Book Review: Work Rules!

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I chose Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock as one of the best business books I read in 2015. You should buy and read this book if you want to learn more about how Google does things or if you simply want to discover some ideas about how you can do things differently and better.

What Work Rules is about

Early in the book, Laszlo Bock describes the book he intended to write.

“Each year, tens of thousands of visitors come to our campuses around the world. They include social and business entrepreneurs, high school and college students, CEOs and celebrities, heads of state and kings and queens. And of course, our friends and families, who are always happy to stop by for a free lunch. They all ask about how we run this place, about how Google works. What is the culture all about? How do you actually get any work done with all the distractions? Where does the innovation come from? Do people really get 20 percent of their time to do whatever they want? Even our employees, ‘Googlers’ as they call themselves, sometimes wonder why we do things a certain way. Why do we spend so much time on recruiting? Why do we offer some perks and not others? Work Rules! is my attempt to answer those questions.”

He succeeded. Work Rules! is well written and chock full of good ideas, explanations, and helpful research findings. They answer all the questions in the paragraph above and many, many more.

Some details about Work Rules

Every chapter in the book concludes with a short summary of the chapter. Bock labels the summaries “Work Rules” for specific topics. Here’s a list of the Work Rules summaries. There are chapters in Work Rules! for:

  • becoming a founder
  • building a great culture
  • hiring (the short version)
  • finding exceptional candidates
  • selecting new employees
  • mass empowerment
  • managing your two tails
  • building a learning institution
  • paying unfairly
  • efficiency, community, and innovation
  • nudging toward health, wealth, and happiness
  • screwing up

Bock uses some words in a strictly “Googlian” sense in the list above. Here’s a mini-glossary.

“Founder” doesn’t mean an actual founder. In this book “becoming a founder” means “thinking like a founder.”

The “two tails” refer to the tails in a normal distribution. They are the people at the high and low extremes of performance.

“Paying unfairly” means paying top performers more (a lot more) than their less productive peers. In other words, pay for performance, not effort and not time spent working.

How to read Work Rules!

You can read this book straight through from front to back. I thought the initial chapter or two was slow going, but the rest of the book is crisply written. If you read straight through you will get a good overview of how concepts in one chapter link to those in other chapters.

You can also scan the chapters and start by reading the ones that interest you most. This method takes you right to the material of greatest interest, but you may miss some foundational detail.

I suggest that you scan the Table of Contents and then read the Work Rules at the end of every chapter. That will give you the big picture which will be helpful if you read straight through. If you’re going straight to topics of interest, reading the Work Rules! will give you a sense of where your topic of interest fits in the overall scheme of the book.

Bottom Line

You don’t have to be Google to benefit from these ideas. They can improve any workplace, big or small.

Get more of the big ideas from Work Rules! with a free 4 minute video summary. Click here to get it now.

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