Are you really willing to change?

Reblogger . 4Terra Land Brokers .. 828-776-0779 Asheville NC
Real Estate Broker/Owner with REAL ESTATE RESOURCES & NETWORK 209970

Here from my Things to Consider series, a post that insists as ...Matthew writes that you think about this... At any time, a radical change could come to your business. Even your "different, local market." And possibly, change those things you consider "standards" and "right" and "successful" today.

And whether you think you can change with it, or you can't, you'll be right.

Original content by Matthew Ferrara

Henry Ford once said: Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.

Yesterday I posted a blog entry that challenged the conventional wisdom. If you want to find it, it's here. But let's not comment on it now. Whether you think I was right or wrong isn't the point today. But I thought you might be interested in what I think I learned from all of the comments. (If you are not interested, here's a really great posting on puppies.)

First, I want to thank everyone for their opinions. It's exciting to get your feedback. And for me, it was a treasure chest of information. Don't worry: I wasn't offended by anyone. My point really wasn't to convince you to stop using lockboxes. And as many of you pointed out, I'm certainly wrong (an idiot, foolish, and lots of other choice appellations) to even suggest it (:>).

Initially my point was to challenge the accepted wisdom on a particular way of selling real estate today. Many people use lockboxes, and it occurred to me that perhaps there was a contradiction in hiring a sales associate to sell my home (they are called sales associates by hundreds of companies) but then leave the "selling" up to third-party agents while my agent just did the "marketing." So I pointed out some inonsistencies and then offered some potential opportunities.

But it was heresy. Not "the way we do it today." And more than 225 people were certain to tell me so.

Which is why I say, thank you, again, for all of the feedback. It wasn't a marketing stunt or even planned to be such a good research project. But I think it turned out to teach me more than I could have imagined - and here's why:

What I do for a living is challenge the status quo. To explore and create opportunities for change. (And I even get paid to do it.) Our clients call us and say, Look, we've been doing this (sales/marketing/web/recruiting/training/whatever) this way for years and we're not getting the results we expected. And the first thing we find is that most of our clients do "what they do" because everyone else is "doing it." Often, the first stop on creating opportunity is to get off the "everyone does it this way" bus and look for a taxi... toward Change Street.

For those of you who have been in the business for some time, you know that the way "we do it today" wasn't always like that in the past. And you probably remember the "kicking and screaming" each time significant change came to the business. It is almost always accompanied by "everyone" quickly listing lots of reasons why the change shouldn't happen. In real estate, there's never a lack of reasons why something won't work.

So I guess some things never do change in real estate. :>

As the day wore on, and the comments rolled in, it became clear that something else was going on. It wasn't so much that people disagreed - a few admitted it might work "in certain special cases." Great! A few people posted they actually DID what I was suggesting. Cool. Most had handy counter-points ready to prove I was wrong, which was not unexpected. At the same time, however, there was a curious development in the conversation that crept even into the "civil" disagreements.

Suddenly, a lot of people tried to kill the messenger because they didn't like the message.

I'm not saying that I was "right" in my post. I mean, let's not overdo it - it's a blog posting! Some people are really dedicated to being "right" online - and their reaction is sometimes QUITE strong.

But as soon as the postings started with "this is foolish" and "Dude! Your advice is horrible!" I observed something unexpected happening. Something beyond objections to the heresies I offered. So I'd like to share them with you, because I think they will have some impact on how we grow and change in the the future as an industry:

1. With respect to a radical idea, the reaction over and over I heard people say was: "That just doesn't happen in reality." Even after others posted that it was exactly how they do it in their markets. The "realists" repeated - like an allergic reaction - the fact that it would never work because the opposite currently works. It sounded very much like people's initial reaction to big changes in the past (like buyer agency). It looked just like why some ideas are "resisted automatically" (like banking in real estate). Simply: No!

I think we should be concerned when our first (or common) reaction to a different idea is, "no, not here, no way." Not every radical idea will be right or work out, even when there may be some evidence of success. Yet instant "how can you possibly consider that?" reactions might blind us to possibilities - because they contravene established wisdom. Didn't the stock market crash remind us that past success is no indication of future returns? Hmm...

Again, it's not about "this" particular idea; but how we react to radical ideas at all.

2. The second observation that intrigued me was to watch a few people go right over the edge - into the ad hominem attacks - because it was easier to try to discredit than to disprove the ideas. Not everyone did this - and most people were really quite civil. But it was amazing to see enough personal-attack postings - like going back in time to the early days of threaded discussion forums and ListServ discussions. It indicates that the blogosphere hasn't overcome the "I'll write anything because it's online and I don't have to consider there's a person on the other end" dilemma. We see this in anonymous reader postings on news- or editorial websitees. It was eye-opening to see it done with people posting their real names.  Something happens online that is different than how we'd interact on the phone or in person to each other. And to ideas.

It isn't about respect or being offended; maybe it's about being gracious. But it's definitely a dark side of social networking - and it could cause GOOD ideas to be lost in the din of negativity. Far better researchers than I have watched this social phenomenon - see Lynn Truss's study in her book called "Talk to the Hand." Online, some hands only presented one finger in yesterday's discussion. We should consider what that means to our abillity as an industry to explore ideas.

It wasn't without humor, though: one discreditor attempted to scold me for suggesting outdated ideas, while her own website featured "front-page" news from March 2008. Hmmm... She was egged on, of course, by intellectual gems such as "Buuyeahhh!" from her cheering squad.

Oh well.

Now don't get the wrong idea: Don't jump to the comments box and accues me of trying to get in the "last word." Frankly, if you're selling homes with lockboxes, teleporters or a horse-and-buggy, good for you! Times are tough and if it works, do it.

Social networking is both a place to learn from each other - and to learn ABOUT each other. How people react to others and ideas online provides instructional lessons in gestalt-think and emerging social norms. A unique glimpse at how people navigate even "suggestions" of change.

We're entering 2009. And soon we will learn that many things we did last year may become "old news." Some things are going to change. Sacred cows will be slain. Refrigerator magnets will be demagnetized. Wall calendars replaced with Blackberries. Who knows what it will look like?

More importantly, how will you deal with it? There was a time before MLS. Before agency, before the Code of Ethics, before all the gadgets we rely upon today - even lockboxes. And while we're not going back to THOSE times, we are moving forward to NEW times where the possibilities are uncharted. History has shown us that uncharted territory often means many of the things we take as the "norm" today may disappear.

The comparables book did - and it was seen as a huge service leap forward. Gone today. RESPA could disappear; just another legal change, like the end of subagency in many states. NAR might collapse, as sagging-sales saps membership. Are lockbox companies or MLS systems "too big to fail"?

How we react to change - even the idea of it - may tell us more about how we'll adapt to the future than everything we are doing right today - or did for the last 25 years. And we may not get to be the ones to suggest the changes. Zillow didn't wait for REALTOR's to approve of its idea. Neither did HomeGain. Or Trulia. Nor alternate brokerage models, like Redfin or employee-based brokers. Many "radical" changes came - DESPITE everyone's defense of 'years of doing it this way.' No matter how "successful" the practice is/was.

At any time, a radical change could come to your business. Even your "different, local market." And possibly, chage those things you consider "standards" and "right" and "successful" today.

And whether you think you can change with it, or you can't, you'll be right.

Best wishes to all for a happy and successful 2009 - and beyond!

- Matthew



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