Friday, September 18, 2015

About powerpoint and artists

We admire artists.

The singer who puts his heart into his singing.
The painter who creates a visual masterpiece.
The actor whose performance moves us to tears.
Even the indie developer who create a game that thrills.

Many of us aspire to be in this exalted group of creative people who have the power to inspire so many at such a personal level.

And yet you never hear anyone saying: “Did you see that Powerpoint Joe put together ? I could look at it all day” !

Clearly Joe works just as hard at his Powerpoint as Jill might have done on her painting. He probably suffered just as much as the artist too - probably more because he will very likely have a hard driving boss and a hostile audience.

So why is poor Joe’s output just another boring Powerpoint and Jill’s output a potential masterpiece ? Why is the artist the hero and the average white collar worker just another cog in the machine ?

Let's turn that on its head. Instead of asking why Joe’s work should be a drag, let’s ask what it would take to make Joe into a hero ?

1. Ownership: The artist works from inspiration, the office Joe works (mostly) because he was told to, or is expected to deliver.

Can we let office workers have a little more say on what they want to work on ?

2. Freedom: The artist has considerable creative freedom. The powerpoint jockey has to stick to the right format and work within predefined expectations

Can we give our knowledge workers some more freedom on how to approach their work ?

3. Inspire vs. Convince: The artist is trying to inspire. The office worker is trying to convince. The artist wins if he generates strong emotions in his audience - even negative ones. The office bloke only wins if his proposals are approved.

Can we measure office output by its ability to inspire in addition to its ability to convince ?

We cannot replace office work with art. Clearly office work requires a certain amount of discipline.

But maybe we should try to make it a little bit more inspirational, a bit more personal. A strong emotional response is sometimes worth a lot more than a hundred-slide powerpoint.

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