Attending conventions is analogous to drinking from a firehose. Earlier in the week during the Ideas Exchange Council, Joe Pryor provided a fascinating take on Virtual Brokerages, highlighting efficiency of work process, substantial financial savings and the importance of creating frictionless transactional processes.
He challenged the audience to really think about how much friction we create through our real estate processes, timelines and even our use or misuse of technology. Because, the more friction created, the greater the incentive to reduce it. In today’s world becoming a source of friction is analogous to being a target for elimination through the creation of a better option! Pertinent examples include: Amazon providing a better process for online orders and Zillow creating a national portal alternative for consumers to access neighborhood/community data and property information.
However, as I listened to Bob Woodward describe his role in the Watergate investigations during his Keynote presentation, I was struck by how much friction was a part of the process. Beyond the obvious friction of investigating a sitting American president, there was friction of ideas, values and notions about what was in the best interest of the nation.
The process of investigative journalism requires time – pursing sources who may not want to divulge information, sifting through stacks of information, trailing various leads, talking to all sorts of potential sources, interviewing, asking tough questions, arguing your case until you’re heard. And yet, what would our democracy be without the willingness to create massive amounts of friction when a cause matters?
Woodward gave an example of a young reporter whose version of journalism did not involve talking to sources, for in his words, it was possible to get everything he needed ‘off the Internet’. And that’s the challenge that faces our industry. To what extent will we lean on technology to the exclusion of real world contact in the pursuit of ‘efficiencies’ or/and what is the potential downside of taking grit and the friction in the process out entirely?
I think that one of the most interesting developments in our approach to protecting private property rights is the recognition that we need a more integrated collaborative approach with the consumers we serve. It is exciting to learn that more than 7 million consumers have indicated a desire (through signing up and providing contact information) to partner with REALTORS in protecting their largest financial investment. This shift is significant. We have always been advocates for homeowners property rights, but in a world of shifting alliances, partnership is much more powerful.
But, that brings me back to the friction thing. Partnership requires direct involvement. Not just the convenience of e-mail updates and press releases. It’s a far more nuanced engagement which requires varying levels of engagement and risks misunderstanding in the pursuit of a more perfect union. While technology must play a role in reaching massive numbers of people, relying on it as a sole or even primary source may come at the cost of truly releasing the power of synergy . Especially the synergy of 7 million and counting!
I hope that REALTORS remain thoughtful about the potential for a new way forward as we partner with consumers. I hope that we don’t drill down in data and find new ways to spam the public. I hope we continue to explore creative approaches to dialog and strive to attract and engage our audience with the tools of technology including videos. But, I also hope that we never opt out of old style campaigning which involves talking to people, listening at town halls, restaurants, libraries and in conversations on front lawns.. We can learn a lot from politicians, both good and bad. But, one thing is clearly observable from my vantage point…they rarely put all their eggs into one basket as they strategize to win the hearts and minds of people. And neither should we.