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The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions by Phil Simon

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CHAPTER 9

The Inhibitors: Mistakes, Myths, and Challenges

Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.

—George Bernard Shaw

U.S. Marine Corps Joint Forces commander James N. Mattis is not one to mince words. “PowerPoint makes us stupid,” he told attendees at a military conference in North Carolina in April 2010. (In case you were wondering, he was speaking without the aid of Microsoft's popular presentation program.)

And Mattis is certainly not the only military man with contempt for PowerPoint. Brigadier General Herbert Raymond McMaster goes even further. He believes that the program is nothing short of an internal threat. “It's dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” McMaster told the New York Times in a telephone interview after the same conference.1 “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

Now, I know absolutely nothing about military combat. I have never served in any branch of the armed forces. Fortunately, I have no personal experience dodging enemy bullets, and I have never had to disable a bomb. I do, however, know a great deal about giving presentations that interpret and represent data. As a public speaker, I frequently use PowerPoint. Despite the popular phrase “death by PowerPoint,” there's nothing inherently wrong or evil about the program or competing products like Keynote and Prezi. The problem is not the tool itself; it's how people use (read: abuse) it. And some venues and forums ...

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