There is a debate, not only here in the UK, about how to call the ‘so called’ Islamic State, whether as I have just done, with the ‘so called’ first, or without, or with more extensions, or with a name that the So Called people don’t like (Daish) or any other variations such as ISIL (adding ‘Iraq and The Levant’). We know why the debate. Giving them the category of State legitimises their proper existence.
Names bring with them a mental frame. What follows after a name is already pre-written. They also carry a priming mechanism; what you think and even will do after a name, is already pre-scripted. Hundreds of psychological experiments support that.
‘Peter is a bit of a cowboy’, does not prompt you to imagine Peter amongst cows and with big boots, but towards a particular type of behaviours.
‘Mary is evangelical about this’ means more than an advocate or simply proponent. ‘John is a Party animal’ is less about how many parties John attends a week, and more about his gregariousness.
In the organizational life we have plenty of old and tired terms, together with new buzzwords. This organizational life is not immune to new naming and frames. But it is incredible resilient to attempts to change some managerial ‘names’ and ‘concepts’. Perhaps years ago I would have been sceptical about change of names for what may seem as a change for the sake of it. But I believe today that there is a great merit in renaming because at the very least it will force you to define or redefine, as opposed to inherit a conceptual baggage.
My favourite example is ‘Project team’. Say that you have those and you don’t have to say anything else. ‘Everybody understands’. And that’s the problem, no project team is equal to another, not in terms of their autonomy, their philosophy or composition. But ‘we have a project team for this’, solves the problem of having to define and explain more. There will be assumptions (leader, members, core and not core, charter, timetable for meetings; project teams do meet, you know?) and these will come with their liabilities.
In my consulting work I have now for years experimented with re-naming, in this case, for example, from (some) teams to ‘incubators’ (in companies that are not formal incubators) with great success. ‘Incubator’ forces you to different frames: make it happen, fast, specific resources, different roles, protected space, different rules. Some people are sceptical about this because it’s easy to see it just as a gimmick. And of course they would be right if this is all you do, not the re-thinking as above. But, believe me, product development looks and works better in an ‘incubator’.