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Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,481 ratings  ·  202 reviews
At a time of soaring corporate profits and plenty of HR lip service about "wellness," millions of workers--in virtually every industry--are deeply unhappy. Why did work become so miserable? Who is responsible? And does any company have a model for doing it right?

For two years, Lyons ventured in search of answers. From the innovation-crazed headquarters of the Ford Motor Co
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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 23rd 2018 by Hachette Books
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Sharon
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People Managers
This is a more important business book than most people realize. In its pages, Dan Lyons take apart the conventional wisdom of Milton Friedman's "burn out and churn out" style of shareholder-based business and shows why the model is completely non-sustainable.

If you've wondered why you're feeling less valued at work, it's because you are. When human beings are treated like copy paper (human "resources"), it's easy to pretend we don't matter. Yet, we provide the work that turns the wheels of busi
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☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Q:
Why now? Why has the workplace become a cross between a kindergarten and a Scientology assessment center? Why do our offices now have decor that looks like a Montessori preschool, with lots of bright, basic colors? Why does work now involve such infantilization? ...
“It feels like you’ve joined a cult,” says a thirty-something software programmer whose department spent a day doing a Lego workshop. “The purpose seems to be to indoctrinate people to follow orders.” (c)

Oh, gosh. Finally someone is
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David
Oct 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-econbiz
What use is outrage?

Outrage is motivating. It can be unifying. It can even be inspiring. With a little discipline, it can power you enough to produce a first draft of a book. After the first draft, the outrage must be controlled, limited, and shaped if you wish to address anyone other than people you agree with already, or motivate people to participate in a constructive response.

This book has an outrage issues.

It disappointed me because the things that the author is outraged about are, well, ou
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Rob Enderle
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Boy if there was ever a book every kid planning a career in tech should read this is it, and for a lot of folks in tech, this book suggests you are all idiots for putting up with the amount of abuse a bunch of rich dot-com losers are handing out. This book will piss you off because it is well researched, points out that way too many tech leaders are flim-flam artists and way too many of us are the suckers. The result isn't trivial either depression, suicides, divorces all avoidable are the resul ...more
Marks54
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is a writer and business journalist. He wrote a book - Disrupted - two years ago which chronicled his time spent with an Internet startup he joined after being laid off at Newsweek. I enjoyed the book and thought it an insightful and humorous memoir of changes in the workplace in light of the spread of the Internet economy. There are, of course, lots of these books around but Lyons provided a look at a much hyped development as someone who both knew how to write and who was familiar w ...more
Andria
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, nonfiction
I almost gave up on this one halfway through, but I'm glad I stuck around for the much stronger concluding section. If you are not already familiar with the problems of modern work (long hours, unreasonable expectations, lack of benefits, job insecurity, the 1099/gig economy, surveillance etc) and their origins (mainly Silicon Valley), it serves as a good primer with some exceptions. I could not follow the author's wistful and uncritical admiration of companies like Ford, which have their own re ...more
Hải
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kinda depressing. You already knew it happened out there in the real technology and startup world, but still, reading about it was uneasy.

About the book, I would rate it somewhere between 3 and 4. I was hesitant for a while but then put 4 for it. My problem with it, and the way author Dan Lyons expressed his ideas was there was so much negative energy. Looked like the author exaggerated lots of things and was angry with everything. Not only in these recent days, at some big unicorn tech companie
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Bob Varettoni
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
To be sure (a phrase that introduces many paragraphs in this book), I never expected Dan Lyons’ latest to be as good as “Disrupted” — which was based on first-person stories, and devastating humor and satire. This book is more of a research project, with hyperbolic claims made about the impact of certain blog posts, published opinion pieces and Powerpoint presentations. I think the truth is more gray, considering, for example, how even “best places to work” rankings are influenced by PR and pay- ...more
Meagan Houle
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was not a fan of "Disrupted," but "Lab Rats" really impressed me. Lyons uses concise, accessible language to describe complex concepts without straying into oversimplification territory. I particularly liked his four-point summary in the introduction; it frames the rest of the book beautifully, and helps the reader keep all the details straight. The way he observes that Silicon Valley is more interested in what works for machines than in what works for humans is especially apt, and that compar ...more
Daniel
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Lyons. He used to work for Newsweek but tried to work for a tech company when he was retrenched. There was so much positive feedback from people for his first book Disrupted that he realised his experience is not unique.

Why are we lab rats of Silicon Valley? Lyons laid out the villains:

1. Frederick Taylor, who proposed scientific management. So he timed every action in the pig iron factory. Unfortunately the story is a fraud, a fabrication. So workers become a
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Shelly
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I found the book mildly amusing for the first few chapters and then Lyons descended into didactic ranting. Read the book with a grain of salt as Lyons has a very particular opinion on the subject of the work place (a very skewed bias towards Ford, apparently, which was random) and a harsh outlook towards too much tech in your daily life/tech makes life worse, not better.

I enjoyed it for his research into workplace and psychology, but when you just try to pound in a single point and don't bother
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Kent Winward
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read three books in succession and each did well for what their authors set out as their goals. Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane is the Utopian version of where technology is taking us. Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us provides the Dystopian view. While Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence contains the more nuanced approach. The wonder of technology is that all three versions are probably correct. ...more
Greg
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dan Lyons is one of the more unlikely critics of Silicon Valley culture despite being a long time satirist, making his splash with his Fake Steve Jobs (FSJ) blog (and mediocre novelization). His irreverent portrayal of a smack-talking, faux new-age Steve, seems a bit short in retrospect. It was clever, candid and most of all funny, but never eclipsed the caricature of the on-the-spectrum, eccentric, once-hippie tech billionaire. In the end, in the cannon of Steve, Lyon helped lionize (yeah, you ...more
ScienceOfSuccess
Feb 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
I feel like this whole book is a rant after being kinked off from a job. On the other hand, it's hard to not agree with most points made by Dan.

In this book, the author discovered that companies noted on the stock market serve only the investors, and don't care about their workers. They do everything to have more investors, and the go-to strategy is to build a startup and sell it on IPO. This environment changes the workplace into a workcamp and makes people miserable. Also, no one wants old pe
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Kelly
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining and eye-opening dive into the working world in Silicon Valley and beyond. I recognize some of the corporate techniques in my industry. Frightening.
Anil Koroglu
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Personality tests. Team-building exercises. Forced Fun. Desktop surveillance. Open-plan offices. Acronyms. Diminishing job security. Hot desking. Pointless perks. Hackathons.
If you wanna see Silicon Valley’s in its true aspect should read this.
Sarah
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Lots of interesting information about how disappointing big business has become
KC
Oct 24, 2019 rated it liked it
The stuffy world of bloated corporate business bureaucracy often looks envyingly over at the tech startup world, coveting the lean agility, the hypergrowth, and the nimbleness and romanticism of forging new paths in the emerging wild west of new business frontiers. The big companies try to tinker around the edges with casual Fridays, beanbags, and ping-pong tables, but the hierarchies and power structures are just too far entrenched for any surface meddling to make any meaningful difference.

Howe
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Jane
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, audio-book
An engaging read with lots to chew on. I wrote a book called Working with Purpose back in 2003, making a case that the business of business is NOT just increasing shareholder wealth. Things haven’t gotten better since then but this book lays out the accelerated harm to people and the growing numbers of investors and companies who are ready for change, and making changes at least in their own domains.
Ron
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What is it like working for a VC funded startup or a large tech company? Well, with some perks, it may not be so great. Long hours and lousy health insurance. Lab Rats is about the human experiment on working people to the point of breaking and then replacing them. They can be fired for any reason, even if the boss is just having a bad day. Companies (big and small) jump from one new management system to another which requires training and more training from the workers. Many times nothing makes ...more
Adam Fortuna
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dan Lyons previous book “Disrupted” ranks as one of my all time favorites. It’s a look into startup culture and it’s oddities. Lab Rats picks up on that with an exploration into many other companies that are all imitating and following the “startup feel” - for better or for worse.

Nearly everything mentioned gave me a hint of stress hearing about, as many were part of workplaces I was a part of (and many things that I as a manager did). As a small example, this book mentions personality tests, op
...more
Ann
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Dan Lyons had cracked me up with his book "Busted" and this follow-up didn't disappoint. Whereas "Busted" was a personal memoir of his own experiences in a marketing start-up, this book is more of a survey of the various management techniques that are currently in vogue. It's easy to laugh at some of the sillier philosophies described in the book, but underneath, there is the very serious question of how corporate culture has become so cut-throat in the last 20-30 years. Instead of aiming for li ...more
Arunaabh Shah
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a person who has never understood the concept of forced corporate fun and whose first experience in the corporate world started with a bunch of inflexible and fat managers uttering the words "Agile"and "Lean", this book made a A LOT of sense. (atleast to me).
As someone who has hated micromanagement and has been constantly left out for choosing not to confirm with the doctrine of corporate culture and often mocked for choosing to have a life outside of work rather than attending happy hours an
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Ernst Hafen
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and entertaining read with a workers' perspective on the problems with shareholder value driven capitalism that shows its excesses most strongly in hip Silicon Valley companies. The description of the working culture at Amazon and Netflix (we are a team not a family) makes one think twice to order from these companies. Sad to see how big companies like Ford, GE and IBM bend over backwards to emulate the Silicon Valley culture. Dan Lyon does also an excellent job in debunking management ...more
GM
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Just finished this book, and I have mixed feelings. As someone who works in tech/start-up space (though outside of America), I could see how some things were relatable or seen, particularly on Growth. However, rather than a person giving sound and logical arguments, I just had the impression that the author was just complaining about how things are changing, and how he didn’t want to change. The world of today is in an ever changing world, and I kept thinking that the author was on the conservat ...more
Harold Saar
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
My first impression was that Lab Rats is a book by some miserable old-timer who was dissapointed in the emerging start-up culture and simply could not keep up. Half way down the book I was close to giving up on it. And then it got better. And better. And I did learn some people management tips and got some ideas of how I will run my company/team one day. There was also a cool concept of impact investing which sounds something truly needed among all this unicorn hype. Oh, and thanks for introduci ...more
Liina Vahtras
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Giving it the 4*s for its different take on how the businesses should be set up and run, and for teaching me something new. So, a very subjective rating to a book that seemed subjectively loaded.

I’d say the format (mainly the overly emotional and at times condescending tone) does the topic a disadvantage. It also bugged me how opinions seemed to get casually thrown around as facts. It wouldn’t have hurt to tackle the ‘why’ instead of just dismissing the current status quo as evil. But it might
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Kakali
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us
Interesting for all who are in tech. Dan Lyons goes into a lot of depth discussing some of the concepts that are ruling the tech world today such as scaled Agile, minimum viable product, open offices, a futuristic workforce ruled by AI and Robotics. It is a somewhat disturbing look into the inner workings of the startup culture and some of the big tech oligarchs.
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Hogan Gibson
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a current employee of a Silicon Valley based company, this book resonates with me. In a time and age where speaking out and being stronger in numbers is paving the way for people to not be afraid to use their collective voices I sure hope that this book helps nudge companies in the right direction. Mental health and stresses related to over working and job dissatisfaction are important issues that shouldn’t be ignored.
José Iván García Rosales
Insightful and up-to-date

This is a captivating read with a lot of insights that portray reality at the time of writing in an accurate, globally relatable way. The topic itself is a bit of a downer, but the author does a good job of revealing the silver linings.
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