Saturday, 1 May 2010

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint

I came across an article, with the above title, in the New York Times which related how the use of PowerPoint is out of control within the US military.  The article started,

“Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.”


Click on this link if you want to see the madness in detail.  It’s like a biochemical pathway which has run out of control.

We have PowerPoint slides and so we understand.


You have PowerPoint slides and so you understand less, much less.

The solution is quite simple.

Give responsibility and accountability and then

Speak, think, intuit and act.


  1. he also said-

    “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,”

    so that's his future career cancelled by the suits at the top...

  2. I stared in disbelief at that slide. Talk about gobbledygook mixed with technology

  3. It would be funny if young people wouldn't die everyday for that shit.

  4. I like Powerpoint. I use it every week. There again, I like biochemical pathways too. Sometimes the truth is complex. In fact, almost always the truth is complex. It's not a very easily understood slide, of course, but it may be an apt one. I don't know, I haven't taken the time to study it. That's the thing about complexity - you have to take the time to study it. My sneaking suspicion, however, is that whoever created that slide understands something rather significant, and possibly important. I once got criticism from a publisher for wanting to use a whole page of a book with a extremely detailed biochemical pathway chart that was, they said "far too complex for anyone to make any sense of it at a quick glance," and my response was "that is EXACTLY the point that am trying to convey, so thanks for confirming that I have succeeded." And it stayed in the book.

  5. I should have said: dying with that shit...Not for that shit.

    Those brilliant military experts haven't understood yet that NOBODY ever win in a war.

  6. Andrew I suspect that the originator doesn't understand the slide at all nor the situation it is meant to describe.

    "Sometimes the truth is complex" Yes!

    But no-one will ever find the truth in that slide. The truth lies in people and not on a slide.

  7. That's like saying nobody will ever find the truth in a biochemical pathways chart because the truth is in the organisms, not on the chart. And I am surprised you have studied it and understood its logic sufficiently to say "no-one will ever find the truth in that slide." I am sorry if I am sounding combative this evening but you sound like some of the students I encounter who dismiss trying to understand something because they don't like how complicated it is. "Can't someone make it simpler?"... "Eh, no... I'm afraid it is complex." Don't misunderstand me - the slide may be crap; but that cannot be decided just by looking at it and saying it looks complex. It may be extraordinarily insightful.

  8. Andrew, have another glass of wine!

    You have taken a view - "My sneaking suspicion, however, is that whoever created that slide understands something rather significant, and possibly important."

    You say that without knowing who created the slide, for what purpose and for whom.

    If your students jumped to conclusions like this on such flimsy evidence I suspect that you would explain their failings to them.

    Perhaps you've got a stone in your slippers.

  9. Haven't had any wine Calum, just tea. I said I had "A sneaking suspicion". A sneaking suspicion is something that would have to be analysed and investigated before becoming an opinion. Just like your suggestion that I may have a stone in my slippers would need to be investigated (which I have just done, and there is no stone). I also said "the slide may be crap" making it abundantly clear that I have no formed view on whether or not the slide is crap, wonderfully insightful, or something in-between. You seem to have dismissed it simply on the basis of its complex appearance. If I have misunderstood that, forgive me.

  10. Yes, that was rather interesting.