Study shows use of visual tools as effective strategy for corporate meetings

The paper analyzes the use of visual tools such as PowerPoint and textual narratives, highlighting effective ways of employing images and text in the formulation, communication and execution of strategies.
Administration
20 December 2023
Study shows use of visual tools as effective strategy for corporate meetings

PowerPoint and text documents have some unique advantages in the development and communication of corporate strategies. Understanding and taking advantage of the specific capabilities of each tool is essential for effective communication and strategic execution. This is the central theme of a recent article in GV-Executive, a journal published by Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Sao Paulo School of Business Administration (FGV EAESP), written by Sandro Magalhães Manteiga, vice president of operations at Nubank, who has a doctorate in business administration from the same school.

The paper analyzes the use of visual tools such as PowerPoint and textual narratives, highlighting effective ways of employing images and text in the formulation, communication and execution of strategies. It also explores controversy surrounding PowerPoint and offers guidelines for improving communication in strategic meetings.

The fall of PowerPoint

Various researchers have been studying the use of PowerPoint for strategic decision making. They present the following weaknesses of this tool:

  • Channel conflict and cognitive overload: Participants in PowerPoint presentations use hearing and vision to understand what is being presented, yet cognitive scientists have proven that it is impossible to retain all the information while viewing images and text on a screen and listening to a presenter at the same time;
     
  • Linearization of complex narratives: By design, PowerPoint induces the linearization of narratives. One slide follows another in a mechanical way, making it difficult for the presenter to construct a narrative that is rich and complex in nuance and inventiveness. This structure tends to make it hard to understand the context and evaluate the complex relationships that characterize strategic discussions;
     
  • Incomplete and incoherent ordering: In general, when a complex narrative is condensed in PowerPoint, it is the content that ends up compressed and somewhat sliced to fit the format of the presentation tool. This results in a false sense of order in the information, which is usually incomplete and sometimes incoherent;
     
  • Introduction of unconscious bias: PowerPoint is an incomplete tool that depends on the variability of presentation skills and the charisma of the presenters. While this characteristic can help a good presenter, it ends up contributing to wrong decisions in other cases, such as one that led to the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster;
     
  • Confusing dynamics of presentation: There are often questions that end up interrupting the planned flow of the presentation and can also lead the discussion down a path that deviates from the relevant themes.

Perspectives

From a content perspective, narratives highlight the main conclusions right at the start of the document, to make it easier to assess the reasoning and argumentation that follows, encompassing three aspects of the strategy:

  • Formulation of the challenge, i.e., what problem needs to be solved;
     
  • The approach, method or policy for solving that problem;
     
  • The choice of a coherent set of actions to leverage the effectiveness of the available resources.

The involvement of professionals in developing narratives can be more flexible or more structured. Recommendations for writing focused narratives are useful, but they should be used with discernment, directed toward relevant strategic choices.

Studies show that a combination of image and text in a strategy is more effective, especially with frequent reinforcement rituals, coordinated by internal communication. Familiarity with digital tools influences communication and collaboration, as does understanding the dynamics of in-person and virtual meetings, which can boost strategic effectiveness in companies.

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