Friday, January 30, 2015

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace

In Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, Nikil Saval manages to provide a very funny, insightful, and completely depressing account of the history of the office.  (I say depressing because I am a man who has spent nearly 100% of his working life in offices).  Saval manages to write  about the history of the office while juggling a great deal of research in related areas like architecture, interior design, ergonomics, logistics, psychology, and what economists would call industrial organization.

So this book has a wide reach and covers much ground.  Saval could easily lose control of his material, but he stays focused on the topics at hand, moving us through the history of the office from early “Counting Houses” through the first large, downtown offices, to the cubicle and attempts to break out of it.

What we get in the end is a solidity written, entertaining book which explores what most of us do for a larger percentage of our lives than we wish to face. By turning his sharp eye to the topic, Saval attempts to find solutions to some of the more historically intractable elements of office work.  Whether the recent innovations he details will work or not has yet to be seen.  If his work shows anything, it is that the law of unintended is very much the axis upon which office work revolves.  

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