The background to banning the bullet pointBezos reiterated his decision to ban PowerPoint in a letter to shareholders this year, but it really started with an era-defining email sent in 2004. Bezos informed his senior team that presentations in the form of “written narratives” would take the place of any and all powerpoint presentations. It seemed that PowerPoint encouraged bullet points and therefore short and often disjointed ideas. Perhaps it was fitting that a brand so associated with the selling of books was encouraging a more humanities based approach to business idea formation just at the time when digital processes were in the ascent.
What can we expect from a meeting with Bezos?Any new executive lucky, or ambitious enough, to land a job with Amazon will encounter a different sort of environment when it comes to team meetings. If an employee has something to discuss they are asked to prepare a four to six page memo known colloquially as a “narrative”. In a style reminiscent of university tutorials, after they have read the memo, the other participants are expected to discuss the topic and ask the presenter questions.
The humanities approach is better for idea formation
“PowerPoint-style presentations somehow give permission to gloss over ideas, flatten out any sense of relative importance, and ignore the innerconnectedness of ideas.” – BezosHumans are driven to emotive engagement with people – and with businesses and ideas. Not only is this view passionately supported by Jeff Bezos himself, neuroscientists believe it’s true too. They agree with Bezos that the human brain is more attracted to narrative formats when digesting information. According to this scientific information, emotions are fast-tracked to the brain, meaning emotional stories are the ones we most remember. We know the proved effectiveness of content marketing when it comes to audience engagement, so it makes sense that narrative based information is the most engaging no matter in what context it’s presented. All this shows that Bezos did his homework.
Shortcuts breed laziness and lack of engagementWhat neuroscience has proven is that stories, emotion and sentiment breed concentration and engagement. By encouraging employees to discuss ideas emotionally and creatively through a narrative format, Bezos has prioritised passion as a key element in the formation of business ideas at Amazon.
“The narrative structure of a good memo forces better thought and better understanding of what’s more important than what, and how things are related.”
ShortfallsIf other companies were to adopt the approach, it’s clear that Bezos’s narrative vision wouldn’t hold much hope for employees with dyslexia or other reading and comprehension related disabilities. However, business owners should think more about the exercise Bezos follows, where employees can get more actively involved, and clarify aspects of the memo’s content verbally.
Overall, a positive approach to work and ideasBy removing PowerPoint, Bezos is letting employees act creatively and engage naturally with material. For too long, company meetings have followed a bullet point blueprint that doesn’t foster employee engagement. It’s now time for other companies to make the same realisation.
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