Why it doesn’t have to be crazy at work with David Heinemeier Hansson

Product Hunt Radio

0:00

59:57

Oct. 29, 2019, 9 p.m.

On this episode Abadesi talks to David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder and CTO of Basecamp, and creator of Ruby on Rails. He is also the author of several bestselling books, including It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work, co-authored with his co-founder at Basecamp, Jason Fried.

In this episode they talk about...

Why you should think about your company as a product

“This idea that the company itself is changeable — the policies of the company, the values of the companies — are things you can tweak and you can iterate on in much the same way as you would iterate on a product. The process is quite similar to when you put a product into the market and you get feedback from customers.”

He tells the story of building Basecamp outside traditional tech hubs and how that influenced the culture at the company. He says that it’s important to build from first principles and to have control over the company you’re building. He talks about their values at Basecamp and how to think about and get feedback from employees on how the company needs to change and evolve. He also points out that you always need to be thinking about improving not just your product, but also your entire philosophy and way of doing business.

Why we need new role models in tech

“We've gone from everyone thinking the greatest thing in the world would be to be Mark Zuckerberg and to have Facebook to far more people now thinking, actually I don't want Facebook, I don't want Facebook's problems, I don't want to be Mark Zuckerberg. I think if we can start by having a takedown of the past idols, we can start building up some healthier models of what we should try to emulate instead.”

David says that we need a new vocabulary in the tech industry. He lists a number of different words, from unicorn to angel to battlefield, that inaccurately describe the actual function or intent of that entity. He says that it’s easy to excuse unethical actions if we believe that we are actually at war in a startup. He also talks about why “small is not a stepping stone” for your company and breaks down why the obsession with growth has led people astray.

How to break the cycle of overwork

“We can live such better fuller, richer lives if we just stopped believing that the most worthy thing we can do is to give every waking hour and moment to the business. That's actually not good for business. If you were just trying to create the most efficient business, you would not come up with this regime of chaining people to the office.”

He explains why you shouldn’t think about your co-workers as your family, and examines some of the current scourges of modern workplaces, like the open-plan setup. He also points out that Henry Ford realized a long time ago that people cannot work for more than forty hours a week without seeing a huge drop-off in efficiency, so it would make sense not to not push employees harder than that today.

A new way of working

“It doesn't work to constantly puncture and slice up the day [with meetings and standups]. So you should be extremely cautious about when you put things on many people's calendar. When we do instead is we encourage people to share where they are at [on a project] in an asynchronous way where someone can choose to digest that and respond to that on their time.”

David talks about the current practices prevalent at most workplaces that result in people not getting things done, and how they can be improved on. He talks about the unique approach to meetings, standups, deadlines, and presentations that they have at Basecamp and how they have increased retention. He says that it’s a misconception that people are born superstars and says that high-quality talent is more akin to a tree, that you cultivate, rather than a “diamond” that you find.

Of course, they also talk about some of his favorite products as well.

We’ll be back next week so be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. 😸

Companies, Books, and Products Mentioned In This Episode

BreatheSmart Air Purifier — Stylish and effective air purifier.

It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Oura Ring — Advanced sleep and fitness tracker.

Why We Sleep: Unlocking The Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker