Expectations? Fall Back to Nothing

Maybe I am just a grump. Today, I presented a great idea, an elegant solution for a client problem. Everyone agreed the solution worked EXCEPT there was a problem with the name of the module. Forty-five minutes later people were still complaining they did not like the name. They were not discussing a new name, simply complaining about the name.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a quote from “Romeo and Juliet.” Juliet argues that what matters is the substance of something, rather than what it is named. But is substance the only thing that matters? Is a name simply words? How much does language set up expectations of anything, really? Does it elicit a bias? In this age of branding and expectation setting, language and how it is used matters. And in a time of mass diversity in the work place, it’s inevitable that different names would invoke different images and expectations.

I have practiced yoga for more than 15 years – Iyengar, Ashtanga, Hatha, Yin, and many variations in-between. Even Bikram and I hated it. I railed against it. It’s not yoga. The room is heated. More than heated, it is downright hot. And how can you follow your breath with someone counting it out.

Fast forward, two years later since my first Bikram class, I now go once a week. It was my expectation of yoga. If someone had said, “Come to this workout with me. It’s a combination of heat to encourage blood flow and to help you sweat out toxins with movements that strengthen the back and improve balance.” I would have been all over it. Instead my first visit prompted me to list all my reasons why it was not yoga.

Was this not exactly what was happening now? Somehow the name I used for the module was not only unacceptable, but it invoked strong reactions for the client. Even giving the client the option to change the name to whatever they wanted didn’t help. The discussion was around how they didn’t like the name. For me personally, I am learning to look at what’s behind name and ask does it meet my needs?

We are now at a point in time with so many things vying for our attention. While it may not be the best idea to make judgments based on appearances, we do. The fact that the product or solutions meet a need and satisfy a requirement is lost.

Social media and instant feedback has shaped the way we work. In 2009, Tropicana Orange juice introduced a new logo. Sales plummeted 20%, and after two months, the new logo was dropped. (http://adage.com/article/news/tropicana-line-s-sales-plunge-20-post-rebranding/135735/) In 2010, Gap introduced a new logo. People took to social media in protest and the new logo was discarded. (http://money.cnn.com/2010/10/08/news/companies/gap_logo/) The products didn’t change; people just had a strong reaction to the branding. xFinity had some backlash, but Comcast stuck with the new name. (http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1960553,00.html)

Alas, the name matters. My situation, even though the client could change it, the reaction to the name was so vehemently opposed that the solution it represented was rejected. I lost this one because of its name. Hey, I am a real person in real situations. While there is a lesson learned, there isn’t always a happy ending.

In my personal interaction with products and services, I try to look beyond the name and question whether or not the product or solution will meet my needs. So despite my resistance, I will go ahead and order those two Mac limited edition lip colors, Head in the Clouds and Yield to Love. Why lipsticks just can’t use that Pantone scale nomenclature, I don’t know.

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