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When a soldier in the military is promoted to officer, one would assume that it’s due to their ferocity and quick decision-making abilities that have been proven on the battlefield. Character traits like these are important, but to be an officer in today’s military, one will need to possess one skill above all others: Microsoft PowerPoint proficiency.
PowerPoint has become a favorite tool in the armed forces because it helps simplify extremely complex military strategy. For a decision to be made, it must travel up the windy chain of command, and those whose job it is to call the shots (to have shots fired) must be well informed, especially considering the geopolitical complexities of today where it’s not 100 percent clear who the bad guys and the good guys are. From a leadership perspective, Microsoft PowerPoint is the best thing to happen to the U.S. military since the invention of the Gatling Gun.
The American Army has become very dependent upon PowerPoint, so much so that military strategists are beginning to think that the Army is now too dependent upon the software. After all, the Army is supposed to be good at bombing the enemy to death, not boring them to death.
This reality caused the U.S. Army to coin the term, “death by PowerPoint.” Except, instead of harming the enemy with dry PowerPoint slides, the U.S. Army is hurting itself by asking its officers to sit through one mind-numbing presentation after another. In an ingenious counter-offensive, the Army uses purposefully-boring PowerPoint presentations when briefing the media about its operations–with the hope that the presentation will be boring enough that hard questions will be lost in the onslaught of dry slides. The army has a term for this too; they call it, “hypnotizing chickens.”
As you are well aware from your experience as a citizen waging your own war for profits, a professional and thorough PowerPoint presentation isn’t something that you can just slap together on the fly. Making a PowerPoint presentation requires a significant amount of time in order to pull off, and for the Army, they’ve delegated this task to its junior officers, giving them the title, “PowerPoint Rangers.”
Army platoon leader, Lieutenant Sam Nuxoll told The New York Times in 2010 that the majority of time he spends serving his country goes towards making PowerPoint presentations. “I have to make a storyboard complete with digital pictures, diagrams and text summaries on just about anything that happens. Conduct a key leader engagement? Make a storyboard. Award a microgrant? Make a storyboard.”
The demands that PowerPoint is putting on soldiers is causing military officials to rethink the effectiveness of the software. The NYT makes a fair point: “Commanders say that the slides impart less information than a five-page paper can hold, and that they relieve the briefer of the need to polish writing to convey an analytic, persuasive point. Imagine lawyers presenting arguments before the Supreme Court in slides instead of legal briefs.”
Then there are officials like Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster PowerPoint who is advocating the banning of PowerPoint in military operations altogether, viewing it as an internal threat:
It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable. A rigid lists of bullet points (in, say, a presentation on a conflict’s causes) that take no account of interconnected political, economic, and ethnic forces. If you divorce war from all of that, it becomes a targeting exercise.
What’s the application here for utilizing PowerPoint for your own business? First off, we’re not advocating that you ditch PowerPoint. The productivity tools of Microsoft Office have truly revolutionized the way that we do business by making a whole lot of people’s jobs a whole lot easier. Instead, we’re saying that you don’t want to get so wrapped up with the intricacies of your technology that you forget about your mission’s objective; carpet bombing the sales of your competitors (metaphorically speaking of course).
Microsoft PowerPoint is just one communication solution on the market. If your company has been using PowerPoint since it was first released in the 90s, then you may be missing out on other solutions that are a better fit for your business. Equipping your organization with better communication weapons is worth looking into. Call NTConnections at (703) 288-9767 to find out more about the latest in productivity solutions that can bulk up your communications arsenal.