David Heinemeier Hansson

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Yes, we wrote that Katrina Lake had a good point about MBA programs, BUT I couldn’t help myself when this David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) video titled “Unlearn your MBA” from 2010 came up on YouTube. This is our second post on DHH, the first is here.

Why should someone unlearn their MBA? For starters, it teaches you the wrong thing. In business school, you’re writing for professors. In the real world, you’re writing for customers. There’s a big difference.

DHH and his co-author Jason Fried are big on sharing their ideas via writing on their blogs and in their books. Josh Wolfe made the point that part of what makes a great founder is being a great communicator.

If that weren’t enough encouragement, writing well is a form of thinking well. Maria Popova put it best, “writing is thinking in public.”

Another problem with MBA program is the planning emphasis. Yes, DHH admits, planning is helpful for McDonald’s when they want to plan how many cheeseburgers they’ll sell in Q2 2020. But small businesses don’t need quite as much. MBA programs offer one thing, and rather than unlearn it we should reconsider it.

Hanson has choice words for venture capital too. “It’s a time bomb…the most harmful thing you can do to your business.” Why is that? Money becomes a crutch. Instead of relying on money, strengthen your creativity. Constraints are an asset. “Sometimes restrictions get the mind going,” wrote David Lynch, “sometimes you come up with very creative, inexpensive ideas.”

Instead, Hanson says; build a product with a price that generates actual profits. When Marc Andreessen’s number one piece of advice is to charge more I wonder if it means the same thing. You need the market to respond to what you’re doing.

For Hanson, the sooner the market speaks, the better.

Productivity advice. “Being a workaholic neither guarantees success or is a requirement for it.” Sure, Hanson says, there’s no such thing as an overnight success, but success comes from better choices, not more time.

Hanson lives in California and has co-workers around the world. “You can’t over collaborate seven time zones away,” he tells the class. He shared another smarter not harder choice with Lifehacker, saying his best time-saving shortcut was:

“Saying no. I’m always astonished by the tangled web of obligations most people manage to weave for themselves. I say no to almost everything. Then I can commit myself fully to the few things that I do truly choose to do.”

And about email.

“Most people’s inbox are overflowing because they waver, so they defer, which just makes the anxiety ever greater. Just make the call, which in my case is mostly “no,” then move on.”

Casey Neistat and Ryan Holiday teamed up to give similar advice in April 2018:

Hanson also believes in being there. Basecamp is a flat-ish organization because they don’t want to “disconnect the deciders and the doers.” One feature of Dead Companie’s Walking was absentee managers.

That Hanson spoke at all is surprising. As he says at the end, he’s afraid of alpha erosion.

“The companies that I look to that are doing well rarely get any PR at all. Most companies that are run like us are smart, they duck, they don’t talk about how much money they make. They don’t want to attract any attention.”

Eddy Elfenbein reminds us, “Always be aware that these advantages are not permanent.” And success attracts interest.


Thanks for reading.

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