The importance of form over substance

8 February 2012

I did Company Law 101 at varsity, and I recall the over-arching principle being, “Substance over form.” In essence, this means the law is based upon actions not words.

“I did not kill him,” is not a defence in itself. Especially if there is physical evidence that you did kill him.

On the other hand, stating “I killed him,” is not enough to be convicted.

Turns out reality is different.

In the real world, form is easily as important as substance. More so in that if you don’t look good you won’t get your foot in the door. No foot in the door and it makes no difference how beautiful your chassis is.

History is littered with examples of great inventions that failed because they were not marketed well. If you don’t tell your story, no one will hear it, so it doesn’t matter how good your story is.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears, did it make a sound? The answer is no. If no one heard it, it may as well have never happened.

The good news is that story-telling skills are far easier to master than building skills. Great salesmen have an edge, but you can remove their advantage by matching their “form” and bringing substance to the party. They, on the other, will find it very difficult competing at a substance level.

The war starts with “form.” It ends with “substance.” The teams that understand and master this will win the race.