Enterprise Transformation

A Pragmatic Approach Using POET


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“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 it”

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.


Questions to ponder...

Do people in your Enterprise favour style over substance?

Can you think of examples where this has happened in the past?

Who were they? What was the impact? Why do you think they acted in this way?

What needs to change to reduce the likelihood of it happening in the future?

Who needs to drive that change?

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