A number of articles from the latest What’s Emerging newsletter from Paul at Emergent Futures piqued my interest in the combined topics of decision-making, Powerpoint and creativity.
The first article describes the views of a retired Marine Corps officer who laments the rise in the use of Powerpoint for decision-making by corporate and government leaders. He claims that the use of powerpoint dumbs down complex topics into simple bullet points, forcing the decision-makers into perusing lots of information of dubious quality to make quick decisions. Organisations that favour powerpoint breed a culture of having their leaders make more and more and faster decisions which often would be better made at a lower hierarchical level and which could end up being wrong. In the past, complex issues would be distilled into briefs that would analyse the topic and provide the decision-maker with time to consider their decision, and offer them the chance to “sleep on it”.
And sleeping on it increases the chance of successfully solving problems as research in this second article finds. Not just any problem but particularly those problems that are new and require creative problem-solving. And not just sleep but REM sleep is required with the researchers believing that this allows the brain to form new nerve connections without the interference of other thought pathways that occur when we are awake or in non-dream-state sleep.
And so finally, the issue of creativity leads to the last article which explores creative people who Gordon Torr highlights have different biology (they think differently in a less inhibited, more dreamlike and weird manner), different motivation (ideas and expression are more important than money) and different personalities (impulsive, sensitive and ambitious). This is often a totally different character set to that of many senior managers who are often more controlling and target-oriented.
So if we are seeking creative solutions to problems by our decision-makers, many of us are using the wrong instrument. Managers need to be more receptive to creative solutions and encourage an environment that requires them to make less decisions and focus their attention on the more important decisions. Can you see your senior manager doing that?
So next time you are asked to prepare a Powerpoint for a decision-making meeting, suggest an alternative tack and prepare a considered two page brief, proffer creative solutions, and let the manager consider the paper well before the meeting. The major problem you are likely to face is if they can make the time to read it before the meeting!