Naming things

"Over there, by the fire, is that a stick or a snake?"

It turns out that humans have been naming things for a long time. If we know that this is a cheetah, or a grapefruit, we can make intelligent decisions on how to deal with it.

Lately, though, we've been naming more than things. Now we classify ideas and opportunities as well.

Getting smart about naming is at the heart of marketing. Calling every single person a 'customer', for example, is hardly a nuanced way of engaging with the public. Salespeople are especially nuanced at this, but often make mistakes as well. Car salesman are notorious for misnaming women who walk in (spouse instead of primary decision maker).

As an investor, are you misnaming the businesses you look at, mistaking a cliff business for a bootstrappable idea? Dozens of book editors misnamed Harry Potter at first glance, labeling it a 'loser from the slush pile' instead of the most profitable book they were ever offered.

Job interviews are nothing but sessions where we try to put a name on a stranger looking for employment. Is she a superstar in the making or someone we ought to avoid?

Most of all, are you misnaming opportunities and calling them risks instead?

When you are isolated or if the world is stable, your need to name new things goes down, and the world might feel safer as a result. Most of us don't live in that world, so our ability to name things becomes critical.

Just because we're not good at it doesn't mean it's not important.