By Gino Blefari
This week my travels find me first in Northern California and next in San Antonio, where preparations are underway for the 2018 Sales Convention, which commences Sunday, March 4. Our theme this year, as you know, is innovation, and I’m honored to be delivering a keynote speech about the definition of innovation and the ways in which innovation is—and should be—ever-present in our businesses and lives.
As a preface to what I’ll soon be saying onstage, one of the main questions I’ll seek to answer is how we as an organization can strike the appropriate balance between high-tech and high-touch to propel our brokerage network and its members forward. How can we juxtapose an ever-evolving digital landscape with a growing renaissance to connect beyond the computer screen and the smartphone to add much-needed humanity back into our personal interactions?
It’s interesting to think about how we can align our core values at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices—trust, integrity, stability and longevity—with this current information age of social media, big data and artificial intelligence. Innovation, I believe, is mistakenly coupled with technological advancements but really that’s not what the term encompasses. As Merriam-Webster defines it, innovation is actually “the introduction of something new.”
Can that new thing be an app? A system? A software enhancement? Of course. But it can also be a new way of thinking, a new ideology and a new philosophy that exists solely within our minds, offline and away from the glare of a laptop or iPad. Innovation might mean a new way to engage on Facebook just as it might mean a new way to engage as human beings in society. That’s why I’m happy we chose “innovation” as our theme. It’s broad reaching and a bit misused.
In real estate, the false application of innovation—as a strictly technological term—is troubling, especially for an industry focused on human interaction and genuine connection. (There’s that high-tech mixing with high-touch idea I referenced earlier.) Innovative technology should enhance and optimize our engagement with others but it should never, ever replace it. Artificial intelligence should bring us closer to the consumers who we can help buy or sell homes but it cannot be the very thing that buys or sells the home for them.
No matter if we come into contact with a prospective client on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat or through a YouTube video, we still have to meet and allow them to see in us the fundamental values—trust, integrity, stability, longevity—that are at the cornerstone of our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand. An app cannot sympathize with a stressed-out first-time homebuyer. An app will never be able to negotiate passionately on behalf of a seller or express how beautiful the morning light pours into the newly renovated kitchen of a home for sale.
So, what’s the message? When you think about innovation, I hope your mind doesn’t wander to a scrolling screen replete with tweets and photos. I hope you understand innovation as an ever-evolving process to create a better consumer experience that’s trustworthy, effective and real. Technology must work in our favor but it cannot surpass the greatest value we bring to the real estate industry: Us. But more on all that when I speak in San Antonio …