Close to my Chinese roots, my mother put in a lot of effort to find my Chinese name, it means the bell that rings at dawn because I was born pre-dawn. Embeded in my name is my mother’s hope for me. Wisdom, riches, beauty, fame, peace are the typical aspirations. Every Chinese knows this tradition, and in some families, we even choose characters that reveal your position in the family tree.
Yet when it comes to getting an English name, many Chinese/ Taiwanese / Hong Kong Chinese would choose names like Noodle, Rock etc and we puzzle at the quirkiness.
Not so, a young British girl. Beau Jessup. She is making more than $300,000 and funding her way through college by naming Chinese babies. As founder and CEO of Special Name, a website designed to provide Chinese parents with culturally appropriate English names for their babies.
How did she come up with the idea?
Jessup was inspired to start the business in 2015, when she was just 15. She has since named a total of 677,900.
Empathise- A chance encounter
Jessup was traveling with her father in China, when a business contact, a Mrs. Wang, asked for help in naming her three-year-old daughter.
Where are the pain-points?Constraints can be opportunities
“Due to language barriers and internet censorship in China, the ability to research English names can be limited, often resulting in unfortunate and sometimes comical selections”, Jessup noted.(Source: http://flip.it/BN0YJM)
Prototype: A minimally viable Idea
Back home, Jessup hired a freelance web developer to build a Chinese language website for the Chinese community. Meanwhile, in her spare time, she filled a database with more than 4,000 boys and girls names, attributing five characteristics that best represented that name, such as honesty and optimistism.
Ideate – create choices
The website uses algorithm to generate the names. It also allows collective decision making by encouraging users to share the three name suggestions with their friends and family via a direct link to Chinese messaging app WeChat on the site — to help them settle on their favorite and avoid any “cultural mistakes.”
Travel, Empathise, Talk to locals
Beau Jessup’s idea came about because she is a bridge to a diverse network. How many English speaking Chinese can do what she did? Many.
Sometimes, a simple idea is waiting to be discovered.
Go out and talk to people. Empathise with their constraints and see if you can help solve their problems in a win-win way.
Network for ideas
University of Chicago sociologist Ron Burt has referred to this sort of networking as bridging a gap between different social networks.
Burt studied 673 managers in a large U.S. electronics firm and found that those managers who had a broader network of contacts were consistently rated as generating more highly valued ideas.
Their access to diverse, often contradictory information and interpretations gives them an edge when it comes to spotting and developing good ideas.