Before he became a world-renowned depicter of the banality of corporate America with his “Dilbert” comic strip, Scott Adams was rejected for an arts school, and instead earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Hartwick College and an MBA in economics and management from the University of California-Berkeley. In 1997, at the invitation of Logitech CEO Pierluigi Zappacosta, Adams, wearing a wig and false mustache, successfully impersonated a management consultant and tricked Logitech managers into adopting a mission statement that he described as “so impossibly complicated that it has no real content whatsoever.”
SMM: In an NPR story recently on workplace morale, a software engineer in Lexington, Ky., said he got a good sense of worker morale in offices that he visited by looking at the number of “Dilbert” comics that were pinned up in workers’ cubicles.
A lot of “Dilbert” comics seemed to be a passive aggressive way for employees to complain. How does it feel to have your work be a barometer for job satisfaction?
ADAMS: The “Dilbert Index” idea has been around for about 12 years or so, by my best guess. My own version says the best office to work in has a few “Dilbert” comics, which indicates they have a lenient policy about humor. If you see zero indications of humor in a workplace, run away. If you see entire walls of “Dilbert” comics, you have a different problem. Somewhere in the middle is best.
SMM: Some companies try to pump up morale by bringing in a motivational speaker. Have you ever served in that role?
ADAMS: I’ve done hundreds of corporate speeches, but I always promised the client that no one would be motivated or educated, just entertained.
SMM: What’s your feeling about motivational speakers?
ADAMS: I haven’t seen any studies that indicate people stay motivated 10 minutes after they leave a motivational speech. On the other hand, every little bit of positive energy probably helps. If the speech is the only motivating element of work, I doubt it has much impact. If it’s part of a larger motivational thrust, it might help.
SMM: Have you seen someone else speak live who you found to be especially motivational?
SMM: I saw two graduates of the Dale Carnegie course get on stage without notes and give excellent, animated talks on the benefits of Dale Carnegie’s methods. It motivated me to sign up for the course myself, and it was one of the smartest things I ever did.
SMM: Who is not on the motivational speaking circuit that you think would be well-suited to it?
ADAMS: Oprah, Jay-Z, Bill Clinton. I’m motivated by anyone who changed the world by force of personality and desire.
DILBERT © 2006 Scott Adams. Used by permission of Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.