Don't let your boss and PowerPoint kill you

It is a well known fact that our brain does not compute some things properly. When we eat, it is unable to tell us when we are really full, inducing us to over-eating frequently. Also, in the absence of a clock or other visual reference, it is unable to quantify time in a proper way. Just spend some time at night staring at the ceiling and then try to determine how long have you been there. Impossible.

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 We don't like these limitations, as they imply that our objectivity is indeed very much disturbed by our brain bugs. We want to believe in certainty, in facts and in fairness, but these are hardly achievable with such a messed up brainware. 

And then PowerPoint was created, threatening to kill us all by exploiting one of our flawed spots.

I see too often how two concepts are easily confused: understanding and achieving. When presented with an idea, we will make an effort to understand it in all its details, exploring all it's angles. When we finally grasp it and we believe in it, a good dose of excitement fills us, and we are easily seduced to consider it achieved. We embrace the idea and immediately downplay the efforts required to make it a reality. The distance between understanding and achieving is execution. But we all know what execution stands for: efforts, problems, conflicts with the original concept, misery. We just don't like this stuff. It is intrinsically slow and costly. Ideas are, on the other hand, beautiful and fast. They deliver their value quickly, like a good dose of a drug, and then it fades slowly until all you have is painful execution. And this is when the idea is sentenced to death.

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As a side effect, ideas are so addictive that you simply cannot run out of them. You need to deliver the dose every now and then, forcing everyone to be continuously coming up with ever more stupid and convoluted things in order to satisfy our bosses' hunger for a new dose. That's when PowerPoint imposes itself over actually doing something, executing something, and ultimately achieving something. But remember, it's not your boss' fault, but our flawed human nature that triggers us.

How can we overcome these limitations and ultimately achieve something? I suggest we focus our communication in our problems, instead of our ideas. Next time you are asking your team for a review session, please don't ask them to come up with ideas to meet the objective but to share the problems they are facing to do it. Problems are directly related to execution; solving them makes you progress towards achievement; working on problems creates value and pushes people into action. All you need to make sure is that it is the right problems your team is working on.

 

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Next time you need to brief your boss, don't feel obliged to include new ideas or initiatives, dare to talk only about problems. Do it in a positive way: this is what I need to sort out to move on, instead of the traditional approach: look how difficult and miserable my life is. You will probably find a natural willingness to help from anyone, if only you risk receiving a good number of stupid ideas that now you have to deal with. Well, at least you would have avoided one more PowerPoint.

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