This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Complex does not mean bad (presentations)

When I first saw the references to this very complicated "slide" and the NY Times article that brought it to light, I was in total agreement with the general sentiment: bad presentations can kill.


But then, I looked at the article and couldn't figure out how this particular diagram had anything to do with the rest of the article, which talked about killer bullet points and droning discussions and people whose job has become building briefing decks. 

The diagram is a form of a mind map or concept map, which happens to describe a rather complex situation.  It might have been used in a presentation deck - maybe that was the mistake.  But this was the wrong graphic to accompany the rest of the article.  Sure, it takes a while to get a sense of what's happening in the mind map - it's a rather complex situation.  But then, figuring out the classic Napoleon's March drawing (seen here) by Minard takes a while too.  And this is held as a classic of information design.  That doesn't mean the information within it is bad or wrong.  Let's separate the problems, please.

Thankfully, Glen Alleman has seen through this discussion and has his own commentary in The Malformed Criticism of Power Point.

There is a thread going around from the General McChrystal briefing that used a complex Mind Map showing the interdependencies of the activities taking in Afghanistan. Like most gut reactions to things, all the authors got it wrong in several counts.

Go have a look at Glen's decent reasoning.  I detect some anti-NY Times bias, but his arguments sound pretty solid to me. 

Thought: I wonder how this complexity corresponds to the Theory of Constraints ideas that every system has one constraint.  Maybe this isn't a single system.  Or maybe this classifies as a "wicked problem" where it is difficult to find that constraint.

Hammers don't screw, why should your email?

Should you bother with a pilot?