PowerPoint Makes Us Stupid (Says the US Military)

A timely follow-up to my recent blog post. I got this via Seth Godin’s blog entry here. According to the US military (as reported here) “PowerPoint makes us stupid”. Brigadier General H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, likened PowerPoint to an internal threat. He says: “it’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bulletizable”.

US commanders say that “the program stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making. Not least, it ties up junior officers — referred to as PowerPoint Rangers — in the daily preparation of slides, be it for a Joint Staff meeting in Washington or for a platoon leader’s pre-mission combat briefing in a remote pocket of Afghanistan”.

Incredible! Has the world gone mad? Imagine if PowerPoint had been around in the time of John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill or Mahatma Gandhi? Would their speeches have been enhanced by using a PowerPoint presentation with bullet points summarising their key messages? I think not. As Seth Godin goes on to say “guns don’t kill people, bullets do”.

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One thought on “PowerPoint Makes Us Stupid (Says the US Military)

  1. I served in the military and I have experienced the situation described here first hand. I don't think that it is PowerPoint's fault. It is the desire to please that is the culprit. The need to put on the 'dog and pony show' outweighs the benefits of PowerPoint. Remember PowerPoint is just a tool; it is the person wielding the tool that is to blame. If you don't know how to maximize its potential then you should not use it. BTW It is not the bullets but the person squeezing the trigger!

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