Jeff Bezos recently banned PowerPoint from meetings at Amazon, insisting instead that meetings start with the attendees silently reading a hard-copy document containing the information needed to discuss the issue.

This is not surprising, considering there's significant scientific research that the use of PowerPoint reduces organizational intelligence. However, replacing PowerPoint with "briefing documents" (as Bezos has done) isn't just good science; it's also an incredibly smart financial move, for the following three reasons:

  1. It saves time. PowerPoint communicates at the speed that the presenter talks; a briefing document communicates at the speed that the audience reads. A presentation that would take an hour (without interruptions or discussion) is condensed to merely five minutes.
  2. It saves time. Because a briefing document provides the important information at the beginning of the meeting, everyone is literally "on the same page" and discussion is shorter and more to the point. Furthermore, since a presentation needs a presenter, one must attended the meeting to get the information. With a briefing document, people who need just the information (but don't need to participate) can simply read the document and skip the meeting.
  3. It saves time. A briefing document eliminates the three worst PowerPoint time wasters: 1) "They-can't-pin-this-Jello-to-the-wall" presentations; 2) "I-didn't-prepare-so-I'm-using-my-standard-slide-deck" presentations; and, worst of all, 3) "For-the-love-of-God-will-you-please-get-to-the-damn point?" presentations.

Did I mention that it saves time? Good, because as I've pointed out previously, the average executive spends around 50 percent of his or her time in meetings (one third of which are totally useless). This is a huge productivity drain, above and beyond PowerPoint's infamous ability to reduce organizational intelligence.

So let's do the numbers. Since briefing documents are (at least) twice as time-efficient as PowerPoint and tend to eliminate the most useless meetings, by replacing PowerPoint with briefing documents, Bezos effectively increased company-wide management productivity by at least 25 percent.

I've been researching and writing about office technology and management technique for over 20 years. There are few if any technologies or techniques that, when implemented, have anywhere near that kind of dramatically positive effect on productivity. 

But that's not all. Banning PowerPoint in favor of briefing documents cost Bezos and Amazon exactly $0.00. For all practical purposes, that's an ROI of, well, infinity.

Pretty smart, eh?

Published on: Oct 25, 2019
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