How Powerpoint drives business decision making

PowerPoint "has the potential to democratize strategy-making," Kaplan concludes. But now that power players know this, that knowledge can also be power that can be abused.

My college-age kids did get one skill in high school that I'm faintly jealous of.

They learned how to use PowerPoint.

As Sarah Kaplan of the University of Toronto (right) writes in a recent paper, it doesn't matter whether you love PowerPoint or hate it. It's there, as ubiquitous as the water cooler, and it drives how decisions are made.

Dr. Kaplan studied the use of PowerPoint over 8 months inside a large telecommunications company, and these are some highlights of what she found:

  1. PowerPoint democratizes decision-making because more people have access to PowerPoint documents than had access to the slides and viewgraphs used previously.
  2. Power within the company flows to those who use PowerPoint best. They have more impact on final decisions.
  3. Power can flow away someone who doesn't have access to the "deck," the tools used to create the presentation.
  4. If information is inside the deck it's considered. If it's not inside the deck it's not considered.

What this indicates is PowerPoint is a vital corporate power point. Your ability to create and manipulate slides can mean more than the facts. Your control of the slides can keep rivals from having an impact.

This also shows that corporations need to ride herd on PowerPoint more carefully than they do. Knowing who has the power, and where they stand on the issues, can tell a CEO whether what he's seeing is worth believing.

PowerPoint "has the potential to democratize strategy-making," Kaplan concludes. But now that power players know this, that knowledge can also be power that can be abused.

Please feel free to offer your own PowerPoint horror stories in the comment thread.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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