October 28, 2016

Robert Propst was a brilliant young inventor.

He started his own shop in Denver a few years after his service in World War II, and, at one point, the founder of the office furniture company Herman Miller came out to visit him.

Soon, Propst was offered a job.

One of the things Propst zeroed in on immediately was that he didn’t like the way most workplaces functioned. Many layouts had closed-door offices for the bosses and a secretarial pool in the center of the room.

Then a new idea swept in during the 60s: open offices. People sat at desks with little separation from each other.

But no one had any privacy. It was hard to concentrate. And lots of workers hated it. 

So Propst came up with something different. Something that became hugely popular. Something with three felt-covered walls.

Unfortunately, it was implemented in a way that Propst hated.

Listen to the segment above to find out why.

innovation hub, NPR, Kara Miller, WGBH

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