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An Interview with Scott Adams

Dilbert noteWhile most of the blogs on my "favorite links" list are sales-related, there's one that isn't: The Dilbert Blog. I've been a big fan of Scott Adams and his Dilbert comic strip from back before he became famous.

A while back our respective book tours crossed paths. Even though he wasn't yet insanely famous, I kept the note he sent me and we later had several telephone conversations.

Anyway, I was going through my archives and I ran across this transcript of one conversations. It's more about market forecasting than sales forecasting, but I think it's worth reading.

  • James: What method do you use to forecast trends?
  • Adams: There are, in general, two ways to predict the future. For example, you can use horoscopes, tea leaves, tarot cards, crystal ball, and so forth. Collectively, these are known as the "nutty methods." Or you can put well-researched facts into sophisticated computer models, more commonly referred to as "a complete waste of time." While all these approaches have their advantages, I find it's a lot easier and economical to simply make stuff up.
  • James: I see. Well, according to your view of the future, will technology be able to solve the problems of the tomorrow's corporations?
  • Adams: Yes. Technology will definitely solve all our problems, but in the process it will create brand new ones. But that's O.K. because the most you can expect from life is to get to solve better and better problems.
  • James: What about society at large? What problems will technology solve for society in the near future?
  • Adams: Scientists will eventually stop flailing around with solar power and focus their efforts on harnessing the only truly unlimited source of energy on the planet: stupidity. I predict that in the future, scientists will learn how to convert stupidity into clean fuel. Energy companies will place huge hamster wheels outside of convenience stores and offer free lottery tickets to people who spend five minutes running inside the wheels, which will be connected to power generators.
  • James: What will be the most important technological innovation in the next five years?
  • Adams: I'm predicting that we'll finally have a computer will search my e-mail automatically and delete every message that begins with "thought you'd be interested," and then give an electrical shock to the sender to remind him or her to stop send that kind of message.
  • James: How come?
  • Adams: Those messages are a colossal waste of time. I've seen that phrase thousands of times and never once have I been interested in what the message contained.
  • James: Yeah, but you were interested enough to check out thousands of messages to discover whether or not you'd actually be interested.
  • Adams: It may take me a little time to learn, but I eventually figure these things out.
  • James: Okay, I'll concede that some e-mail messages are pretty useless. But, consider, what if Uma Thurman wants you to come to her house for midnight drinks and just happens to start the message with "thought you'd be interested."
  • Adams: Yeah, that'll happen.
  • James: If Dilbert were to open his own business, what business do you think it would be and do you think that he'd be successful?
  • Adams: He'd probably be one of those guys who comes to your company and finds all the useless data that you lost on your hard drive two years ago. Either that, or he'd be in LAN integration. Would he make money at it? Well, he's not bright enough to know that you can't get rich selling your own time.
  • James: Do you have any helpful advice for employees who want to break free and become their own bosses?
  • Adams: I generally recommend something that I call "employer financing" of your next career, which means that you start your career while you're still working for your current employer, and use their resources and time to build your business. This might seem unethical to many people, but I want to remind you that this is the same employer who's asking to work overtime for free and calling it "professionalism."
  • James: One last question. What's the best job in high tech today?
  • Adams: Venture Capitalist. No doubt about it. Not only does it sound great at parties but you're expected to fail 90% of the time and that's okay. Some of my best friends are Venture Capitalists, but let's face it, a hamster with Alzheimer's could make those kind of numbers. It's great work if you can get it.