HR & Management

Jeff Bezos hates PowerPoint, and you should too if you like a motivated workforce

5 min read

07 September 2018

Reporter, Real Business

Jeff Bezos famously banned PowerPoint from Amazon – and science says he was right to do it.

Synonymous with morning meetings and those ever important client presentations, PowerPoint is the cornerstone for many a business. But there is one business leader who is going against the well-established tide – and his name is Jeff Bezos.

The Amazon CEO has made his disdain for PowerPoint clear, but why should we care? We are so busy performing tasks and meeting objectives we don’t leave time to positively critique the software tools we use to make those achievements.

So let’s look at what Bezos has to say about PowerPoint, and if we can use his evaluations to assess the tool ourselves. Then maybe, just maybe, we can improve our own efficacy in the process.

The background to banning the bullet point

Bezos 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.” – Bezos

Humans 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 engagement

What 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.”

Shortfalls

If 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 ideas

By 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.