The great battle for clarity and simplicity in our time is not between PowerPoint and paper, but between two mindsets.
In one corner is the orthodox worldview that gives shape to everything you see in PowerPoint today, called "information presentation." In the other corner is an unconventional worldview that has the power to change the way PowerPoint will be seen tomorrow, called "cognitive guidance."
Here’s how the most prolific researcher in the field of educational psychology described the epic struggle in an interview:
"It is worthwhile to distinguish between two possible goals in making a PowerPoint presentation — information presentation, in which the goal is to present information to the audience, and cognitive guidance, in which the goal is to guide the audience in their processing of the presented information.
"When your goal is information presentation, PowerPoint slides can be full of information that may be extremely hard to process by the audience. However, since your goal is simply information presentation, you are not concerned with whether or not the audience can process the presented information.
"When your goal is cognitive guidance, you want to make sure that the audience members build appropriate knowledge in their memories. Your job is to communicate in a way that will have the desired impact on the audience, so you need to design your slides so they are consistent with how people learn."
It turns out that no matter how much research there is done on the matter, or how many articles, postings and books are written, nothing will change our PowerPoint practices as long as we believe in "information presentation." But if we change our minds, and accept that our goal is "cognitive guidance", our world will look dramatically different.
Are you prepared to change your view, if it means more clarity and understanding for your audience?
Tip: Take a look through your presentations. What do they indicate about your world view? If you’re ready to shift from information presentation to cognitive guidance, read the rest of what Rich has to say about PowerPoint here. Review the free download of the PDF titled "Five Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload" here. And if you’re ready to take the plunge and try a completely new approach grounded in cognitive guidance, try out the book and I’ll post ‘before and after’ presentations in the reader showcase. The more of us who demonstrate the effectiveness of cognitive guidance, the faster we collectively win the battle for clarity and simplicity.