Friday, June 22, 2018

Three recent Dilbert cartoons about presentations, jargon, and backhanded compliments

This month there have been three Dilbert cartoons about presentations. On June 4th there was this conversation:

Pointy-haired-boss: What did you think of my presentation?

Dilbert: The signal-to-noise ratio was impressively low.

Pointy-haired-boss (thinking): Engineers give weird compliments.

On June 5th there was:

Dilbert: I told our boss his presentation had a low signal-to-noise ratio and he thought it was a compliment.

Wally (to Dilbert): I think you just invented my new favorite game.

Wally (to Pointy-haired-boss): Working for you is like boiling an ocean.

Pointy-haired-boss: Thank you!

On June 17th there was:

Pointy-haired-boss: Your slide deck is ok-ish, but can you make it more aspirational?

Dilbert: It’s just a software upgrade.

Pointy-haired-boss: Yes, yes.

  But I want the audience to feel it.

Dilbert: They can feel the handouts.

Pointy-haired-boss: It’s like you’re not even trying to understand!

  Genius is often misunderstood.

Dilbert: Do you know what else is misunderstood?

Pointy-haired-boss: Super-genius?

Jargon can muddy up meaning, so what appears as a compliment really is harsh criticism. In communications jargon signal-to-noise ratio is the ratio of (desired) signal power to (undesired) background noise. A high ratio means a clear message, so a low ratio means your message is unclear (muddy).

Boil the ocean means to try to do something that is very difficult or impossible. An article by F. John Reh on January 24, 2018 at thebalancecareers titled The meaning in business of the phrase ‘boil the ocean’ furnishes five examples. In a recent Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon, a vengeful God planned to cook the oceans into soup.

Aspirational means: “having or showing a desire to achieve a high level of success or social status.” It doesn’t relate to a software upgrade. Both genius and stupidity are misunderstood.

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