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Intellectual property in the Dilbert cartoons, and other things

Dilbert Mark


For me, three writers on management stand out:

• Peter Drucker (1909-2005), especially for The effective executive (1967). The effective executive contains robust – often uncomfortable –management truths (notwithstanding its inevitably dated case studies); it is short; and it is organised in a straightforward, unflashy manner which is appealing to the legal practitioner. Drucker also said (with resonance for any managing partner or in-house head of intellectual property): “As a manager, you clean up messes. Who the hell wants to do that?”

• Lucy Kellaway, who writes weekly in the Financial Times, fuelled by vacuous and incoherent pronouncements of corporate “leaders” and by insights communicated to her by frustrated employees. She questions the value of any new management ideas beyond those of Drucker and of “total quality management” of the 1980s.

• And finally, Adam Scott, who in the daily comic strip Dilbert has created a simultaneously surreal and recognisable US ICT company (ICT= information and communications technology). In this company, the nerdy Dilbert, the ferociously efficient Alice, and the lazy Wally work for the “pointy-haired boss” dedicated to “management speak” – while apparently failing to notice that they have non-human colleagues such as Dogbert, Catbert, and Ratbert. (UK residents can find Dilbert in the Daily Express and the International New York Times, as well as online at www.dilbert.com.)

Scott’s characters encounter not only management fads but also legal including IP matters. (more…)