The Man Behind The Dilbert Desk: Scott Adams Will Now Take Your Questions

Scott Adams(Photo: Scott Adams)

Although I’ve never been a regular reader of Dilbert — the silly newspapers I read most regularly, the Times and the Wall Street Journal, don’t have the good sense to run comics — I am a huge fan of Dilbert creator Scott Adams, thanks to his extraordinarily good blog.

After studying economics at Hartwick College, Adams took turns as a bank teller, financial planner, and other self-described “humiliating and low-paying jobs.” With no media or art background, he sold the Dilbert cartoon to United Feature Syndicate in 1989, and it now appears in more than 2,000 papers in 65 countries. He has published many, many books that have sold, in total, more than 10 million copies, including non-cartoon titles like The Religion War and his new book, Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!: Cartoonist Ignores Helpful Advice, which is a collection of entries from the aforementioned blog. He’s also the former CEO of Scott Adams Foods, Inc., known for such nutritious creations as the Dilberito.

In a blog post yesterday about the new prediction market Predictify, I mentioned that the site’s featured bet concerned the sales of Adams’s new book. Adams has also blogged about the demographic patterns he’s noticed on the early Predictify returns.

Adams has agreed to submit to a Freakonomics Q&A (here are past examples) in which you, the readers, get to ask him pretty much anything you want. He’ll answer a reasonable number of the questions and we’ll post his replies here in short time.

Thanks to Adams for playing along and thanks in advance to all of you for the questions.

Addendum: You can find the answers to these questions here.

Matt Johnson

Mr. Adams,
You must be a fan of the movie Office Space, right? So much symmetry between Dilbert and Office Space...


Did Mr. Adams anticipate turning the blog in to a book? I've been reading since day one and wondered since day one why such an obviously busy person like Mr. Adams would devote so much time to something like a blog. Was it for fun, an attempt to educate the kids, an attempt to educate himself, or did Mr. Adams just anticipate this would be material for a book. Most of the feedback is of course nonsense, but he's clearly also received some pretty valuable feedback. Come to think of it, I guess these questions apply to Mr. Dubner as well. Why would someone with a real day job do a blog?

Kevin Stevens

Mr. Adams,

How is it that Dilbert ended up as a software engineer? What in your background has given you the insight to understand code monkeys such as myself and the endless battles against the legions of the pointy-haired?

Many thanks,



My all time favorite Dilbert is the one where he gives some kooky well-thought-out amount of payment for an item so he'll get back an even dime and says it's for the clerk's convenience! Do you really do that in real life? It hit a little too close to home for me (who paid 5.17 yesterday for a 4.67 bill).

Scott Murphy

Do you think Predictify's wisdom-of-crowds mechanism could be useful for predicting geopolitical events, like what will happen in Iran or the Middle East? I know that the federal government has considered similar initiatives in the past that were nixed for political reasons.


Having written so many comics through the years, how often do you find yourself writing the same jokes or lines? Do you write up a comic thinking it is great only to realize you've done it before?


Is it true that you worked at Pac Bell for years after your strip was published? My brother-in-law who worked there claimed that you used it for inspiration, and in the glacially slow-moving culture of a phone company, it took them years to realize that your "moonlighting" was such a big deal.


How come the blogs in my Google reader intertwine so much? It's almost scary... I mean, I subscribed to The Dilbert Blog following a recommendation from Tom Kyte, and I know about Freakonomics from a neighbour; I found Bruce Schneier's blog on my on... Suddenly, these blogs are not only heavily quoting each other, but Scott Adams gets to guest-blog on Freakonomics, and Tom Kyte does the same over at WTF (Worse Than Failure. What did you think it meant?)

Scary, I tell you!

Jeremy Miles

Does it frustrate you that so many of the readers (or at least commenters) on your blog seem to fail to understand your message (or messages)?


How would Dogbert define Muda, Mura, and Muri for a class full of clueless managers?
Besides beating the mura out of them with a stick...


Not a question for Adams, but I just wanted to but in my recently finished Finance Course at college, we had to read The Wall Street Journal every class…and they do have one comic on the third to last page of the first section…love the blog, btw!

Jason Perdue

I read your story about curing yourself when you lost your voice. Has that lead to any new developments or treatments in this affliction? How's have you progressed since you originally posted about it earlier this year?


How do you consistently nail my workplace every single time? Have you placed a camera in my cubicle? Get out of my head!!!!!

Ron O'C

I heard somewhere (probably from a disgruntled employee) that you worked at Motorola at one point. Is this true? Either way, your comics are so scarily representative of corporate America that you must have spies on the inside feeding you the gems of the HR policies and management 'innovations', right?

Rob Koch

Would you ever want to be one of the characters in your comics?


How's your voice these days? You posted an entry about a therapy tool you had found for improving your ability to speak. Have you been able to maintain that success?


Where did you learn how to draw, and what advice would you give to someone who, like you, majored in an economics program but would much rather pursue more creative activities.

Curt Shannon

Can you tell us how you originally pitched the Dilbert concept? It's hard now to imagine life without Dilbert, but before you came along there was no strip devoted exclusively to the workplace. Did you have trouble convincing the movers and shakers that Dilbert would have "legs", and that the comic potential of the strip was almost unlimited?


I'm interested in hearing Mr. Adams' views on how corporate america's office environment is going to develop over the next 25 years, what evil management practices will go away, what new devilry will show up, and how he feels his work (with Dilbert and his books) will impact that environment.

Bill W

Are there other corporate humorists you admire? Jeremy Blachman's "Anonymous Lawyer" comes to mind for those in the legal world.