What’s In A Name
SuperCaliFragiListicExpiAliDocious. “Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious,” the power of this extraordinary word – and words in general – cannot be underestimated
Take a minute to think about the power of words. In a world built on written and verbal communication, words are the lynchpin. Take for example: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I don’t have to argue too hard that Neil Armstrong’s iconic phrase was significantly more impactful than: “Watch out for that last step Buzz, it’s a doozy!”
It’s a wonder that, with such power, we don’t do more to leverage words in our day-to- day life.
Well thankfully, we can. Through a creative thinking exercise called Re-Expression, you can start using the power of words to have a significant impact on your daily life, and open up a whole new world of solutions to the challenges you face every single day.
What’s in a Word?
Walt Disney was the master of using Re-Expression to tackle challenges. His amazing creative career culminated with the launch of the iconic Disneyland, opened to the public on July 17, 1955. What’s even more amazing than the park itself is the little- known fact that it was built in just 364 days! Needless to say, there were quite a few challenges with this aggressive timetable…
With about a month to go before opening, the “Landscape Artists” (note: they were not called “gardeners” – more on this later), came to Walt with a problem. With the current progress, resources, and days remaining until opening, there was no way they could have the park fully landscaped in time. Never one to shy from a challenge, Walt went for a walk with the leading Landscape Artist. As they strolled the park together, Walt noted there were lots of weeds in beds that had been prepared for flowers and topiaries. The Landscape Artist agreed, and mentioned that pulling these weeds was one of the many remaining tasks to be done before opening day.
Walt stopped the Landscape Artist mid-thought. Instead of pulling each weed, Disney instructed him to look up the name of each variety in Latin, and give them all a custom name tag (similar to the other plants in the park). With a fancy Latin name and name tag, guests would assume the weeds were in fact just another variety of exotic plants strewn throughout the park. And so, it was through Disney’s clever “Re-Expression” of the weed problem that allowed Disneyland to open on time, and open to a public resplendent with the most exotic gardens you can imagine.
What’s in a Name?
Even before the opening of the park, Walt had already begun to use Re-Expression as a way to empower his employees, providing new dimensions to their roles and generating pride in their craft. As mentioned, Disneyland did not have a single gardener working on the park. Instead, they had a talented team of “Landscape Artists”. But this was just the beginning. Disney’s masterstroke in Re-Expression was yet to come. With a simple choice of words, Walt created a culture that remains the single most outstanding example of guest service the world has ever known. Disneyland would not have “customers.” It would instead play host to “Guests.”
Just think for a moment about how most brands treat a “customer.” Now think about how you would treat a “guest” in your own home. Stark difference, right? This was Disney’s plan all along – to have his teams treat every “customer” as if they were an honoured guest in their own home.
This Re-Expression at Disneyland continued to grow. There would be no “Employees,” only “Cast Members,” each one cast for a role in the “Grand Show.” They would work “Onstage” or “Backstage,” and they would wear “Costumes,” not “Uniforms.” Furthermore, Disneyland would not be an “amusement park.” It would be the world’s first “Theme Park,” offering truly immersive experiences for “Guests” that were orchestrated by its “Cast Members,” both “Onstage” and “Offstage.” This experience is still the hallmark of Disney Parks today, and will no doubt continue to grow with the arrival of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World late next year.
What’s in a Title?
Many people are quick to say: “Oh well, that’s Disney. It’s easy for them!” True, Walt Disney was a master at Re-Expression, and the company he built has gone on to become the most creative company in the world. But this focus on the power of words can be adopted by any company, large or small. For example, I recently had an appointment with a small agency in New York City. While waiting for my meeting, I found myself chatting with a most delightful young lady that greeted me in the reception area. The conversation was such a joy that I was slightly disappointed when told it was time to head upstairs to meet my client. Once upstairs, I couldn’t help but remark to my client just how wonderful their receptionist was. Their response? “We don’t have a receptionist…”
So, who on earth had I been talking to for the last 15 minutes?
Wanting to make sure I hadn’t imagined the entire interaction, I told my client that I thought her name was Sarah. “Oh yes, Sarah!” The client replied, “She’s our Director of First Impressions!” “Director of First Impressions!” Boy was she ever. By empowering the “receptionist” role with a Re-Expression of its title, this young lady felt completely empowered to own the company’s entry space, which she did with great aplomb!
Re-Expression in Popular Culture
Though you may not have even recognized it, Re-Expression has played a huge role in popular culture over the last few years. A few of the most popular Re-Expressions? “Fake News” and “Binge Watching.”
In a very short period of time, “Fake News” has gone from a catch-all term for “news I don’t agree with,” to a highly-polarizing political statement. And “Binge Watching” has become a badge of honour, an exciting verb that re-expresses the less flattering “couch potato” and “lazy bones”.
These Re-Expressions has been so powerful that the Oxford Dictionary, widely regarded as the world’s top resource on all things language and words, accepted “Binge Watching” as a new phrase in their 2018 edition. And according to Editors at Oxford, “Fake News” is being strongly considered for future versions.
Re-Expression in Your Own Organization
These stories showcase just a small handful of the amazing things that can happen when you use the power of words and Re-Expression.
So, how can you adopt these practices? Start by thinking about your own organization. How might you re-express a challenge to get people to think different? How can you get people out of their River of Thinking (AKA their own expertise) and preconceived notions about a particular challenge?
For example, here’s a quick exercise: Imagine if I told you we are going to open a “Car Wash,” and you were in charge of ordering the materials and machinery. What would be on your list? Well, you would probably say water, soap, brushes, dryers, towels, etc. But, what if I re- expressed our challenge as opening an “Auto Spa”? What goes on your list now? Barista? Masseuse? Calming Music? You get the idea…
Re-Expression opens up a whole new side of your brain, allowing you to attack challenges from an entirely different perspective. Start Re-Expressing your problems today, and see how this simple exercise can help you and your teams reach a whole new level of creativity!