativity. Other chapters like “Your Estimates Suck” and “Make Tiny Decisions” are also quite relevant and unconventional, in the ways that they encourage short-term-thinking-driven growth in exchange for building an operating model suited for flexibility and improvisation.

If I’ve learned anything from the work I’ve done so far in the events industry, it’s that many of what clients and attendees know as these one or two day events actually can take a year or more to produce. The events industry furthermore operates as an environment that is more loosely organized and predominantly filled with many small players. Unlike industries such like airlines or automotive companies, where a few giant companies dominate the whole scene, the event industry landscape in terms of suppliers and vendors and even venue offerings can change dramatically over the course of that one year. Planning to minute details in the beginning for things like timelines and budgets often prove to be inaccurate to degrees so drastic, that initial estimates become completely obsolete by the time these things get executed. If the principles of Rework can be applied to an event production process at all, it’s that it’s better to develop relationships and work dynamics over the course of the year of planning that enable more piecemeal planning steps. Smaller goals but with more accurate executions can in the end prove beneficial to the planner and all the stakeholders he works with over the event.

ReWork proves useful as both a general business book and also a business book useful for many specific industries. At least from my perspective, having tech startups and event management as the only two industries I’ve been involved in with my life so far, I find the teachings of Rework to be highly applicable to operating in both fields. Its format is unique if not completely revolutionary, and both that and its contents cater perfectly to capturing the attentions of Gen Y entrepreneurs.

See you at the next exploration!

Harry

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