PowerPoint vs Word

For my clients, the question was answered long ago. PowerPoint. So why is it even a question?

Someone in the QRCA forum raised the question, and it prompted a lot of discussion about what you gain and lose when the richness of all the words and stories that you get from any kind of qualitative research gets reduced to bullet points, short video clips, and summary charts that get to the bottom line very quickly, and can be lifted from the report to serve as stand-alone pieces. And those, by the way, are what lives on. After eight hours or more of discussion, three times that of thinking and analysis…three slides with summary points.

There are those who say that the move to pptx is a good thing. It forces discipline in thinking because you absolutely have to get to what is truly insightful. You don’t have the words or the pages to dance around the essence of thing.

There are others who claim that the move is just a way to accommodate today’s managers who are too busy to read a lot because everything moves at the speed of a tweet. And less kindly, there are those who suppose that we work in summary bullet points because today’s managers are all ADD, and have the attention spans of my old dog Boomer (believe me, it was small.)

I am not fond of doing reports in PowerPoint. I miss being able to tell rich stories that illustrate an important point. In my opinion, the best way for those who aren’t actually listening to the interviews to really learn what’s going on is to dive deep. If you aren’t there yourself, and you can’t rely on the deep report to immerse yourself, you as a manager get the highlights, and must rely on those under you to carry the real learning in their minds and hearts. So then as a manager, you’d better be very willing to listen to those under you, because they have more insight into some things than you do.

I am lucky that my clients are really really smart. They are able to distill a lot of stories into the most compelling insights that they can summarize into three slides of bullet points. I confess to not being quite as good as them at that skill. Yet.

My friend Rishad Tobaccowala had something very insightful to say about this in a very wise piece offering career advice. #9 and 10 are for those of use in the later parts of our careers. Worth quoting at length.

Unlearn. Transform. Re-Invent: A quarter of  century or three decades into work still leave a decade or more of career ahead and this is where things can get really dangerous or interesting.

If you have been successful you are being set up for a fall because without you knowing it the Industry you grew up in is being transformed and there are new technologies and approaches that make what you learned obsolete and just when you think you have arrived you have to unlearn what made you successful.  Now you have to start learning and changing and making mistakes that you long thought you no longer have to do since you are a leader and not a rookie. You are too cool and too senior to actually make a fool of yourself but if you do not want to become as irrelevant as you fear privately  you will have to change.. Now all this talk about “change is good”that you have been stating to your teams has to be applied to yourself and you begin to realize that change actually sucks since you have to learn and trip and re-grow.

The really successful folks in the last third of the career are students and learners again and if they have built a brand and have worked with integrity and helped others along the way, a swarm of people come to help them adjust. They reverse mentor, form a trampoline and ensure that you do not fail since they recall the days you helped them.


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