Ok, not like that. If you’re that guy, please go back to PowerPoint 103, do some self-reflection, and give yourself a shameful flogging before you rejoin us.
But assuming you use PowerPoint with a sense of social responsibility, keeping it visual and concise, no problem is too complex to benefit from both the process and the presentation of turning your ideas into a 10-15 slide text-light deck.
Going through the process of turning an enormous treatise of brilliance into a handful of lightweight slides forces you to simplify the problem.
Simplification keeps incomplete or misguided logic from hiding out in the dark corners created by complexity. A disciplined dedication to simplicity also drives us to keep asking questions until we reach the core of the problem, when we might otherwise get distracted by the louder, more obvious, more emotionally captivating, or more easily addressed symptoms or nuances of an issue. Enduring solutions address the most essential core of a complex problem. Anything else just rearranges the issue, zigzagging through temporary or incomplete progress and sometimes even expanding the problem into new arenas.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Einstein
Distilling your thinking into something as basic as PowerPoint ensures you know your audiences and what you need from each one.
Each type of audience you will address only needs to understand a subset of what your solution encompasses. Potential stakeholders need to understand primarily how it affects them and their central domain of expertise and influence, without getting lost in the noise of what they don’t understand or care about. Doing the extra work to communicate in this way is not only more effective, but also shows respect for your audience and increases your credibility.
Getting to the core of the problem and finding the right solution are difficult enough, but we all know that an equal challenge can be mustering the support and sponsorship you need to bring the solution to reality.
Simple communication allows your vision to be understood faster and by more people. This lowers the barrier to entry for others around supporting you, reduces the threat of opposition that can come from the ego’s response to not being able to understand something (that’s dumb!), and gives people a clear and smooth line of sight for how to help you – because it is natural for people to want to help manifest great ideas. Simplicity also points a clearer path to a successful outcome, inspiring people to get on board. Everyone wants to be on the winning team, especially if we get to feel a part of making it happen.
Simplicity makes initiatives easier to resource, execute, and measure, and creates natural opportunities for delegation and collaboration.
A simple solution can be divided into clear parts, which tend to correspond to different areas of domain expertise and influence, the boundaries of which become logical collaboration points. This sets your solution up to be actionable from the start, and an initiative with both momentum and a broad, diverse, engaged group of supporters gains traction quickly and is hard to take off-course.
The product is simple, but the process is challenging.
Try it – and don’t expect it to be fast or easy. We work with clients every day to first form solutions to complex problems, then spend weeks or even months battle-testing and distilling those rich ideas into graceful, simple, clear communications, most often in PowerPoint. When done well, these decks can be the engine that allows a great idea to hit the pavement running.
Check back for more discussion about how to simplify complex ideas.