Though Microsoft PowerPoint was officially launched on 22nd May 1990, in the armed forces in India, it hit us with the force of a Tsunami much later. I think possibly it was in 1997-98 that we shifted from OHP slides to PPTs in a huge manner.
PPTs made a paradigm shift in the way we looked at things. It killed all imagination and concentration totally. Earlier if we had to tell someone that ship Alpha was to proceed to area Kilo, he (the target of our instructions, that is) had to concentrate to find ways and means. Nowadays, we show him the entire thing in animation on a PPT slide. The adverse effect is so much that people, these days, can’t concentrate on a talk using their own imagination unless PPT depicts to them exactly what is being spoken. The only imagination is that of the speaker or more specifically that of the ‘author’ of the PPT.
PPTs also mushroomed innumerable speakers who thought of innovative ways to kill your imagination; they had their complete spoken text written on the slides. In these talks cum presentations, in case they ever fumbled for a word, the audience would tell them. They, at the end of their ‘talks’, could proudly tell as to how they ensured ‘audience participation’.
It was only a matter of time before military ‘excesses’ in PowerPoint presentations became the subject of spoofs, parodies and farce. A new breed of officers came to limelight. These were called “PowerPoint Rangers”. Their mastery over PPTs made them climb rung after rung in the military hierarchical ladder. Once they reached the higher and top levels, their lofty example was emulated by others who became PowerPoint Rangers-in-the-making. The military succession planning was thus in good hands – the hands that made innovative PPTs possible. They and Microsoft laughed all the way to the bank.
Before this era was the era of demonstration. So, if you as leader wanted your subordinates to emulate, you demonstrated. Many a times, such demonstrations resulted in hilarious situations. For example, during that era, a married sailor even after attending a family planning demonstration kept producing kids. When enquired he feigned helplessness saying that he was following the instructions in toto; whenever he and his wife had sex, he had a new condom rolled out on his right thumb!
During the demo era there was this Time magazine cartoon of a Jehadi Suicide Bomber fitted with self-destructive bombs tied to his waist with wires leading to a detonator in his hand. He is about to press the plunger and tells the class of would-be suicide bombers: “Now, pay attention; I am going to demonstrate only once.”
Despite all the faults and adverse fallout of PowerPoint, how I missed it when I was on the minesweeper Karwar and after a refit, sailors’ WCs were shifted from Indian style to Western style? It was left to our CO to ‘demonstrate’ the advantages to the sailors so that they would sit doing their job “as if watching a movie in a cinema” rather than squat as in the Indian invented game of Kho-Kho.
This demonstration on the ship’s minesweeping deck (the only deck large enough to have a complete and attentive ship’s company), took almost an hour complete with a detailed question and answer session wherein sailors were encouraged not to feel shy but to “come straight out with” what was bothering them. A cane chair was used to demonstrate. Fortuitously, most of the tubular cane chairs of that era had a large hole in the centre due to the cane having worn out and tattered.
Anyway, you got the picture, didn’t you? Well, I helped you use your imagination without a PPT! Eureka, it can be done!!
As we ambled back to our cabins after the demonstration, all of us, without exception, felt that this was mother of all demos and even left mouth-to-mouth resuscitation miles behind.
‘Be Kind to Your Behind’ could very well have been the innovative title of the PPT; but:
In days of old, when knights were bold,
And PPTs not yet invented,
They explained with demos,
Written orders and memos,
And they were quite contented.
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