Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Are you winning the war?

When the topic of PowerPoint comes up in my line of work, it seems most clients either love it or hate it. Personally, I'm neutral about it. But, deep down, I sometimes wonder whether my neutrality is really just a cover for a deep-seated insecurity about it. Though I probably shouldn't admit this in print, I will: Over the years I've sat through many PowerPoint presentations that have challenged my comprehension skills.

With this in mind, this heading in today's Toronto Star caught my eye: Is PowerPoint making us stupid?

Naturally, I read the article with some interest. Unfortunately, it didn't cover any new ground, though it did present the most common arguments raised about the evils of PowerPoint: it stifles discussion, critical thinking, and thoughtful decision-making. It even mentioned my favourite argument against PowerPoint being used for everything: the fact that some thoughts simply do not lend themselves to being crafted into a bullet list. Hear, hear, I thought!

But perhaps the best thing about the article is a picture of a PowerPoint slide and a quote about the slide allegedly attributable to U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, leader of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The slide, shown to McChrystal last summer, contains a diagram the article describes as looking like a bowl of spaghetti but which was drawn to portray the complexity of the military Coalition's strategy in Afghanistan. According to the article, when McChrystal saw the diagram his comment was: "When we understand the slide, we'll have won the war." Well, well -- I guess I'm not the only one whose comprehension skills are sometimes challenged during PowerPoint presentations!

So, with this in mind, my wish for all whose life includes PowerPoint is simple:
May you never create a PowerPoint presentation that prompts a comment like that and may you never have to try to making sense of such a PowerPoint slide!