How to use Dilbert’s wisdom and benefit in the corporate world

How to use Dilbert’s wisdom and benefit in the corporate world

Posted on February 27, 2011

Dilbert is Funny

Scott Adams’ Dilbert Cartoons show the funny side and mostly a true side of the corporate world. I have come across these cartoons in multiple places. Sometimes as a daily Calendar on the desk of a co-worker. Sometimes pinned on a wall in the office hallway. Sometimes in an email from a friend. Sometimes in a business presentation. When these cartoons are shared, the purpose is to bring some humor into the everyday life of a corporate worker.

Dilbert is Cynical

A few years back in a Program Management Course conducted by Greg Githens, I was given a different perspective. Greg had a Dilbert Cartoon at the beginning of his presentation. He said that he used to spend a few minutes on the cartoon but had stopped doing that because of the cynicism it portrayed. He also said that the underlying meaning in these cartoons is that the corporate world is broken and there is nothing that can be done to fix it. This gave me a new insight.

New Insight

With any new insight comes a change in thinking. So, these cartoons though funny represented a problem. And, my attitude is to leave no problem behind. After looking at these cartoons with a new insight I have come up with a way these cartoons can be more beneficial. The smile or chuckle the cartoons bring is in itself a benefit. Workplaces definitely need some humor. But it can be more beneficial.

Two Extremes of a Problem

I am going to use just two cartoons on one subject to show two extremes of one problem.

The First Extreme:

Issue Management Extreme

After having a good laugh, the next thing to do is know whether this cartoon applies to your business situation.

So, the first question to ask is “Are we doing this in our company/department/project ?”. If yes then you have a problem.

The problem in its simplicity is of procrastination where a life threatening issue for the corporation is ignored and put on the back-burner.

The Second Extreme:

Same here, enjoy Dilbert’s humor and then ask this question. “Which extreme are we closer to as a company/department/project, first or the second?”

The problem in its simplicity is the culture of getting attention. If the only way an employee can get the leader’s attention is by “Sky is falling” approach then there is a problem.

Putting it all together

My blogpost is not to solve the problem of how to manage issues within your company. It was just an example to show how you can benefit from Dilbert’s cartoons.

Here are some steps that you can take to benefit from these cartoons.

  1. When you come across a Dilbert Cartoon, enjoy the humor.
  2. Understand the corporate problem that the cartoon portrays.
  3. Find out if this problem applies to your business situation.
  4. If the problem applies then look at the other extreme to this problem. Search to find the other extreme.
  5. Determine which extreme you are closer to.
  6. Brainstorm to get the root cause of the problem.
  7. Plan the steps needed to eliminate the problem and make sure you do not land on the other extreme.


To learn more about Greg Githens’ work on Strategic Initiatives, please go to his blog.

Cartoons downloaded from

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  • Reply Greg Githens February 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for the reference to me. To give a little more background…

    Cynicism means I doubt your motives. Skepticism means I doubt your facts. It’s a subtle distinction: you see some people who enjoy a robust debate and others who passively say, “This company is all messed up. So why care?”

    I enjoy Dilbert, but I don’t want to be responsible for spreading the virus of cynicism. Truthfully, I think I’m enjoying Dilbert less and less; but I think there is less creativity in the strip.

    BTW, Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, provides a formula for humor, which he calls 2-of-6 rule. In order for something to be funny, you need at least two of the following elements: cuteness (as in kids and animals), naughty, bizarre, clever, recognizable (familiar to the audience), or cruel. I have found his formula useful in trying to find ways to engage my audience.

    I’m glad you remembered my comment! Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work
    Greg Githens

    • Reply Shakeel Akhtar March 3, 2011 at 10:09 pm

      Thanks Greg for the comments.

      I also remember the distinction you had drawn between cynicism and skepticism.

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