The Importance of Names

by Scott Love - Partner

My team teases me – I give names to everything. We don’t have a “company annual planning meeting”, we have CoLab. (Codence + Lab, …collaborate… get it?) Rather than a “weekly planning meeting”, we have Switchyard. My wife and I are expecting Blueberry, not just “the baby”.

I do this with clients as well. We’re currently building Rhonda for Thriving Families of Colorado. We built Pivot for PRIDE Centric Resources. Sidecar serves Oliver Behavioral Consulting.

Aside from wanting to simply be clever (which, I admit, is a conceit – one, I hope, that is healthful), I name things for the following reasons:

Names are Efficient

Rather than having to describe something with a generic noun or phrase – “the production database” – a name is a short way to refer to something. Once coined, a term allows a group of individuals to work in a quick, easy, native shorthand.

Names Foster Unique Identity

Sure, you’d be just as efficient referring to a software app as “FileMaker” as you would Owl (another example from a client of ours), but naming a company CRM Owl allows the team to own the solution and to differentiate from the Claris FileMaker platform on which it is built.

This is likely the most important reason. I often tell clients to think of the Claris platform as a set of LEGO blocks with which we can build any number of useful solutions. Conceptually, I think it’s incredibly important to recognize that they’re not buying software when they hire us – they’re buying a software making capacity.

By giving names to the apps we build, we implicitly encourage our customers to look beyond just one specific construct to the possibilities beyond. We’re working on a second solution for the same client called Fox. Different tools, different problems to solve, and thus different names.

Names Evoke Emotion

I bet, in reading this, you have a reaction to seeing Prius, GTO, 445 M Series, Beetle, Mustang, Corvette, and the perfectly monikered, Studebaker Dictator. One look at it and there’s no one else you can imagine riding in the back seat. They’re so much more than just cars.

Let’s be honest: databases are thuddingly, numbingly uninteresting. Like any tool (or car), it’s about where they can take you that’s important. If you give something a name, you can connect your Claris FileMaker apps to what they’re meant to do: Innovate. Inspire. Transform.

Names Become Yours

Dale Carnegie famously wrote, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.

By giving something a name, you allow a team to connect with and take ownership of a solution. The team at Thriving Families refers to Rhonda with affection and pride. They even use female pronouns when referring to her. She has a personality, she’s part of the team.

In giving a software tool a name, you invite users to engage with the solution. To form an attachment to it. To make her theirs.

Names Unlock Change

Names are pointers, and when introduced, they’re a new pointer. We’re not in the database-making business at Codence – we’re in the transformation business. We enable change.

One of the most important tenets of change management is that in order to promote change, one must communicate clearly what that change is. By giving something a name, you’re giving it a rallying cry. You’re pointing to its promise. You’re leading the way.

One of the first items on our standard Kickoff Meeting agenda (there’s another name…) with clients is naming their new solution. We even lobby to retroactively christen their existing solution, if they simply refer to it as “FileMaker” (when they’ll allow us to do so.)

At first glance, this step may seem silly – but it’s very much not. It is actually the first step in introducing and communicating change. It’s an important beginning.

Creating a Name is Fun

When getting to know a client, or when bringing people together to define and build a system, the activity of coming up with a name can be useful. It’s fun to do. It can be a mini team building exercise and serve as a helpful icebreaker. Your team will be getting to know each other, or simply bond together over the work ahead.

Tease All You Like

I’m going to keep on naming things, despite the teasing I get for it. I’d much rather spend my time inventing tools like PanelsFM, Quoo, and PhoBase than “FileMaker”.

Names are important. They mean a great bit more than they may appear at first glance, and make a lasting impact… just ask my family for reactions to the name we have chosen for our new son. 😉

Want to read more blogs written by Scott?  Click here. 

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