Most anyone who’s worked in an office setting with cubicles and an idiot boss can relate to the comic strip Dilbert, created by Scott Adams. Now, Adams has some advice for all of us in a new book about how to get outside our bubble and become a respected thinker. Lisa Fletcher sat down with him in California to talk about his latest book called Loserthink: How Untrained Brains are Ruining America.
Lisa: Describe the meaning of the title.
Scott Adams:So loser think is a word I made up. And it refers to the fact that we all have these blank spots in our mental model. So for example, if you’d never been an economist, you might not know how they think about things or how scientists do, or psychologists, historians, artists. I’m not saying that some people are smart and some people are not smart. It’s just whether you’ve been exposed to the way people think in different domains.
Scott Adams: Some of the examples of loser think are people using analogies to predict. This is my exaggerated example. Hey, my cat has markings under its snout that looks like Hitler's mustache. So my cat's gonna invade Poland. It doesn't work that way. Now you say, okay, that's a stupid example because nobody would think that way. But then you look at the news and people are saying, Hey president Trump is criticizing the press. Who else does that? Dictators. Next thing you know he's going full dictator. But doesn't really work that way because that makes you think past the sale. The sale is, has the press reached a point where having your leader criticize them is actually what you would want? I would argue yes. We’ve reached that point where he’s got free speech, they’ve got free speech, he can say what he wants because they’ve crossed a line in so many cases. So that's an example. Don't use analogies to make predictions.
Lisa: Is loser think a new phenomenon unlocked by social media - or is this something we’ve been dealing with forever?
Scott Adams: We’ve dealt with it forever, but it seems more because of social media and technological change that changed everything. Ruined everything. Really. It was the ability for the media, social media, and the news to measure with precision who’s clicking what. Fake news will always get more clicks than real news. So the business model forces us into a state of fight or flight, you know, our bodies are all cranked up, our hair’s on fire over everything.
Lisa: If you can pick out your favorite section or chapter of the book- what is it?
Scott Adams: I liked the part about ego, so I talk about getting out of ego jail. The mistake is to think of your ego as who you are. My ego is me. I’m going to protect it. That is pure loser think. The trick is to put yourself in a position where you do embarrass yourself - do a speech, maybe you’re not prepared, ask somebody out, get turned down, just take it all and just wake up the next morning and see if your coffee tastes the same. It does.
Lisa: You are the creator of one of the most successful comic strips of all time, beloved Dilbert. Can you tell us something that maybe you or the audience and fans don’t know about Dilbert?
Scott Adams: Here's a little trivia. Dog Burt's original name was not dog Burt. He was, he was the companion to Dilbert, and before he was syndicated, his name was dill dog. And I think, you know why I changed it. Yeah. So that's a little trivia that some people know, but not too many.
One more piece of advice from Adams to avoid loser think. Don’t try to read minds! Adams says we often make assumptions about what other people are thinking but we shouldn’t be too confident that what we assume is correct.