Week of November 12, 2001
Snapshot from the Field
Modular Mecca? "Dilbert's Ultimate Cubicle" DevelopedBy JACK LYNE
Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing
SAN FRANCISCO -- A cubicle, you say, with a "snap-in" hammock for those refreshing employee naps?
A cubicle with an aquarium with real fish in it? Yes, the very idea is enough to send a pointy-headed, clueless boss up the wall of his or her wildly luxurious office.
And, yes, this cubicle actually exists - at least as a prototype. Scott Adams, creator of the popular and influential Dilbert comic strip, has joined forces with design firm IDEO (www.ideo.com) to create "Dilbert's Ultimate Cubicle."
"Over the years, Dilbert fans have e-mailed me on all sorts of topics," said Adams. "And after a while, I began to realize that a common theme among the majority of them was the fact that most people are highly frustrated with their cubicles.
A 'Boss Monitor,' a 'Murphy Chair'Mind you, the "basic needs" built into Ultimate Cubicle aren't exactly "employee-of-the-month" stuff. Nonetheless, like the Dilbert strip, the project's cracked reflections of workplace realities will, for many, strike a rich chord.
Here, for example, are some other modules for the Ultimate Cubicle:
And that's only part of what can be added to the Ultimate Cubicle. Other available modules include a punching bag (which can be customized with the boss's face on it); a coat hanger and locker, and a motorized shoe polisher.
How the Cubicle Came to BeThe Ultimate Cubicle, however, isn't on the market. For the moment, its only incarnation is at IDEO's San Francisco headquarters.
Adams, however, doesn't sound firmly opposed to rolling it out as a product. And IDEO CEO Tim Brown said that that some of the Ultimate Cubicle's flexible features might perhaps be translated into an actual product with office furniture heavyweight Steelcase (www.steelcase.com), one of IDEO's clients.
IDEO has a reputation for envelope-pushing projects. For example, Fred Dust, the project leader who collaborated most closely with Adams, developed the Stanford Learning Lab and the DePaul Health Center's new patient-care model; and Dust is now working on a mobile unit for dentistry treatment.
Adam's idea, however, presented an entirely unfamiliar envelope. As Dust recalls, "Nobody on our design team had ever worked in a cubicle." So IDEO's team went out and bought a "cube farm" and installed it in the open collaborative space in which it normally works.
The designers then read thousands of pieces of advice e-mailed from Dilbert fans, said Dust. In addition, Adams assumed the role of Dilbert. The cartoonist, who described his pre- Dilbert corporate tenure as "a 16-year sentence in cubicles," told the designers what his comic-strip creation would want in his modular Mecca.
Two months later the prototype was done. Dilbert fans, however, probably needn't worry about Adams going soft now that he's seen the ultimate cushy cubicle. The cartoonist said that his next book (after his current work in progress, When Did Ignorance Become a Point of View?) will be followed by one with a plaintive title that could've come straight from Dilbert's (largely nonexistent) mouth:
In Your Cubicle No One Can Hear You Scream.
©2001 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.