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Eric Kuhn on PresentationZen by Garr Reynold December 10, 2009

Posted by eskuhn in Presentation Zen, [Books] Visualization & Presentation.
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99% of presentations suck.

At least that’s what serial entrepreneur turned investor Guy Kawasaki says. And he’s right. Don’t deny it. You’ve seen these presentations, you don’t remember them, you might have even fallen asleep during them. And what’s worse: you’ve given them. So have I

But don’t worry, it’s time for penance. It’s time to right the wrongs of decks past.

Rarely have I picked up so much so quickly from a book than I have from PresentationZen. Built on the work of Nancy Duarte and Edward Tufte, this book is packed with advice on how to NOT bore people to death during your presentations.

“Our lives are frittered away by detail; simplify, simplify.”

The first lesson of PresentationZen is to keep things simple. That slideument you gave at the end of last summer’s internship? Never Again. And this time, they might actually remember it.

There are three stages:
1) Prepare
First, start with a beginner’s mind. Pretend you’ve never been given that corporate template. What do you want to say? What’s the best way to say it?
Secondly, step away from the computer. Go analog. Pen, whiteboard, crayons, whatever you want to use to dump the thoughts in your head, use it. Get it all out.
Thirdly, organize these thoughts in a storyboard, frame by frame. Fit what you can fit in these boxes. That’s all you’re going to use in your presentation.
Lastly, be sure to answer one very important question: “So What?”
2) Design
Garr Reynolds gives some great slide design advice, and I advise you to read the book if you’d like to learn the most. From signal-to-noise ratio to optimizing white space, the images in the book will help the design of your slides communicate far more effectively.
3) Deliver
People came to see one thing: You. If the presentation can stand on its own, why are you there? Designing your words and actions to supplement the deck are just as if not more important than the slides you just created. So show up!


DIY: Change By Design by Tim Brown December 10, 2009

Posted by eskuhn in [Books] Leadership & Change.
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Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, has long been heralded as a thought leader and purveyor  of the Design Thinking methodology, and how it can be used by business and industry to achieve innovation. In his first book, Change By Design, Brown lays the blueprint for how Design Thinking is done.

Brown has taken the black box of IDEO and other design and innovation consultancies and broken their process down to manageable, bite-size pieces. It doesn’t hurt to have a team of interdisciplinary rock stars, but the process itself is not rocket science. From there, it’s on you to practice the concepts, hone your skills, and do your best to incorporate it into whatever company, organization, or team in which you find yourself working. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results if you stay committed to the process from beginning to end.

One piece I particularly like is the idea of walking away from your work in order to make progress. As MBAs, we often think if we continue to drill down, eventually we’ll find an answer. This is probably true, but is it the best answer? Brown quotes the designer behind the iconic lucky strike package when he was asked how long the design would take:

“some spring morning I will feel like designing the Lucky package and you’ll have it in a matter of hours. I’ll call you then.”

Sometimes it takes some unknown inspiration to remove the creative obstacle, and that inspiration is not commonly found at your desk. We all have the desire to create something great, something that will be remembered, used, and ultimately make the world a better place in its own small way. For this, Brown offers the following advice:

“For an idea to become an experience, it must be implemented with the same care in which it is conceived…”

As the Future Catches (the) US December 10, 2009

Posted by eskuhn in As The Future Catches You.
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The most striking characteristic of the book is not necessarily the content, not how genomics is going to change our lives, but simply how all this information is presented. Compressed into standard paragraphs and text, this book might be a third the number of pages, but would it communicate as quickly? As effectively?

I found my eyes were able to absorb almost the entire page with a glance. The key points were highlighted not by using italics, but by their relation to the rest of the page. The alignment of the words, their size, and their overall presentation controlled the cadence of the read. It was almost as if I were reading a live speech, text sizes and styles words were the volume and inflection.

But not to neglect the content of the book completely, the thought that kept creeping into my mind was: “What is going to happen to America?” We are quickly being out-manufactured by China and out-sourced to India. I’m all for free-market globalization and have no personal qualms with either of these scenarios, but America needs to wake up and figure out what it’s next competitive advantage will be.

As it says in the book, America’s status as one of the richest countries in the world is essentially held up by a few extremely successful entrepreneurs. Our role models are those that dropped out of school (Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg) and became billionaires. Now, what’s seldom mentioned is that these people are so far ahead of the curve that they are actually learning FASTER than any school would have been able to teach them. The PROBLEM, however, is that we as a culture value the “go for broke” mentality, leaving us with two eventualities: rich, or poor.

But the majority of Americans would benefit greatly from quality education around new concepts and technology. Right now, the wealth disparities only continue to mount as the rich pay for and receive excellent educations from a young age, and the poor become quickly discouraged by the lack of quality education, and possibly more importantly, the resulting lack of great professional options. The model looks a lot like a long-cycle venture capital investment (invest in education, produce more valuable people), but the problem may not be in the financials, it might be in the culture.

The real question is: How can we build a culture around valuing quality education with strong emphases on new technology and processes?