The War of Two Mindsets

The great battle for clarity and simplicity in our time is not between PowerPoint and paper, but between two mindsets.

War_1In 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.

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6 Responses to “The War of Two Mindsets”

  1. Illustrating your Blog

    Blog Illustration

  2. .pmblog says:

    The War of Two Mindsets

    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 presentati…

  3. I have not yet read your book, but am keen to see it.

    I like your question, “What does your PPT presentation say about your world view?” Much of this debate was started with Peter Norvig’s Gettysburg PPT. After much reflection, I conclude his PPT suggests a view that he may not intend. I have prepared a formal rejoinder. Comments are welcome.

  4. Enjoyed the book very much, and am already implementing many of the ideas for the presentations for my consulting practice.

    In my other life I am a college professor, and use PowerPoint in all my courses. Do you think that the ideas from your book translate to the academic environment as well? These classes meet 10-15 times per semester, and part of my role is to deliver the information to the students so that we can then use it for in-class assignments, role-playing, etc.

    Thank you Cliff.

    Dave Rakowski
    Allentown, PA

  5. Cliff says:

    Hi John – I think it’s great that you’re moving the conversation forward; it seems we’ve been stuck on “pause” since the Norvig example. We definitely need to continue to evolve. One of the things that has stayed with me from my interview with John Seely Brown (in the Articles section) was that we seem to have only one PowerPoint genre; and in fact we need many, many more.

  6. Cliff says:

    Hi Dave – Yes, this translates well into learning because it engages students, breaks down information into digestible chunks, and focuses attention. In a classroom I would add more interativity to my storyboard, such as my recent post “The Power of a Question”. A slide like this can be added at any point in the story template and storyboard to open up conversation.

    The key is to hold on to the concept of a storyboard to maintain the focus and direction of the experience, so you meet your learning objectives.

    If you want, draft up a story template for one of your classes, and send it over. I’ll take a look and we can share it with other readers to see what they think.

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