Thursday, April 21, 2005

PowerPoint Issues

This thread started with a newsletter from MindJet, the mind mapping software folks, announcing that they had a new blog.

Michael Schrage has a wonderful article on the 2x2 matrix and PowerPoint for presentations in strategy+business.

This took me to Cliff Atkinson's

And it dawned on me that I must cover "the world's most popular authoring tool," in Informal Learning. Tufte, Gettysburg, the horror of presos without notes, mindless bullet-point reduction, upside ops with Breeze and good graphics. Sun and the JCS eschew PowerPoint. World Bank story. Confines.

Here's the Beyond Bulletpoints site. "As much as people might blame Microsoft for enforcing a bullet-point culture, it is really organizations that enforce it through their templates and lack of an organizational strategy for their PowerPoint-based communications. " Or "When you shift the dynamic of every presentation from self-centered to audience-centered, the other people in the room get to be the ones at the center of the action. "

Cliff structures PPTs as stories, not presentations.

If you're a knowledge worker and you don't work for Sun Microsystems, you're going to create and deliver PowerPoint presentations, listen to PowerPoint presentations, coach the people who work for you on making PowerPoint presentations, and sit through the good, the bad and the ugly. Since you're going to learn and teach via PowerPoint, it's worth taking a little time to learn to do it right.

I have consulted with organizations that use PowerPoint to capture research. Others use PowerPoint instead of memos. It's one way to introduce graphics into our word-obsessed culture.

In "The Psychology of Art," Rudolf Arnheim, a now-deceased Harvard pyschologist, brought his particular perspective to bear on why art and art education is so demeaned in our culture. It is a wonderful book, following the roots for our word obsessed, image-averse culture all the way back to Plato and the Ancients.

It is odd how much distance there is between the saturated imagery of TV, video, magazines--and the way we communicate in the business setting. Arnheim might attribute that to an ancient belief that images could be trusted (Plato counseled his countrymen not to teach the plastic arts to "heroes" because they would find themselves deceived by image...). Images are fine for puffery, for idle pasttimes. But when it comes to business, there is a belief that only words (with the occasional pie chart or topo data map) are acceptable.

Bringing rich, interactive visualization to the board room is an uphill struggle. But if using text alone is using only half one's brain (that would be the left half), then none of us can afford to be half wits. We need to use our whole mind--which means making more room for images in our educational and business communications.
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