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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best-selling author Dan Lyons exposes how the "new oligarchs" of Silicon Valley have turned technology into a tool for oppressing workers in this "passionate" (Kirkus) and "darkly funny" (Publishers Weekly) examination of workplace culture.

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 Company in Detroit, to a cult-like "Holocracy" workshop in San Francisco, and to corporate trainers who specialize in...Legos, Lyons immersed himself in the often half-baked and frequently lucrative world of what passes for management science today. He shows how new tools, workplace practices, and business models championed by tech's empathy-impaired power brokers have shattered the social contract that once existed between companies and their employees. These dystopian beliefs - often masked by pithy slogans like "We're a Team, Not a Family" - have dire consequences: millions of workers who are subject to constant change, dehumanizing technologies - even health risks. 

A few companies, however, get it right. With Lab Rats, Lyons makes a passionate plea for business leaders to understand this dangerous transformation, showing how profit and happy employees can indeed coexist. 

©2018 Dan Lyons (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Dan Lyons's Lab Rats defies easy description. It is hilarious, but not funny. I sputtered laughing and choked crying (literally, not figuratively) as I read it. Yes, to an extreme, Lyons gives Silicon Valley the thrashing that it, alas, largely deserves. But in the final third of the book, he offers us an effectively illustrated way out - an approach to work and business that puts people first, profitably serves customers, and makes the world a little bit better in the process." (Tom Peters, New York Times best-selling author of In Search of Excellence)

"[Lyons] argues persuasively.... A passionate indictment of brutal workplace culture." (Kirkus Reviews)

"I loved Dan Lyons's book Disrupted. With Lab Rats, he takes his critique of the modern workplace to the next level, to show how Silicon Valley's sometimes disturbing ideas about how to treat employees now pervade many workplaces. This is a fascinating, thought-provoking, hilarious, and sometimes harrowing account of current work culture." (Gretchen Rubin, number-one New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies)

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  • Overall
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    3 out of 5 stars

Loved “Disrupted”, and this starts strong, but…

“Disrupted” was such a triumph in indictment of nonsense business models, frat boy culture, “this time is different” thinking, and ageism, all of which ran into the author like a buzzsaw. Of course, there was also two seasons righting for “Silicon Valley” and all the other landmark work (“not Steve Jobs”, etc), so when I first noticed I could pre-order “Lab Rats”, I was likely among the earliest to do so.

And, it starts out really strong, with a continuation and updated skewering of Amazon, Netflix, Reed Hoffman, Reed Hastings, Jeff Bozos, and so many others. His general thesis is fantastic — that old line businesses, desperately wanting to remain relevant, have been porting “practices” (such as they are) and film-flam management techniques, grafting these onto their certainly challenged business models (like Ford, as a good example).

But the last 3-4 chapters or so squandered all this good momentum. Dan’s antidote to amoral bro culture and Uber-like practices that dehumanize workers is … a floor cleaning business, or something, that gives its employees “true vacations” and “an opportunity to grow into senior management”.

Dan fails to recognize structural changes occurring in the way work is done, and no, we aren’t all going to pivot and launch mopping startups.

I may revise this later, but having just finished the audiobook, I was left uneven with the entirety of the effort.

5 people found this helpful

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great breakdown of the I.T. world & affected world

The book does a great job of describing how the IT contract world and lack of job security has provided more instability and unhappiness in work environment. I wonder if the next book will delve into the decline of unions in pensions and its effect on the increasing availability of good work

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It's a book about feeling as facts

I had originally left a negative review, but by the second act, the author redeemed himself. It turned from a woe is me to a real dissection of corporate America. I still wish I had more meat on its bones, rather than simply knives out. But it does correctly identify the current Zeitgeist.

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Sometimes it seems like the author still has some unresolved resentment

While overall the book is balanced and author explains his statements well, sometimes he seems to have blind fits of rage where he just hurls insults or rants without much explanation and facts.
This book has encouraged me to look deeper into Basecamp and stuff by their owners.

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Nice polemic - just wait till he talks about something you have experience with

Companies struggle with Agile. Yes they implement in stupid ways. Does not mean that Agile is bad, or that it’s not better than the waterfall method. To me it means it’s a new way that is not well understand. Also when old school execs try to implement something new, it doesn’t always work well - no shocker there.

His talks about stress and the high tech environment are more balanced and better informed.

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Not even close to his last book Disrupted.

So I read Dans previous book Disturbed and loved it.. Love it so much, I purchased his new book Labs Rats. I think the difference between the books is striking.. Dans last book was a fantastic story of what really happen to the new .dot working world.. His Lab Rats book not a story at all, just a sting of complains about employers ad and how bad all the new tech companies are and how bad they treat their workers.. Nothing entertaining about it.. Constant complaining about the big techs like: netflix, amazon, linkedin, uber..... Come on Dan, give us a story that is funny, and interesting.. Not babble about how bad every company on the planet is..

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An eye opener

This is a great book for managers and entrepreneurs alike. Truly valuable and insightful views on the value of creating great workplaces

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A much needed perspective on humanizing work

I was a Dan Lyons since he was writing Fake Steve Jobs. He is witty, direct, and mostly right. Disrupted was a great read. I know a number of people who work at HiubSpot and his story is candid, fun to read, and insightful.

When I started reading Lab Rats I was expecting a follow-up to Disrupted. It's not. but don't be disappointed. This book is even more important. It's about the need to make work more human. It's a call against greed, and for socially-responsible capitalism (even though the author does not use this term).

It's a fun read, as I expected. Dan's message is important. One everyone that should be mandatory for every startup executive. Dan is right about what is wrong in Silicon Valley, and to an extent, across the US.

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Leftist drivel

Leftist drivel and opinion overwhelms a reasonably simple business philosophy: take care of your employees who will then take care of your customers.