June 13, 2012

Article at Hydrapinion

If PowerPoint killed creativity, can tablets revive it?

Depending on what job you do, you may spend anywhere between a small fraction and most of your time in meetings, endlessly going over minute points of order or trying to prod your colleagues into contributing to the order of things.

By all accounts, it often doesn’t work. We’ve all been there: gazing with mind-numbing languor at a PowerPoint being projected onto the screen, trying hard not to think about the dry cleaning or whether we left the gas stove running or what we’re doing as soon as we can get out of the hellhole known as work.

It’s a global phenomenon, and an interesting piece of reading has suggested that not only is PowerPoint to blame – but that tablet computers are the cure.

Subtitled ‘a guide for workplace revolutionaries’, the thought piece (download it here) is linked to the #occupymeeting hashtag and seems to have been spawned from a callout for the most interesting doodles created during workplace meetings.

Because if you are doodling, the logic goes, you are not following the PowerPoint.

And if you’re the presenter, the logic goes, it’s your fault. “These are people who are alive and well, and extremely engaged,” the authors offer. “They are just not engaged in what you have to offer….They are not disengaged. Merely otherwise engaged.” (emphasis original)

Tablets, in their various forms, may be the answer. The authors go on to argue that tablets are the first legitimate form of attendee empowerment – “the first serious assault on work cultures defined by dull meetings” – since they allow workers to escape the time- and thought-sink that is the contemporary meeting. Individual collaboration becomes possible; creativity can be channeled into relevant tasks.

And savvy speakers, by extension, will recognise this and act upon it. A good example in the piece is the trend by some speakers to encourage active tweeting during conference sessions; by showing audience feedback onscreen during the talk, good speakers can adjust their presentation to ensure they are meeting the needs of the people watching them.

Similar methods of collaboration can drive equal change in the enterprise, for example through closed social networks or online collaborative platforms that allow meeting attendees to be involved in the meeting rather than spectators to a PowerPoint that is generally presenting a foregone conclusion rather than encouraging collaboration.

“The key to the death by PowerPoint effect,” the authors argue, “is that it encourages sharing of information in refined, processed and polished forms that discourage further input, rather than in the form of working documents that naturally invite it.”

Tablets are the key to those documents, they argue – and I agree. Although we must also consider the obverse: that tablets may really be just another distraction that helps meeting attendees tune out of meeting content when they should really be paying more attention.

Download the PDF and have a read, then let me know: How do you see it? Are tablets the saviour or just jailbreaking us from the mental prison that is PowerPoint?

[HY20] [Original here]