How We Decided: Why We Changed Our Name and the Process We Followed

July 11th, 2019

Our organization is called Alliance for Decision Education now.

Our original name was chosen thoughtfully. “How I Decide” was meant to evoke process-oriented decision making — emphasis on how it’s done. We wanted to set ourselves apart from groups that tell students what choices they should make. Our goal was to see students learn skills and tools that would help them achieve better outcomes in their lives that mattered to them. We packed those ideals into the name How I Decide. But as we grew we increasingly found that our name didn’t capture our mission or our message.

As a startup, we had a lot to learn and achieve. We worked on instructional approaches with students and teachers, determined staff roles we needed to fill, expanded our network, and produced a one-of-a-kind fantasy football program for students. We were focused on our mission, not our name. Based on our success, we realized we had to do more, which began a strategic pivot to build a national movement to ensure Decision Education is a critical part of every middle and high school student’s education experience.

Our shift in focus led to modernizing our website and logo. As we began the process, we wondered whether we needed not only a new website but a new name to better reflect our mission. We realized if our goal was to build a national movement around Decision Education, the time was right for a name change too.

As we started the name change process, I remembered an interview with Giles Martin, who remixed the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the 50th anniversary. His father George Martin produced the original, and outtakes from the recording sessions captured how the Beatles’ thinking about their songs evolved as they worked. For instance, they experimented with the idea of closing the album with a vocal harmony at the end of “A Day in the Life.”

The vocal harmony sounded silly, so they went with a much more powerful piano chord instead. Giles Martin remarked on this choice, “the reassuring thing about the Beatles is even they had bad ideas…I think, that, you know, anyone aspiring to be an artist out there, never be scared of a bad idea, just be scared of sticking with it.” A willingness to update one’s beliefs is a central part of becoming a better decision maker, so as we went through the name change process, it became a great opportunity to practice the decision skills we believe will help every K-12 student reach their full potential and have a better life.

Here’s an overview of how we applied some of the decision making skills that we promote as we worked on a name change:

  • First, we had to be willing to update our beliefs. We talked about staying open to gathering information about how people outside the organization understood the name. We didn’t allow ourselves to stubbornly stick to a name that meant something only to us.
  • Then, we identified our objective for a new name: making it clear what we do. Yet we still debated about including the phrase “Decision Education” in the new name. Would there be conflict with Decision Education Foundation, a respected program provider on the West Coast? We never considered ourselves competitors with anyone else working on this mission, so it didn’t bother us. Was the term unfamiliar? Yes, but Decision Education is the term we want everyone to be mentioning when they’re discussing what would be useful for their children and students to learn. We recognized that our name would be said and written often and could help promote the term.
  • We also recognized and resisted cognitive biases that could distort our thinking. Was the halo effect drawing us to some terms just because other groups we admired were using them? For my part, I even questioned whether the mere-exposure effect made me prefer “Alliance” because it looked similar to my first name. However, while there are many words we could have used to describe our nonprofit’s operations at a high level, “Alliance” seemed to best represent the spirit of bringing together lots of thinkers and doers to solve the problem of making Decision Education an integral part of the K-12 experience.
  • Finally, we imagined our future identity as Alliance for Decision Education. Would we feel proud to introduce the organization at a conference that way? Would it be easy enough to answer the phone with it? What about when any one of us was at a wedding and an acquaintance asked about our job? Would the name continue to be true to the wide-ranging work we hope to be doing in decades to come?

We knew that this was not the time to just go with the first catchy group of words that came to mind. Picking a new name was a decision that will impact our public perception indefinitely. So here we are: Alliance for Decision Education.

I hope you understand a little more why we changed our name, but more importantly the process we took to change our name. Now we hope you join us in this effort to transform our education system and transform lives. Join our movement. Sign our pledge. Follow us on social media. Learn more about Decision Education and how it can impact your life and the lives of millions of students and teachers. Tell us your stories of bringing Decision Education to your classroom, school or home. Be our ally, and do what you can to promote Decision Education.

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