Dumb-Dumb Bullets

Thanks to retired Marine Colonel Hammes we have this delicious description of the perils of Powerpoint which appears in The New York Times most-emailed article of today’s newspaper.  Apparently, the US military is so addicted to the program that swathes of junior officers spend almost their whole time preparing decks.  We can let the armed forces worry about how to fix decision-making impaired by PPT, but this renewed critique of what is, or ought to be, a neutral tool got us thinking about other secondary effects of office software, both Powerpoint and MS Office.  The real problem is not so much that Powerpoint masks sloppy and incomplete thinking but that it enables entire meetings to be taken up with briefing material when they ought to be for is discussion, argument and decision-making.  How would business effectiveness be improved if Powerpoint presentations were replaced by 5 page memoranda that laid out the facts and options underlying a subject to be discussed at a meeting, which were read before the meeting?  Much as human beings avoid decision-making, at least the entire hour would be all discussion, instead of 50 minutes of PPT and 10 minutes of discussion.

We hope this is the start of a cultural revolution in business to which we can soon add the disappearance of the Microsoft Office “schedule meeting” tool.  Then we can go back to the 5 minute meetings that Office makes awfully difficult.  Either that or we’ll find out that people actually like long meetings with PPT presentations because they spare us from those tiresome activities — thinking and decision-making.

As to the military: perhaps we need to update William Randolph Hearst’s apocryphal cable response to Remington on the likelihood of war with Spain: “You furnish the pictures, we’ll provide the Powerpoint.”

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