PowerPoint Makes Us Stupid
It's been said by many folks smarter than me, from Edward Tufte to Seth Godin to, now, the US Army. Below is a slide that was shown to General Stanley McChrystal to demonstrate the complexity of American military strategy (something I rather suspect he was well aware of already):
|Get it? Of course not.|
Now, if all the slide was supposed to do was to elicit a "Wow ... that is complex," then well, Mission Accomplished. But of course, as anyone who has put together a PowerPoint deck or 500 of them knows, nobody would possibly make a slide this complicated without thinking/hoping/praying that a lot more information was being communicated.
McChrystal's alleged response?
When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.Touche.
I thankfully work in a company that doesn't subsist on PowerPoint, but I've worked in other environments where it felt like 80% of my time was putting together presentations. When you delight in learning how to Align Shapes, you probably aren't getting the most out of your job.
All joking aside, the article itself talks about the real problems with PowerPoint aside from the fact it isn't nearly user-friendly enough - bullet points seem to leave little room for ambiguity, while ignoring complex relationships between issues.
... slides impart less information than a five-page paper can hold, and that they relieve the briefer of the need to polish writing to convey an analytic, persuasive point. Imagine lawyers presenting arguments before the Supreme Court in slides instead of legal briefs.Um, YIKES.
Just like Microsoft Project, though, it's the default program for the overall user community - mainly because there simply isn't a better, scalable option that companies adopt.
As Godin writes today,
If there was any other tool as widely misused in your organization, you'd ban it. The cost is enormous in lost opportunity and lost time. Guns don't kill people, bullets do.Can't we find a better solution?
Edited to add: The Harvard Business Review asks the same question, with more good examples.