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Dilbert's Creator Strikes a Believable Pose in Hoax

November 16, 1997|From the Associated Press

SAN JOSE — Scott Adams doesn't just lampoon consultants in his Dilbert cartoon strip, he can also pose as one and make managers believe him.

Adams, whose strip appears in 1,700 newspapers in 51 countries, spouted nonsense during a meeting with executives of a Silicon Valley company, and most of them--following the lead of their boss--just nodded in agreement.

"What if I was a management consultant?" Adams wondered. "I could lead a bunch of executives in writing a mission statement so impossibly complicated that it has no real context whatsoever."

An account of Adams' hoax, which happened last month at Logitech International--the world's biggest maker of computer mice, was printed in the San Jose Mercury News' Sunday magazine, West.

Adams pulled off the deception with the cooperation of Logitech's co-founder and vice chairman, Pierluigi Zappacosta.

Zappacosta summoned executives to a meeting with Adams--alias Ray Mebert--to draft a new mission statement for Logitech's New Ventures Group. His memo touted "Mebert" as an expert who could help the group "crisply define" its goals.

Adams is hardly anonymous. His photo appears on his best-selling books and elsewhere and his Dilbert cartoons get pinned up on bulletin boards and employee cubicles at innumerable companies, including Logitech.

He disguised himself with a wig and fake mustache.

He told the group his credentials included work on Procter & Gamble Co.'s "Taste Bright Project," a supposedly secret effort to boost sales by improving the taste of soap.

"There actually are some people who admitted in focus groups that they would sometimes taste soap," Adams as Mebert said.

Executives nodded agreement.

Still in character, Adams sneered at New Ventures' statement--"to provide Logitech with profitable growth and related new business areas"--and led an exercise in which managers suggested words and ideas that might become part of a new one.

The new statement read: "The New Ventures Mission is to scout profitable growth opportunities in relationships, both internally and externally, in emerging, mission inclusive markets, and explore new paradigms and then filter and communicate and evangelize the findings."

The ersatz consultant drew a last diagram, one he said would bring the session into focus. It was a picture of Dilbert. Adams then pulled off his wig.

"You've all been had," he said.

The executives took the joke with good grace.

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