Friday, December 19, 2008

Of Gen Y and PowerPoint

This is an interesting thread on NASAWatch because it touches on a couple of topics. One is the generation gap between workers, how different generations really are, and how an organization gets the best out of a multigenerational work force. There are links to a PowerPoint (sorry, I don't know how to make the little trademark symbol with this blog software) presentation and a rather bare-bones report on how NASA is approaching this. The second, which Keith Cowing brings up based on the first, is why everything seems to be in PowerPoint and whether engineers are learning how to communicate in depth in written documents these days.

COMMENT: I work for an international consulting firm where a PowerPoint "deck" is THE standard format for reports: products written out in Word or similar programs basically don't exist. I've learned to work well with this format, but I'll never like it. PowerPoint, to me, is a great gadget for presentations: it's not very good for depth and detail, unless you have hundreds of slides. "PowerPoint Engineering" was criticized by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board: if complex technical questions must be reduced to bullet points, context and depth are inevitably lost, and minority or dissenting views are usually part of what gets left out. Future historians are going to be hard put to reconstruct what our generation of humans did and thought from corporate and government archives. For that matter, I often can't reconstruct what people did five years ago. Indeed, I talk to authors who can't reconstruct their own work. That's why I keep a lot of hard copy as well as electronic records from every study effort of mine. I hope that habit spreads.

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