Love or hate Jeff Bezos, he has had some very, very good ideas when it comes to decision making communication.
I was talking about one of these with a client earlier this week. Given she liked the ideas and planned to implement them, I thought I'd share them with you also.
The most prominent idea relates to avoiding PowerPoint in favour of tightly crafted prose narratives to maximise quality decision making. Let me explain the two key ideas my client found so useful.
Avoid PowerPoint presentations. In relying on Edward Tufte's work on visualising information, ‘Jeff' decided to ban PowerPoint for reasons that seem sound to me.
- Preparing decks is hard to do it well, and he questioned the value of spending lots of time fussing over lining up boxes and making ‘pretty slides' versus thinking hard about the ideas to convey.
- Presenting is a slow way to convey ideas. According to Tufte, we can absorb information three times faster by reading than by listening to a presentation.
- Great presenters can ‘wallpaper over' cracks in their logic with their energy and charisma, leading to poor decisions.
Here's what they do instead.
Rely on short, tightly crafted prose narratives instead. They don't insist on any particular way of writing these, just that they be short and effective in setting up a great discussion. Their use in meetings is, however, prescribed as follows. The papers are
- Read during the meeting. This at least two few benefits: everyone actually reads the papers and the quality of the thinking is better because of the extra focus paid to them.
- Designed to be a ‘goldilocks length' that takes about a third of the meeting to read. They suggest 3 pages for a 30 minute meeting and 6 for a one-hour meeting on the assumption that the typical exec takes about 3 minutes to read a page. Interestingly, apparently Jeff Bezos is always the last to finish reading as he critiques every single sentence by asking: what if that were false?
- Reviewed in advance to ensure they deserve their place in the meeting.
I hope that provides some useful food for thought. A number of my clients are moving to prose-only papers for senior bodies.
I'd be interested to know the balance in your organisations. If you click the relevant link below, I'll see the tally and can factor this into my program design for you.
In my organisation, decision making papers are …
When you click the link it will take you to the site.
More next week.
PS – Please do tell your friends and colleagues about the Thinking Skills workshop that I am hosting later this month. I will introduce some foundational ideas that will help them (ie they will get a small piece of what we offer inside Clarity First). Learn more here.