Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's official!

Powerpoint is dangerous to our national security!

That wasn't quite the headline in the New York Times yesterday.

But it could have been.

The front page story detailed what a bad joke Powerpoint presentations have become in the Pentagon. Long, complicated Powerpoint slide briefings end up obscuring military strategy, rather than identifying best possible strategic choices.

The Time is only, oh, 15 years late on this story.

That's how long ago we banned Powerpoint from all Fast Company conferences, when Bill Taylor and I ran the magazine.

It was a time of great live events.

One of our rules of thumb (pardon the self-reference) was absolutely no Powerpoint presentations.

Not because they were bad for national security.

But because they were bad for lively discourse!

The habit we've all observed: a speaker produces his/her Powerpoint deck; sends them ahead to the conference organizer; the conference organizer puts the deck in the conference materials for distribution to the audience; the speaker then puts up his/her slides on the screen and reads them out loud to the audience, which already has the slides in their binders!

Off-the-shelf presentations delivered to an audience that's already read them!

Boring!

But now the Pentagon has found out that Powerpoint is a national security problem.

The same finding showed up in one of the many books on the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq in the Bush years. Back then the Pentagon was already complaining that the Powerpoint briefings obscured any thinking that might be going on, preparing for the invasion.

In that case, of course, it turns out there wasn't any thinking going on.

And Powerpoint was the camouflage that enabled it to slide by the military brass.

But with the Times article yesterday, it's time to put Powerpoint on the shelf.

It's a non-communication device. A weapon of mass obfuscation.

We should unilaterally disarm!

Lay down your Powerpoint! Step away from the slide deck! Keep your hands in sight!

Now try communicating, not hiding behind Powerpoint!

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb