“Never Judge a book by its cover” is a common saying. However,
humans find doing that extremely difficult. We also know the saying “First
impressions count”, You could say the first saying is an expression of intent, while
the second is an expression of reality.
Style over substance is the idea that, far from “never
Judging a book by its cover”, we do generally judge a lot about a book by its
cover, and first impressions are indeed extremely important. As we move past
first impressions, we move into the area of Style over substance where we tend
to be much more impressed by how someone says something rather than what they
are saying. This Style over Substance effect can also be applied to things and
is heavily used in the presentation of products as well as people, using a lot
of style to either detract from or cover up the substance.
A good example is Elizabeth Holmes, who burst onto the stage
in 2004. Her company, Theranos, was working to develop a blood test using only
a small amount of blood, which could be run in a matter of minutes rather than
hours or days. By 2004 she had managed to raise six million dollars She often
tried to emulate Steve Jobs, dressing in black turtleneck sweaters and speaking
in a strange deep baritone voice, that sometimes slipped towards the end of
interviews as she forgot and ended up talking in a normal higher pitched
woman’s voice. But her claims were all a sham and in June 2018, was indicted on
nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Prosecutors allege that she engaged in two criminal schemes, one to defraud
investors, the other to defraud doctors and patients.
Style over substance favours how things look and a general
feeling of happiness over anything else. It is synonymous with the outside
world where celebrity and presentation has grown to outshine any fundamental
value. The whole world seems consumed with how things look.
“It’s not what you say but how you say
This trait generally means that no one wants to rock the
boat and differences of opinions and confrontations are to be avoided at all
costs - regardless of the detriment to the Enterprise.
If people are mediocre, ineffective or inefficient at their
jobs, then this tends to be tolerated so long as they are always happy and get
on with people, smile a lot and are the “life and soul of the party” (of course
there are limits but the general point stands) but if someone points this out
(and by doing so annoys them) then this is not tolerated.