Innovation or implementation? The one characteristic that connects the best

When it comes to innovation, the real estate industry can mostly be divided into two camps: those businesses that don’t innovate enough and those that spend too much time innovating in the wrong way.

However, between these two extremes, there exists a sweet spot in the middle, where only a small percentage of the industry sits and where you will find all of the country’s best and most profitable businesses.

One single characteristic these otherwise very diverse businesses share is that they understand the key to change and evolution is implementation NOT innovation.

In my opinion, in Australia, we have the most over-saturated real estate technology landscape on the planet – in relation to population, market size etc.

Being part of the world’s largest real estate brand gives us some insights into this.

One thing that’s clear is that tens of millions of dollars a year is targeted into our industry by ambitious tech platforms to facilitate our own innovation.

All the technical innovation will be dealt with by ‘them’ – those with the expertise, the resources and the budgets for research and development.

While for us? Well, we get the end product, the polished tool, if we play it smart.

Ultimately, it is the implementation of innovation, that makes a business better.

Entrepreneur, explorer and innovator Gus Balbontin has spent two decades helping businesses adjust strategies and services to better deal with changing markets.

By the age of 22, he had dropped out of university, hitchhiked South America, set up his first business and landed his dream job at Lonely Planet.

Fast forward a few years and he was leading the company globally and working with some of the biggest companies on the latest technology, creative cultures and high performing teams.

Gus suggests having a good balance between the “crazy” ideas from “crazy innovative people” and “realistic ideas” from “people who can feasibly make the ideas happen”.

This doesn’t mean real estate businesses should go out and hire ‘crazy innovative people’ for the sake of it.

Many don’t even have the resources to do so.

Rather, I suggest where that person does not exist in your business, become that person yourself, as long as you have the ‘realistic’ person in your team to help with the implementation as well.

Innovation has been defined as “action applied to unsolved problems to resolve them”.

In reality, innovation is just the ‘idea’ to solve unsolved problems. Implementation is the action that really resolves them.

Often, when we think about innovative ideas we think about the big, ambitious targets, which seem like they might be revolutionary for our business but often get put on the back burner until the ‘right time’ comes along.

Gus calls this “BIGGER, MORE, LATER”. We complicate, make things bigger and then end up “leaving them for later”.

He suggests the mindset should be “SMALLER, LESS, NOW”. Take the innovation, keep it simple, focus and start using it.

There is also power in admitting when your ideas have not worked.

Gus has a word: “explementation”, which you won’t find in a dictionary.

It means removing what you previously had in place. So, the opposite to implementation.

I believe that being very clear about how you will remove and change an existing process, system, software, etc as swiftly as possible is critical, rather than only looking at how easy and super quick the new thing is.

In our rapidly changing markets, and world, we have to acquire new knowledge quickly and at an ever-increasing pace.

We have to match the new with our past knowledge and experiences, and we have to make regular adjustments, all the while staying nimble, agile and flexible.

It is then that our business can join that rare middle group who expertly implement without unnecessarily innovating.

It’s also knowing how to manage change and evolution that sets the best apart.

Four key steps:

  1. Trial and track outcomes with ruthless consistency and ruthless honesty. What are the measures you can look at for success? What was the baseline before you made the change? How regularly will you check these? Who will be the person/group responsible for breaking these results down and deciding next steps? Stick to a consistent pattern. And be ruthlessly honest about the successes and failures (See point 4 for more on that!).
  2. Communicate WHY not just WHAT. Just telling everyone in your team that something is changing is not enough. Tell them WHY it is changing and make it clear that feedback and observations are welcome from all parties. Note: if you can’t easily identify the WHY…then maybe you’re not doing it for the right reason.
  3. Stick to your lane. Know your strengths and those of your team. Trust your technology partners and clearly agree on everyone’s responsibilities.
  4. Don’t be too proud to admit you stuffed up.

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Josh Davoren

Josh Davoren is the Operations Director for RE/MAX Australia.