Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Why this blog is so aptly titled (BSP)

My occupational hazard 'the bullet point' is now a subject of furious debate in management and academic circles, a fact that I discovered by sheer serendipity or harmless web browsing. (Ok the BSP,Blatant Self Promotion part of this post is over).
Strategy&Business, the magazine of Booz-Allen and Hamilton, has an interesting article on "Point or Shoot" where it debates the effectivenes of PowerPoint as a tool for management persuasion. At the core is the problem of how to present complex information persuasively, a routine task for consultants, strategists and marketers and not so routine task for others. Here are some brilliant phrases from Prof Tufte, a Yale Professor who hates powerpoint.
"Powerpoint is a cognitive straitjacket of presentational constraints"
"PowerPoint promotes a seductive laziness of thought that is anti-rigor, anti-elegance, and — most damaging — anti-audience".
"Once you give a manager a laptop running PowerPoint, the world becomes a claustrophobic sequence of bullet-point builds featuring 14-point Palatino and Monaco typefaces".
"An overreliance on PowerPoint is as unprofessional and unappetizing as the arrogant belief that one’s unassisted natural charisma is more than enough to charm an audience"
The other view is of Mr.Atkinson who is a Powerpoint consultant and has a bizblog. He has some templates to think beyond bullet points. Most of the downloadable stuff on his site resemble script preparation toolkits. His main premise is to think of a ppt as a screenplay of a TV. As a matter of sheer coincidence, I told my first managing consultant that I visualize slides like how I would write a movie.(sorry BSP again). Anyways the truth as usual should be somewhere in between (statistically proven to be the most common option chosen in management meetings if shown 3 options) .
So is one of the skills that I have assidously cultivated in need of a pardigm shift from thrift to drift. I would soon post my own detailed views on this, but I feel vindicated in a strange sort of way for calling my blog booletpoint.


At 2:03 AM, Blogger Minerva's priest said...

As somebody in the article has pointed out two by two is a dimension reduction technique. An exercise in elevator ride, an exposition in KISS. And there is almost nothing wrong in using them, atleast not until executives beging to THINK the business as simple. There comes a moment when life begins to mimic art, the model takes over perception, that is when two by twos become dangerous. BTW it doesn't happen very often, because somebody does refuse to let the model take over. What happens more often is force framing, when people take on to reduce dimensionality to the point of being incomprehensible.

Now let me take the reader to the subject of powerpoints. But here is a small departure, probably not too taxing. Recently I was reading the history of econometrics, and the author pointed out that often it is the easily implementable algorithm (many times despite its non robustness) that is most often cited than the robust/smart ones. Humanity has a tendency to gravitate towards the easy/simple and not towards the elegant (Anu Malik outsells any elegant musician you can think of). Powerpoints are dangerous not becacuse it is an incomplete medium, but because it comes with easy-to-use built in templates. The templates dumb down people. I found powerpoint a good exercise in thinking, especially when used in conjugation with McKinsey story board technique. You would be surprised how often one comes across academic papers and wondered the amount of general welfare that could have been done by mandating sending a storyline along with every written document. :-)

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Parth said...

I should probably send this blog over to the folks who work on the Powerpoint over here :-) They are just a building away from me.


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