Yet Another Stupid Attack on PowerPoint

This article from Harvard Business Review attacking PowerPoint is one of the least sensible ones I’ve seen. Somehow, I assume that folks at HBR have some real-world and not just B-school “B” experience (as in the “B” in HBR). Indeed, David Silverman has written some very good posts in the past, so this one just blows me away. Excerpts:

PowerPoint has consumed the best years of too many young lives…. PowerPoint is fundamentally flawed because it intrinsically isn’t suited to the tasks it is put to…. The real problem with PowerPoint is users’ unreasonable expectations. Simply put, people try to do way too much with it…. [Y]ou cannot win. PowerPoint will make a muddle of your ideas, and you have no choice in the matter.

So how is this PowerPoint’s fault? My car can supposedly go 100 MPH; would it be the car’s fault were I to drive 100 MPH?

Then he presents a graphic slide — ugly, but that’s besides the point — and writes:

It took me about four hours of fiddling and fighting with PowerPoint to make the picture. (Just reformatting it for this blog post took me 30 minutes.)

Aha! If that graphic took you four hours, David, the problem is that you don’t know how to use PowerPoint. And it’s inconceivable that it took you 30 minutes to reformat it for the post.

So I reproduced it. In PowerPoint. Time to do the entire drawing: 16 minutes. Time to insert it into this article? 47 seconds. (By the way, I did not simply paste in his slide and draw mine on top of it, which might have saved a couple of minutes. Rather, I looked at it and reproduced it. And did it all on a laptop, albeit with an external mouse.)

I wasted 17 minutes to prove a point, I suppose. Or to prove a PowerPoint.

The business problem isn’t PowerPoint any more than the speeding problem is a car. It’s user error. Most of us drive safely and sanely — at least those who aren’t texting while driving — and there are many businesspeople and presenters who use PowerPoint very effectively.

Stop blaming the shoes for the fault of the feet.

(And David, if you’re ever out in Seattle, stop by for a tutorial on how to use PowerPoint.)

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