Opportunity, Collaboration & Discovery

NYT: "We Have Met The Enemy And He Is PowerPoint"

CJW, May 1, 2010 1:43 PM


"When We Understand That Slide, We'll Have Won The War"
                                      ----General Scott McChrystal

Makes one think twice about adding bullet points.  During one of my on-line "education groups" recently, one of the questions was about a widely used tool among all: PowerPoint.    

Then last week during a fun and interesting school-wide science fair, I noticed one area that really fell flat as a thud, compared to the other efforts, presentations and modes presented by a few of the students:  the PowerPoint.  Laden with way too much information to communicate anything, it completely defeated the intent.  Even the students got lost in their own work.

Well, they are not alone.
When I read "We Have Met The Enemy And He Is PowerPoint" from The New York Times,
it was incredibly timely and fortuitous:

"Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.

"When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war:" General Scott McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.

The slide has since bounced around the Internet as an example of a military tool that has spun out of control. Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"PowerPoint makes us stupid," Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.

"It's dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control," General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. "Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable. . ."

Seth Godin: "Guns Don't Kill People, Bullets Do"

Shift to Seth Godin's Blog riff here about PowerPoint, with a free e-book about it.  An excerpt:

"The lizard brain causes us to make presentations that are too long so that nothing in particular gets commented on or remembered or criticized"...

What's on your PPT?

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