While PowerPoint often gets a bad name, it can be a really useful tool in helping to make decisions. David Vickery investigates.
I could be flippant and say yes; a dire presentation might help you decide never to attend another one. But the question really is, can using PowerPoint itself help your decision-making process?
That’s a pertinent topic, because there’s something of a backlash against PowerPoint in various circles right now. Far from improving your thought processes, some have called PowerPoint a productivity killer. And several figures in the US military have criticised it for over-simplifying complex situations.
I believe PowerPoint can indeed help your decision making, in two ways: strategically and tactically.
Let’s look at strategy first. This is all about the big picture. And one thing that PowerPoint is very, very good at is helping you see that picture. When you’re putting together key phrases, business drivers, statistics and charts, the essentials of your situation should really leap out at you. Indeed, it may give you insights you’ve never seen before.
Sarah Kaplan, a Rotman Professor of Strategic Management, definitely believes that PowerPoint can aid strategy formation, for three major reasons.
First, it allows greater collaboration, because lots of people can see the slides and contribute to the discussion. “It has the potential to democratise decision making,” as Kaplan puts it.
Second, it alters the parameters of the discussion. What’s included in the slides – and what’s excluded from them – will shape the objectives.
And third, it can even give you more say in building that strategy. In other words, if you’re part of the strategic team, your colleagues are more likely to listen to your strategic ideas if you can play PowerPoint like a virtuoso.
But it can also help in tactical decision making.
For instance, you can write business strategy documents on PowerPoint – and more and more managers and directors are choosing to do so.
You can also use it like a visual mind map. You can store press cuttings, weblinks, interesting pictures, graphs and other information that can help you take decisions later. When the time comes, you’ll have all this ammunition already to hand.
PowerPoint’s clarity, directness and ability to get to the essentials of a matter are great for presentations. But these attributes can also help you see more clearly and make better decisions. And that makes it doubly useful.
By David Vickery