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How to Speak Human by Jennifer Jackson, Dougal Jackson

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An illustration shows a rose kept beside a photo frame with photo of a man and a woman and text written below ‘in loving memory’.

NamesThe undeniable sweetness of a well-chosen name

It’s somewhat ironic that Shakespeare, a man whose reputation is tied to words, penned the line ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’. In our old pal Willy’s play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet indulges in a good old-fashioned soliloquy to convince herself that it doesn’t matter that Romeo has the surname ‘Montague’. She insists his name makes no difference, even if it is the name of her family’s arch-enemy.

Almost everyone knows how things worked out for those two loved-up optimists, but the real tragedy here is that this line has been parroted for the better part of 400 years whenever someone wants to belittle the importance of a name.

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet …’

No! The play’s ending alone negates the argument, but research also proves Juliet was wrong. Names do matter. They influence the way we think about and remember things. They define and shape relationships.

Over the past 15 years we’ve helped name numerous programs, initiatives and events. One we recall particularly easily was renaming the very literal, and decidedly unmemorable, Systems Meeting. The event brought hundreds of leaders from around the globe to plan for the next five years. This came at a considerable cost, with high expectations for a return on investment.

Such names are all too familiar. Drivers Manual, Leadership Summit ...

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