What if we named a public school “We Imagine” or “We Change the World”?
I am working informally with a crack team at the large Poway Unified School District on two tracks: program design for a new K-8 to open in 2014, and an adaptive learning model to be piloted at the new school and then expanded district-wide…and beyond. Yesterday the question of the new school name came up. They are struggling with the dissonance of traditional convention and new concepts of learning. Here is part of an email I sent over this morning:
There are many definitions of value proposition. The one I think fits schools best is this: Value is the difference between what you say you are going to do and what you actually do, as viewed through the eyes of your customer. Every word of that definition is important! I tie value directly to vision: vision is what you say you are going to do, so value will only be enhanced if the customer makes that connection, and leaders need to do everything possible to facilitate that connection. Enter the school name: very visible in terms of “who we are and what we say we are going to do.” Like the mission and vision, the name is what customers will match against actual experience. If the name says “leadership” or “innovation” and the customer fails to recognize those actual experiences, the organizations loses value. It does not matter if you think you are embedding those threads in your program; what matters is the difference between expectation and experience by the customer. I would strongly suggest that the school name directly tie to the most important aspect(s) of the mission, in words, image, context, or all three. The second to last thing a truly innovative school wants is a traditional name, and the last thing a SUCCESSFUL school wants is a name that misleads in terms of value.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. How about in our name? Rather than naming schools after people of ridges or creeks, how about naming them after learning outcomes or passions or dreams?