By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to focus on thoughtful decision-making. Reading time: 3:14
Imagine the power little Johnny had in his finger. He amazed the other kids on the farm who hadn’t yet learned the art of hypnotizing a chicken.
Little Johnny would first hold a chicken’s head down against the ground so the chicken would stare straight ahead on the ground. Then he would draw a line along the ground with a stick or a finger outward in front of the chicken.
The chicken would then freeze, trance-like for up to 30 minutes. It’s a biological defense mechanism the chicken has evolved to quickly play dead trance-like whenever it feels threatened. The suddenly “paralyzed” chicken then thwarts off predators very effectively.
Likewise control-oriented managers have learned how to paralyze an audience in a deep freeze like trance. With PowerPoint slides.
PowerPoint is in fact so numbing that the media relations officials in the Pentagon call it –Hypnotizing Chickens—when they show a series of boring and confusing PowerPoint slides for 25 minutes of a scheduled 30-minute news conference. That leaves only 5 minutes at the end for reporter’s questions “from anyone still awake,” notes Thomas X. Hammes, a retired Marine colonel.
Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps has had to ward off more than his share of PowerPoint presiding –a.k.a. “hypnotizing chickens” antics via PowerPoint. No wonder he flatly states: “PowerPoint makes us stupid.”
Yet the most effective leaders don’t hide behind series of graphs and graphics all organized in bullet-points. Thinking is a lot messier than that. And decision-making a lot more complexed.
In an article for the Armed Forces Journal, Hammes, called PowerPoint presentations “actively hostile to thoughtful decision-making.” Hammes contrasted the change in decision-making process in his article:
“Before PowerPoint, staffs prepared succinct
two- or three-page summaries of key issues.
The decision-maker would read a paper,
have time to think it over
and then convene a meeting with either the full staff
or just the experts
involved to discuss the key points of the paper.
Of course, the staff involved in the discussion
would also have read the paper and
had time to prepare to discuss the issues.
In contrast, today, a decision-maker
sits through a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation
followed by five minutes of discussion and
then is expected to make a decision.”
That’s “dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” observes General McMaster. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”
Sure PowerPoint presentations can be useful in presenting basic information especially in maps and charts.
But as a decision –making tool, leaders have to be wary of falling into a trance, wary of paying more attention to the lightning than the rumble of thunder, wary of the rhyme and not the reason. And always on guard to awake the hypnotized chickens in your life.
Don’t hide behind PowerPoint to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
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