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Why your office needs a new name

Posted in the following categories: Life Lessons, Motivation

I’m in Lisbon this week to give a keynote, so I didn’t get a chance to whip up a brand-new post. So enjoy the updated version of this fan favorite from our newsletter archives!

There’s a room in our home that I’ve called my “home office” since we first moved in.

I had no good reason for the name—other than an “office” is what people conventionally call a room where work gets done.

But in my mind, an “office” is where good ideas go to die. An office conjures up images of cubicles, dreary meetings, and headache-inducing fluorescent lights.

I thought to myself, “What if a simple name change could transform this space—and my mindset?”

So instead of calling my room an “office,” I started calling it my “imagination lab.”

This name change didn’t just swap out a label; it injected a burst of excitement into the space. My workspace began to feel more like a playground—a place where creativity could run wild and brilliant ideas could spring to life.

To support the new vibe, I also added some fun symbols to my imagination lab—including figurines from Back to the Future, one of my all-time favorite movies. Marty, Doc, and Einstein serve as little reminders to approach my work with a sense of playfulness and adventure.

You might be wondering: What’s in a name? Who cares what a room is called?

Names matter—much more than you might assume. This is called priming. Just hearing or seeing a particular word can flip a switch in your brain and change your mindset.

And the importance of naming extends far beyond your office.

Don’t call it a “to-do list.” When I hear “to-do list,” I want to run, as far and fast as possible. Call it a playlist or a design list—a title that will delight you and pull you in.

Don’t call it a “status meeting.” Call it something that inspires the attendees to show up in a way that will move the needle—a visioning lab, an innovation studio, or an idea incubator.

Don’t call it the Senior Director of Operations. Call it the “Head of Getting Moonshots Ready for the Real World” (which was the real title of my friend Obi Felten when she worked at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory).

Don’t call your staff “employees.” It reinforces the notion of a top-down bureaucratic system where the employer tells employees—the cogs in the machine—what to do. Instead, take a page from Brasilata, an innovative can-manufacturing firm in Brazil.  There are no employees at Brasilata. There are only inventors—the title given to all staff. These inventors don’t just clock in and out—they sign an “innovation contract” and are encouraged to unleash their creative genius at work.

So, what’s in a name? Everything.

If you give it a conventional name, you’ll get conventional results.

But if you want unconventional results, pick an unconventional name that primes you for what you’re trying to achieve.

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