Thursday, May 6, 2010

EVP - Powerpoint fails to deal with complexity well - who would have thought

I have heartened to see this "U.S. Army discovers PowerPoint makes you stupid" (

For many years I have been presented with powerpoints that claim to communicate complex things e.g. strategies, roadmaps, architectures, transition plans etc.

I have been perplexed when on examination the PPTs turned out not to contain the information necessary to describe the complex situation being dealt with. I am then asked how do we model these - or why can't you produce a model, visualisation or report that communicates like these do. The reason is that the powerpoints are often specious - being favoured by executives, sales people and other trying the illusion that analysis has been done and sound conclusion reached based on facts - when in the facts, analysis and conclusions are at best usually disconnected. If one points out the limitation of the powerpoint source documents - one hear "Oh so you don't know how to represent this". Well the answer is that if the data is rubbish expressing in a semantically precise way will just highlight that it is rubbish. This doesn't to fly well with the executives.

I like these quotes:

"Have you fallen in love with your bulletized slides, nifty transitions, and pretty charts in PowerPoint? If so, you're likely getting more stupid ..."
"... We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint... When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war."
"It's dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable."
"... it leads to bad decision-making, with serious consequences ..."
"... that tremendous amounts of time are spent in the military on putting together presentations, and that this takes away from true productivity."
"... [PPT] does come in handy when the goal is not imparting information, as in briefings for reporters." [or executives]
"hypnotizing chickens."

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