The Theory of Hype

The Theory of Hype

Cleaning out some files I came across a listing of businesses for which I had done consultations some years ago. The list was from the early nineties when I was doing more consultations with businesses and corporations than I do now. Going down the list I started crossing off those businesses that no longer exist. By the time I finished I’d crossed out over two-thirds of the names on the list. If we were to engage in speculation about the matter we might ascribe two reasons for such a large number:


The first is that it is possible that I was such a poor consultant that those businesses unfortunate enough to take my counsel to heart met with a speedy demise.


The second possibility may have to do with The Theory of Hype, which states, “People and institutions whose surface value (“hype”) is more than their substance will be driven out by those of whom the reverse is true.”


Reflecting back on those defunct organizations, and their leaders, I think the second applies. All of those companies, and their leaders, subscribed to the notion “An ounce of presentation is worth a ton of production.” As I recalled, every one of the organizations who called me in for a consultation was more interested in how to hype, spin, brand, and sell their company’s image than about being more productive or working towards the integrity between their mission and their work ethic or work practices. They were more concerned about working at appearing good than doing good work, and, in their myopic anxiety, were more focused on a “race to the bottom” than on vision, integrity, or quality.


Focusing on hype rather than mission or effectiveness will not carry any organization over the long haul. It won’t take long for it to be replaced by another who can actually deliver on what it promises. I think the same applies to congregations and their leaders.


So, what is your congregation, and its leaders, most concerned about? Its hype or its mission and effectiveness?

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.

His books on Christian education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).

Galindo contributes to the Wabash Center’s blog for theological school deans.


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