PowerPoint and The Stone Age Brain

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

One of my favorite columns is the Department of Human Behavior in The Washington Post. Yesterday’s column was no exception. I urge you to read it.

It suggests that our brains hang onto to titillating details about people. Do they lie or cheat, are they altruistic or heroic, loyal or disloyal? But that same brain doesn’t get as interested in big complex things like significant cost overruns, failed projects, or bad quality control reports.

I think this is important for people who lead change. It’s one thing to try to make a convincing case using sophisticated graphs and numbers, and assume that’s what our stakeholders care about. But what they seem to really care about is – are we trustworthy? And, sadly, PowerPoint can’t accomplish that for us. In this rational age, it is easy to miss this distinction. As Hank Davis, one of the researchers cited in the article said, “We are continuing to navigate through the modern world with a Stone Age mind.”