Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.
May 2, 2023

Evaluating a redesign

We're fortunate we get to make things. But sometimes something sticks around long enough that we have the good fortune to have a chance to remake it. When evaluating a redesign, your first instinct is to compare the new design to the old design. But don’t do that. The first step is to understand what you’re evaluating. If you just put ...
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April 26, 2023

Founder & CEO is kinda a BS title

Founder & CEO is a common title, especially in tech. It happens to be my title too. I've come to believe it's an impossible title. You're either CEO, or you're Founder. You can't hold both full-time jobs. And unless your company is probably 100+, CEO isn't really a job anyway. It's more of a role someone needs to play occasionally. The...
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April 14, 2023

Innovation is overrated

Yesterday I was speaking to a university class and, as it usually does, a question about innovation came up. "How do you stay innovative? How do you encourage innovative thinking at work?" My answer: You don't stay innovative and you don't encourage innovative thinking at work. WHAT? Yes. Innovation should almost never happen. It's inc...
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April 11, 2023

Rescuing a project in progress

A friend of mine called. He was overwhelmed by a home renovation project that ballooned in size. What started as a simple kitchen countertop replacement turned into more work in the kitchen, new lighting throughout the house, a master bathroom gut rehab, and new flooring in every room. It became too much. He felt like he was sinking an...
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April 4, 2023

How we built something useful

The product development process encompasses many moments. Moments of novel breakthrough, moments of mundane maintenance, and everything in between. But some of the most rewarding moments consistently come from making something simply useful. Yesterday we shipped a feature in HEY called "Reply to Everyone" that was exactly that: Simply ...
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March 29, 2023

The improv instinct

Last week I was talking with another business owner from a different industry. He was frustrated with an employee who kept asking him what to do if x, y, or z happens. This was a long-time employee who'd been in these situations before, not someone new who was learning the ropes. With this particular employee, it's always the same set ...
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March 21, 2023

Don't be a knee-jerk

At most companies, people put together a deck, reserve a room (physical or virtual), and call a meeting to pitch a new idea. If they're lucky, no one interrupts them while they're presenting. When it's over, people react. This is precisely the problem. The person making the pitch has presumably put a lot of time, thought, and energy in...
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March 20, 2023

Delegating projects, not tasks

We recently received this email from a REWORK Podcast listener who had a question... “...I think it was in Shape Up that the idea of delegating projects rather than tasks came up. And I'm trying to move this way, of working with my own team. I just wonder if you guys have any tips or help for making that transition, helping team member...
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March 15, 2023

Just the two of us

There's a lot of talk right now about smaller, slimmer, tighter teams. Economics are forcing companies to cut back, and what they're finding is progress. Trim the overgrown crown, let the sunshine meet the ground, and all sorts of new life blooms on the forest floor. Even Zuck, master of a megacorp, is noticing it: https://twitter.com/...
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January 13, 2023

On Sabbatical

I'm out. Today marks my last day of work until March. I'm taking my first sabbatical in 23 years. It's embarrassingly overdue. I do the 8 hour day, 40 hour week thing just fine, but when it comes to taking extended time away from work, I'm terrible. Subtracting time away when my kids were born, and aside from from personal days dotted ...
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January 6, 2023

The new normal

Normal comes on quick. First it starts as an outlier. Some behavior you don't love, but tolerate. Then someone else follows suit, but either you miss it or you let it slide. Then people pile on — repeating what they've seen because no one stepped in to course correct. Then it's too late. It's become the culture. The new normal. This ha...
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January 2, 2023

Where's the bug?

The feature doesn't work. It's not critical, but there's a rush to fix it. Two people are pulled off something else to deal with this. The code is sloppy, but the original problem is gone so the fix is deployed. A post-mortem is scheduled so 9 people can review what happened. New QA procedures are applied to every project moving forwar...
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November 19, 2022

On company size

I have no idea how the the Musk-era Twitter saga plays out. That's a time will tell situation. And this isn't a post about Elon, his personality, his management style, decisions being made, talent drain, morale at the company, or the thousands of people who've been laid off or outright quit. There's plenty to be said there, and plenty ...
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November 16, 2022

Collaborating away

“"But how do you brainstorm remotely? Or riff remotely? Or collaborate creatively remotely? Isn't it better when you're in a room, tossing ideas back and forth?"” I hear some version of this fairly often from people who aren't used to making things with others from far away. There's an assumption that four walls, a whiteboard, a table,...
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November 7, 2022

Against Maximization

In business, maximization is the minimization of joy. I can’t imagine anything less interesting in business than maximizing shareholder value. Yet this is what public companies are pressured — if not legally required — to do. A lot of non-public companies follow the same path towards performance and results. To take it further, maximiz...
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October 27, 2022

Do you have to love what you do?

Attend enough business conferences, read loads of LinkedIn posts, or listen to enough motivational speakers and you’ll hear one piece of advice repeated over and over again: You’ve got to love what you do! If you don’t love what you do, you might as well stay home. No less a giant than Steve Jobs famously told Stanford’s 2005 graduatin...
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September 20, 2022

Just get moving

In business, moving is one of the hardest things to do. People think change is hard. It is. But moving is harder. Morphing from thinking and talking to actually doing and moving is the hardest. It's hard because talk is easy. Theorizing is easy. Imagining is easy. Waiting is easy. Second guessing yourself is easy. Third and fourth opin...
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September 14, 2022

It's not an experience

Alto.com is a wonderful pharmacy that offers same day delivery. I have nothing but great things to say about them. But they're following a pattern I'm seeing far too often these days. They're trying to track everything, and asking people to attribute "experience" to things that are mere, routine happenings. Most things just don't need ...
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August 30, 2022

The longer

The longer you do something, the more you'll be asked "what keeps you motivated?" People are typically looking for a goal-based answer. Or some big mission. Or some sort of target you just haven't hit yet. The question is often aimed at revealing a deep, purpose-filled motivation. The assumption is that you're still doing it because yo...
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August 25, 2022

Tossing a key

This weekend I was riding my stationary exercise bike when I noticed a sharp poke in my pocket. I reached in, pulled out a house key, and looked for a place to put it. But since I was on a bike, there's really no where for it to go other than not here. So I tossed it on the ground, broadly aiming — without accuracy or expectations of p...
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August 9, 2022

How it goes downhill

Comparing warning labels on gym equipment. From the 80s on the left, from the 2000s on the right. The one from the 2000s says a lot more, but the one from the 80s means a lot more. -Jason
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July 22, 2022

Binaries over priorities

Low, medium, high. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Must have, should have, could have, don't need. These are various forms of priorities. People seem to love them. I've always hated them. Especially when it comes to product development. When it comes to choosing what to do, it's always binary for me. Yes or no. Now or not now. Do or don’t. What about m...
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July 20, 2022

Down in front

Look around YouTube at car reviews, and you’ll see a lot of people standing in front of cars. Below I’ve snapped captures of early frames in three car reviews. These represent the first time the car is shown whole, in profile. Who’s on review here? The car reviewer or the car? Get out of the way people! Take it from Doug DeMuro. His re...
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July 14, 2022

Return On Effort

Over the last few days, a few department heads at 37signals got together for an offsite gathering, lead by Bill Joy from The Joy Group. We've worked with Bill in a somewhat different capacity in the past. This time he was here to help us understand some truths about how we really run the business, make decisions, and value what's worth...
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July 8, 2022

Like a squirrel

Stick with me on this one. I've been spending more time watching birds, squirrels, and insects lately. Nature has always fascinated me, and the longer I observe, the more I notice. And one thing I've noticed in general is that birds, squirrels, and insects stop and start a lot. They're headed somewhere, but context plays an enormous ro...
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July 2, 2022

Working around people

We all know it’s important to work with people. That’s collaboration. But it’s perhaps even more important to learn how to work around people. To uncollaborate. Not by ignoring them or dismissing them. But moving without them because they simply aren’t available to move with you. This isn’t about avoidance, it’s about “ah, you’re busy,...
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June 21, 2022

Heard Something, Read Something, Saw Something [#13]

Hey! Back again with another installment of Heard Something, Read Something, Saw Something. So, what do we have this time... Heard Something Really enjoyed this heady Making Sense episode that asks "Do you really have a self?" Theoretical conversations like these feel like a massage for the mind. They get down to root assumptions upon ...
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June 6, 2022

Risk, decisons, and scarcity

This weekend I took a long walk with a fellow founder/CEO. We talked on the phone before, but never met in person. We found ourselves in the same city, so it felt like it was time to shake hands and catch up IRL. He runs a company that's an order or magnitude larger than 37signals, so his experiences, responsibilities, and perspectives...
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June 2, 2022

Wait to concentrate

Procrastination is often tagged as a negative. If you're putting something off until the last minute, it's assumed it's because you don't want to do it, or it's too hard, or you've been avoiding it for some other reason. Maybe I'm making excuses, but lately I've found procrastination can be aimed to your advantage. Not always, but more...
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May 26, 2022

Don't defer quality

Ever find yourself about to ship something that isn't good enough? You know it, you feel it, but you still want to get it out there because regardless of outcome, lots of work went into it. You want something to show for it. You can often make yourself feel a lot better by wrapping the uneasiness with a statement like "We can always co...
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