The Dude Abides: A Lesson in Changing Your Company Name

codesion-cartoon-screen1-name-change

Folks, there is a battle underway between two sides of your brain, the left and right, for control of your destiny and ultimately your success.

Before I get to the topic of this article headline, let me explain what I mean by what I just said.

The left side wants to analyze, deliberate and break every task or goal into small steps from a-z, giving you a concrete view of the world. In other words, it’s a control freak. It is detail oriented and has an obsession with numbers or ROI. It desperately wants to micro-manage your life

Conversely, your right hemisphere is a free-wheeler, the life of the party, operates from the gut and is an instinctual, creative force that comes up with e=mc2 or a cure for penicillin. It is inconsistent, temperamental and prone to self doubt. But when those neurons fire it becomes a force of nature.

Actually, its a little more complicated than that but you get the picture.  Any neuroscientists reading this article will cringe after reading my opening paragraphs.  They consider the left-right brain discussion outdated and an overly simplistic representation of how the two hemispheres operate and communicate with each other.   For a wonderful insight into the neuroplasticity of the brain read “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” by Norman Doidge.

Even so, I consider the metaphor a powerful device in helping explain the direction that online digital content is currently flowing in.
So anyway, some of us are more logically inclined, natural problem solvers, while others revel in creative arts and flashes of inspiration.  A rare few balance both sides in a wonderful operatic synchronicity. In reality all of us tap both wells in different measures.

You know what I mean. You all have friends, family members or people you admire who seem to possess some physical or mental quality that astounds you.  Some natural innate ability which puzzle you, intrigue you or make you wonder what makes that person tick.  You may even observe that while they have this brilliant quality they are lacking in other areas. “Genius” is often flawed.

These ideas are wonderfully explored by Daniel Pink in his book a “A Whole New Mind.”  I will not explore all his ideas — why give everything away. Wait for my next book review on this subject!
Instead I will take the very dangerous avenue and reduce his entire book into one central theme. Are you ready? Here it is:

In the 21st Century The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) will become more important than a MBA in determining an individuals business and financial success. Thus, the MFA is the new MBA.

A strange statement indeed.   Here are a few other ways of expressing this idea:

  • A graphic designer will be more valuable than a programmer.
  • An artist will be more sought after than a engineer.
  • The right brain has become more important than the left brain

Now, don’t shoot the messenger just because your particular skill set or disposition is on the receiving end of these statements. These are not ‘absolutes’ but rather guiding principles for discussion.
For me, personally, the above can be expressed even better with this statement:

We are leaving the information age and entering the imagination age.

Mr Pink prefers to call it the “conceptual” age but I think “Imagination” is far more exciting word which expresses the age we now live in.

I think this is why General Electric adopted the slogan “Imagination at work” and why they expended a small portion of web development time and cash in building an online visual drawing tool or “WhiteBoard” which highlights their theme of collaboration and imagination.

If you have a few minutes to kill, draw a few doodles at Imagination Cubed.  It may seem trivial, but web applications like this demonstrate a subtle way of thinking, an indication that this behemoth if digitally “switched on”.

In another example, according to Dan Pink, General Motors, that close-to-death American Institution told him in an interview:  “We are in the arts and entertainment business, and we’re putting a huge emphasis on world-class design.”

If this line of thinking does not favor the more artistically inclined I am not sure what does. It is clear sign that the tables have turned and for the first time, in the modern era at least, the Artist may have the winning “financial” hand.

THE 20th CENTURY: AGE OF INFORMATION

The 20th Century produced the telegraph, telephone, computer,  algorithm and of course the most incredible instrument of all, the Internet. If one word sums up this century it must be “Information”.  Lots of it. Instantaneously from virtually all corners of the world.  It has also been disruptive.

Offshore jobs, remote workers and the migration from newspapers to digital publications has led to job loss on the one hand and cost savings on the other.

If you factor in the the role automation plays in eliminating labor costs and speeding up production you have a further acceleration of these contradictions in the system.

The information age while offering opportunities was also a little unfair. Things happened so fast you could be forgiven for taking a long vacation and hoping that the old world would be back in place by the time you got back.   It’s hard to swim in a digital rip current or a river that’s flooding its banks.

In this age the programmer, the accountant, the lawyer, stockbroker, the analyst and the CEO were the star actors.  They were the kingpins of industry. Their actions, ideas and labors were marked with success.    They were the natural winners of the growing information age.  Structured, sequential thinking allowed them to cut costs further, push jobs offshore and introduce automation to speed up product delivery.  Function overrode form, in many cases.

This churning process turned permanent employees into contract workers, forcing them to acquire their own health insurance.  They got pay cuts. They ended up working longer hours and shortening their yearly vacation time.

However, this process was necessary, there was no other way. We needed the left-brainers driving the system, removing the flaws and moving product creation towards zero defect (a myth, by the way).  We needed hard decisions based on “numbers”.

THE 21st CENTURY: AGE OF IMAGINATION

But, in 2010, things have changed.    In our new plug and play world where anyone, anywhere can be a filmmaker, a programmer, a graphic designer, a writer, or just about anything else, there is a new requirement: “Imagination”. Numbers are not enough. Sequential a-z thinking, while critical, is not enough.

This upheaval requires a new kind of thinker; one who sees the big picture and draws his art on a big international canvas.  It requires creative thinking to succeed in today’s marketplace. A visual resume instead of a text resume. A video blog instead of a business card.  An iPhone instead of a Blackberry.  3D Digital Television over 2D television.   Sure, some of these fads and will run out of steam, but the theme remains constant.
In all these examples there is an emphasis on the picture telling the story, not necessarily the words.   The bigger picture of course,  is that people want complexity hidden in the 21st century. They do not want to see thousands of numbers or a millions of wires and cables.  There should be one simple on/off switch with very few distractions.  The phone must be able to connect wirelessly to the router when there is no 3G/4G signal.  There is a renewed interest in maximizing “white space”on web pages.  In short, there is focus on utility and the actual requirements of the user or more precisely the “person”.
Of course, when the left-brainer reads this, his automatic response may be something like this:

Really? You really think that? That’s a hell of a statement… I hope you can back it up with some hard data… statistics, job growth numbers, etc? Anything?

In fact, if you read some of the Amazon book reviews of “A Whole New Mind” this is exactly what one of the readers wrote.  Technically, he is not wrong.  Pink’s book is short on statistics and large on examples.  So is this article.  But, then again I am reminded of a quote my boss sent me:

86% of all statistics are false.
The reason that makes us smile is because we sense the innate truth in this statement.  Numbers can be just as politicized as words.  Because we hear a smart person quoting a statistic or promoting a formulae we tend to think he must be right or know something we do not.

But, who remembers Einstein’s big “blunder”, the cosmological constant which he introduced to to modify his general theory of relativity and achieve a stationery universe?   Numbers can be, and are, often wrong. (News flash: There has has been some renewed interest in the value of the cosmological constant, but the jury is still out).

In fact, Einsteins greatest theoretical contributions came not when he was immersed in mathematical equations but when he pursued his “thought” experiments and physically imagined what it would be like to travel on a beam of light.

In later years, his theories became increasingly more dependent on complex mathematics (with some help from his friends) and he never achieved the same heights as he did when engaging the world — or universe — on a creative platform

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU WANT ME TO STORE MY SOURCE CODE WITH A COMPANY CALLED CVSDUDE

This brings me to the headline of this article. While using my left brain to engage in problem solving at work I was re-acquainting myself with a great product my web designer and web programmer use for software revision control.
This software-as-a-service also has a number of other security and backup features, but suffice to say it’s a great product with a very loyal clientele and I am currently considering upgrading from a Team Edition to their new more powerful Professional Edition.
So after searching for their company record in our internal CRM, Salesforce.com,  I found their details and clicked the company URL, planning to place a phone call shortly after reviewing their site.

However, I was mildly surprised when the home page greeted me with the company name “Codesion” and not “CVSDude”.  I was not too alarmed as companies do change names from time to time or get taken over by companies with bigger names and bigger pockets.

It took me a second or two to realize there was a graphical note just to the left of the CODESION banner which read: “Where’s CVSDude?

So it was the same company! Intrigued, I clicked through.
I was then presented with a comic strip story composed of four screens which outlined the origins of the name CVSDude, and, on screen three, offered an explanation of why they had set about killing it and coming up with the new name, “Codesion”.
It was great stuff.   Cleanly illustrated, nicely designed with short, sharp sentences that drove the key points home.   What I found most interesting (see screen 2) was the fact that they had asked their customers for feedback on the name.   This is a clear reference to “crowdsourcing” which has become the hallmark of such sites as Quirky.com and taps the “wisdom of the crowds” with regards product development.

A visual approach to explaining a company name change

Of course, this can go horribly wrong — the customer is not always right! — and you can end up with a giraffe not a racehorse.  I know, I have been down this road myself with company and personal sites that I have worked on.  When using this approach it is critical to identify the “thought leaders” to help streamline the process and give some sanity to the process.
It turns out some of their new bigger potential clients had issues dealing with a company called CVSDude. Although, I must say, in world full of Googles, Yahoos and RottenTomatoes.com I am not sure what the issue is.   In any case, for various reasons the name was changed.
Later, I made a call to CVSDude, I mean Codesion, to find out more points about my current contract and the benefits of the professional edition.
I was serviced by their extremely helpful and knowledgeable client services rep, Eillen Peralta who informed me:  “…The most negative feedback came from our older customers who started with us years ago and only had 2 developers using subversion at the time. Now, some of them have over 200 developers.  They were very attached to the original name CVSDude as they had grown up with the company”

It turns out the idea for the comic strip had come from her CEO Guy Marion, who wanted to illustrate graphically the origins and reason for the new name.  

In fact, the entire CVDDude, I mean Codesion, team brainstormed internally to come up the new name.   Marion wanted to capture this company dynamic and brand customer loyalty in visual manner.  According to Eillen, the comic strip was put together by a local artist based on Marion’s script.   The original founder (and current CTO) of CVSDude is Mark Bathie

I must make a point of finding out exactly who on my next phone call!

From what I can make out the comic strip has been a hit with long-standing customers and it must on some level be a great marketing “talking point” for the company.
The above is the perfect “illustration” of how to use right-brain creativity to generate a visual problem solving approach to a thorny issue for any company: Changing a company name.
They could easily have opted for a boring press release or some other traditional media avenue. Instead, their CEO sought to capture the hearts and minds of not only his customers, but also his team. They could have gone further, using viral video or social networking to complement the approach, but I guess there are limits to any marketing campaign, whether it be time, money or energy.

Now, having said all this I am sure there was a lot of internal politics over both the name and the direction of the comic strip.  What you see in public is seldom the real truth behind closed doors where some personalities are more dominant than others  and personal rivalries rule.

But, in general, they have done a very good job in winning me over to their name change and corporate philosophy.

Breaking news: Codesion have also informed me of an upcoming Webinar relating to new deployment features for their Codesion Publisher module. I will try to make a point of attending that and learning more about this product, including the Professional Edition.

(Author Note: By the way, for the very few of you who did not pick this up, the tag line “Dude Abides” comes from one of my favorite movies of all time, The Big Lebowski.)

DRESSED TO KILL

I think you will see more of these kinds of approaches to traditional problems in both marketing, software and hardware.  For quite some time Google has explored visual themes for  its Logo, cleverly exploiting calendar events to dress up its brand name.    You can review some of their famous attempts over at Google Doodles

This visual approach has also found its way into the arcane world of web analytics including Visitoville which represents web traffic as cars, taxis, buildings and airplanes.
Even Customer Relationship Managers (CRMs) are not exempt.  Companies such as 37Signals, traditionally known for their project management software, have introduced entry-level CRMs which focus on simplicity and rich design to guide the user gently through the screens.  This ‘simplicity’ may prove the undoing of bigger bloated systems such as Salesforce.com, which although powerful, are becoming increasingly complex to manage.

On a more humorous note, perhaps the explosion of silicon breasts in Miami is another reflection of how important (and perhaps dangerous) the pursuit of design excellence has become.  It can also completely overshadow logic or rational thinking!

In closing, hats off to the new right-brainers influencing the digital realm.  For the first time in history (well,  at least in the modern age perhaps) it’s “Artists” who will become the majority shareholders of the 21st Century and maybe that’s not a bad thing.

11 Responses to “The Dude Abides: A Lesson in Changing Your Company Name”
  1. jan bathie 3 July 2010 at 12:54 am #

    Hi
    What an amazing article! As it turns out I have read the book “The Brain that changes itself” and found it one of the most interesting and informative books that I have read. I have tried to to use it to inspire and encourage someone very dear to me with some success.
    Codesion{cvsdude) is also very close to me and I know the genuine conflict that occured (in the brain) in the process of the name change and am so pleased that all is well with the company.
    Once again congrats on your article as you are questioning the way we do things and that can only lead to productive progress.

  2. admin 3 July 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    Hey Jan — I am glad you enjoyed the article. The whole field of neuroplasticity fascinates me and shows that even age cannot stop your brain from ‘growing’. If you would like to share further thoughts on the ‘struggle’ in repositioning the brand name please go ahead, I would be very interested :).
    I am also glad to meet somebody else who has read the ‘Brain That Changes itself’ — it was an amazing read and can be applied – quite literally — to overcome any mental, physical or emotional obstacle. I think technology (information) and conceptual thinking (imagination) will speed up new findings in this area. Congrats on a great product by the way.

  3. Guy 7 July 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    Jason – thanks for the thoughtful article – we’ve had some fun shooting it around the office! Changing our name from CVSDude was never going to be easy, and was going to generate positive & negative press regardless. So the comic strip provided a way to ease the news to our long-standing customers who love the Dude (as many of us internally do), but if provided insight into our rationale, would (hopefully) back our decision to get a little more formal. In the end, we went for a “controlled-crowdsourced” approach – we didn’t have the time or resources to arrange an open free-for-all, but we were able to seek input from a broad and representative group of customers and stakeholders. We’ve had lots of positive feedback, and the entire transition (Jan 2010) went as smoothly as possible.

    And I agree- online comics are an under utilized medium for online communication. We all love them – and will read them…expect to see more from us! – Guy

  4. polarffour 12 July 2010 at 10:16 pm #

    I wanted to say that it’s nice to know that someone else also mentioned this as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere. This was the first place that told me the answer. Thanks.

  5. watch An Invited Guest 13 July 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    I feel more people need to read this, extremely beneficial info.

  6. insurancebuild 14 July 2010 at 1:37 am #

    Nice one, might come in handy in the near future

  7. Loan Modification 16 July 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    Excellent content. Thanks for posting.

  8. dryncTaurdy 25 July 2010 at 2:08 am #

    I enjoyed reading your blog ~ thanks for posting such awesome material.

  9. Newton Obrecht 26 July 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    A friend of mine told me to check out your blog. This is precisely the kind of facts I was digging for. I wish I have come across your website earlier.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. From CVSDude to Codesion « Advocato Diabolo - 07. Jul, 2010

    […] Jul Here’s a link to an interesting piece by Jason Stevens on our changing work landscape, and on how my mates at […]

  2. The Transformation: My Tribute Video to the Audi-R8 Catamaran | Jason Stevens - 15. Jan, 2011

    […] few months ago I wrote an article called The Dude Abides: A Lesson in changing your company name where I argued that the designer or artist has the upper hand in the 21st Century; not the […]

Leave a Reply