Especially timely given the recent FDP on the Army Presentation Method project, and our on-going love/hate relationship with Powerpoint, and the eternal question: is a means or an end?
I’ll argue that our PPTs(or any visual aids that support our storytelling in the classroom) are attempts to persuade students to commit their discretionary attention, focus and cognitive energy to the material we are offering. We have to persuade them that what we are doing matters for them.
In all honesty, our lesson material must pass the student attention test question: “Why SHOULD I pay attention?” When our slide-ology or presentation technique makes it less than self-evident, that’s bad
How different are the engineers or computer scientists in the bloglink below to our professional officers trying to communicate meaning from their deep analysis to a senior leader for decision-making?
That blog points to a deeper spiral of the story that includes a timely and relevant F100 discussion of strategic defense decision-making in the Reagan years, in the story told below…
Extract below is from the link at: http://richde.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/big-animal-pictures/
But PowerPoint? Everything came to a stop. Zvi said, “PowerPoint!” It was an exclamation, not a question. Here’s how the rest of the conversation unfolded” “Look, the first thing I had to do was start making budget presentations. I had no idea how to make a winning argument.” From the across the table: ” Yeah, we learned how to make technical presentations, but nobody warned us that we’d have to make our point to a boss who didn’t care about the technology.” “It’s even worse where I work,” said a young woman. “Everybody in the room has a great technology to push. I needed to know how to say why mine should be the winner.” And so it went. This was not a PowerPoint discussion. We were talking about Big Animal Pictures. If you understand Big Animal Pictures, you understand how to survive when worlds collide.
David Stockman directed Ronald Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from 1981 to 1985. He was a technician. A financial engineer. He had a Harvard MBA, and spent the early part of his career on Wall Street with Solomon Brothers and Blackstone. It was a checkered career, and if you take seriously the accounts in his memoir of the Reagan years, he never really understood that he was caught between colliding worlds. Which brings me to Big Animal Pictures.
Stockman was a conservative deficit hawk who thought his job was to restore fiscal sanity. Reagan had beaten Jimmy Carter in part by painting the Democrats as financially irresponsible. David Stockman’s job was to fix that, and that meant budget-cutting. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger thought that Reagan had been elected to restore America’s military might. Weinberger’s job was to pump more money into defense budgets. Stockman and Weinberger were on a collision course, and for a year they traded line-item edits to the federal budget. This was a technical duel. Stockman and Weinberger both had considerable quantitative skills. It was a bureaucratic game that Weinberger had learned to play when he worked for Reagan in California, but there was a deepening recession. In the end, it appeared that DoD would have to make do with the 5% increase that the White House was proposing. It was a spending increase that Stockman believed was unwise and unaffordable.
Weinberger’s proposal was 10%. Stockman could barely contain himself. It set up a famous duel in the form of a budget briefing with Reagan playing the role of mediator. It was going to be a titanic debate.
Stockman showed up with charts, graphs and projections. The stuff that the OMB Director is supposed to have at his fingertips. Weinberger came armed with a cartoon, and walked away with his budget request more or less intact.
Weinberger’s presentation was a drawing of three soldiers. On the left was a small, unarmed, cowering soldier — a victim of years of Democratic starvation. The bespectacled soldier in the middle — who bore a striking resemblance to Stockman — was a little bigger, but carried only a tiny rifle. This was the army that David Stockman wanted to send to battle. The third solder was a menacing fighting machine, complete with flak jacket and an M-90 machine gun. It was the soldier that Weinberger wanted to fund with his defense budget. Weinberger won the budget debate with Big Animal Pictures.
Stockman was appalled:
It was so intellectually disreputable, so demeaning, that I could hardly bring myself to believe that a Harvard educated cabinet officer could have brought this to the President of the United States. Did he think the White House was on Sesame Street?
Stockman and many analysts concluded that the episode revealed something deep about Reagan’s intellectual capacity. Maybe so, but I think it revealed more about Weinberger’s insight into what it takes to carry an argument when the opposing sides can each make a strong technical case for the correctness of their position: argue for the importance of the end result, not for the correctness of how you will achieve it. It is a classical colliding worlds strategy.