Cubicles are the ultimate form of a poor compromise. Lets consider the two reasonable extremes of providing a working environment for employees. On the one hand you can go with the bullpen approach or you can go with offices. Somebody must have said, well if we just built walls around these desks then we would have the best of both worlds (lots of bad products get developed with this type of thinking). We would have the privacy of an office as well as the open and egalitarian benefits of the bullpen. Nothing could be further from the reality as cubicles
- provide a false sense of privacy — you can’t make a private call from your cube.
- generate just as many distractions as a bullpen environment as you can hear every conversation.
- rarely provide the upside associated with the bullpen model where ideas can flow quickly and people have the latest information required to make good decisions.
I have no doubt that technology companies and especially those companies whose success relies on developing code cubicles are a significant drain on productivity and general employee satisfaction. Rather, a better model would provide employees (especially software developers, product managers, qa, etc.) with a small office and in the center of the floor provide an ad-hoc meeting places (not conference rooms that you need to reserve) with Wi-Fi (of-course), refreshments, etc. where employees could congregate around if they need to ideate, exchange information, etc.