Death By PowerPoint

I was reminded of my dislike of standard PowerPoint presentations while reading a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal by Jared Sandberg. I have always wanted to participate in the question periods at the end of presentations by asking “How many of you actually could read what was on the screen and did you even bother?

Years ago when I was a teacher, PointPoint was not an option. Not a single university professor would have dreamed of using it. The best teachers never even distributed course outlines. They actually expected us to take notes. Most of us did – albeit putting too much down in linear fashion rather than trying to distill the essence of what was said.

If you are speaking and your whole text is on the PowerPoint screen, your audience may rightly assume that you think they are illiterate. The dual presentation has well earned the phrase, “Death By PowerPoint”. Jared Sandberg estimates there are 30 million such presentations a day.

At the beginning of an introduction to visual mapping and before I get to the maps themselves, I limit myself to the eqivalent of one bullet point and make sure that there is also a graphic – and if it makes the point in a funny way, so much the better. The danger in teaching and learning is to assume that our essence is mind. We are also people with feelings and passions. Both have to be engaged before real learning takes place.

Edward Tufte, arguably one of the most important thinkers on visual presentation, is also against PowerPoint. He notes that the tendency to reduce everything to convenience trivializes the meaning. The speaker has lost content with the audience and is usually peering into the laptop instead of making eye contact with those who have come to hear and learn.

I have to admit that I have enjoyed making slides and transparencies in PowerPoint – always from a blank screen. But when I travelled to speak in South Africa I didn’t want to carry a computer so I simply used transparecies and an projector. The presentation were on the site of the International Hotle and Restaurant for years – I haven’t checked lately. The first conference speaker’s computer failed in the middle of his opening PowerPoint presentation on the benefits of technology – not an ideal situation.

The best example of how not to use PowerPoint is this presentation of the Gettysburg Address. So if you use it, do so with great care. There are some healthier ways to use it – and to study – referred to in See What You Think!


Understanding Individual Perspective

Here is a map illustrating how to develop a visual arts project.

Shortly after writing this I will pack up paints, brushes, palette, canvas and a rag or two and walk a few blocks to a weekly time out from sitting in front of my laptop. It’s a course in acrylic painting for beginners offered by Avenue Road Arts School in Toronto. Our instructor, Sadko Hadzihasanovic, (We stick to calling him Sadko) guides six rank beginners including myself, and some more experienced students to work our way through form, tone, colour mixing and other mysteries of the visual art world . His own work is original and avant garde and can be viewed at http://www.ccca.ca/; but what he is teaching us involves the basics of painting in this medium.

At the end of each class, we have a mini show where he comments on our work. We generally sit in a half circle around the still life that is set up, but a couple of weeks ago he showed us how to draw a grid over a portrait and then try to reproduce the drawing accurately to scale before proceeding to the painting stage. In both these situations, one would expect some sameness, but the resulting student works are always very different in perspectiveand unique in style.

In the first case what we see depends upon the perspective from which we are viewing it. If one is straight in front of the subject, it’s natural to turn the canvas sideways. If one is on the end, it immediately works better in portrait orientation. But when we all used the same grid, one would think that the results would be identical. They couldn’t have been more different.

What this proves is that we don’t see things the same way at all. And that’s true in life too. So the next time you run up against a different perspective at home or at the office, take the time to explore how you see things more fully with your colleagues or family. Try mapping the differences or using the HBDI model to explore the different ways of thinking about things. It’s a way of creating better understanding – and also a lesson in humility!


Feed Forward – A Better Way

Anyone who has ever had a performance appraisal has misgivings about the process. So have some consultants who have developed a better one. It’s known as Feed Forward. For a fuller description, you can visit my blog at www.lulu.com/dynamcthinking

And here is what a summary looks like in map format. Just click on it to see it in a decent size.
mind mapping, reading, VisiMap

The Happiness Hypothesis

You can get a better look at the map if you click on it to enlarge it.

Here is an example of a chapter summary in visual mapping format of a book I have been reading. It’s a bit hard to get the main points under control, because the author wants us to understand his thesis, but he interesperses it with stories – a practice I am sympathetic with, because I am prone to it myself. The book is the Happiness Hypothesis, Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt.

HBDI, See What You Think, VisiMap

Dynamic Thinking resumes Sale of See What You Think

The popular book, first published in 1997 as a manual on visual thinking in general has been republished with VisiMap in mind. Examples have been included using VisiMap 4.0 Professional and the book is filled with templates and models, useful to the world of work. An example is included from the Chapter,
Meeting of Minds. Each chapter contains a summary of the contents, and many maps are included that can be used as templates or models for your own.