Thoughts on Leadership: The Journey to Somewhere New

By Gino Blefari

This week’s travels took me first to Seattle for AREAA’s 2018 Global + Luxury Summit and next to T3 Summit in Miami, an invite-only think tank for leaders and executives in the residential real estate industry.

I was proud to attend AREAA’s event in Seattle with Peter Turtzo, SVP of international operations for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices; Rosalie Warner, SVP of network services for HSF Affiliates; Troy Reierson, HSF Affiliates director of business development; and Teresa Palacios Smith, HSF Affiliates vice president of diversity and inclusion. As Teresa says, our organization is working tirelessly to ensure that every facet of what we do mirrors the diversity we find in the marketplace. AREAA was an opportunity to enhance that mission through idea sharing, networking and learning about ways to elevate the standards of our industry.

Seattle was also an ideal setting for the conference, a city focused on technology and green-energy initiatives.

From Seattle, it was off to Miami and that flight is the longest non-stop commercial flight in the contiguous United States. The trip spans 2,724 miles and takes about six hours and 40 minutes to complete.

It felt fitting that I should embark on such a momentous and standout trip just before attending T3 Summit, which is itself one of the most powerful and thought-provoking conferences in our industry.

During T3, I was honored to serve on a panel about reconfiguring the traditional brokerage models, along with Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate; Charlie Young, CEO of Coldwell Banker; Nick Bailey, president and CEO of Century 21; Tami Bonnell, CEO of EXIT Realty; and Adam Contos, the new CEO of RE/MAX. Our panel discussed ways to reinvent the old brokerage model for a new era of real estate.

Additional standout sessions included a keynote about disruption by Frits Van Paasschen, former CEO of Starwood Hotels and Coors, and former corporate vice president and general manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa for Nike Inc. I also enjoyed a keynote from Stefan Swanepoel, founder, chairman and CEO of T3 Sixty about the most pertinent innovations affecting real estate today and an engaging presentation by Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED Magazine related to the topic of artificial intelligence.

If you’ve been following my Thoughts on Leadership blog posts and attended the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention this year, you’ll know the topic of artificial intelligence weighs heavily on my mind, so I found Thompson’s insights particularly fascinating. He explained how AI has—and will continue to have—profound impacts on every aspect of human life, from media consumption to sports reporting to privacy to real estate.

So, what’s the message? It’s one I considered this afternoon as I flew back across the country—from Miami to Phoenix—and it’s all about the journey we’re collectively taking toward an entire existence different from anything we’ve experienced before. As Thompson explained, artificial intelligence is coming at us (or to us) really, really fast. Consider the current wave of AI-enhanced voice assistants (Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and the like) and how they’re slowly but surely providing us with more and more customized information in a way that’s efficient and personal. Thompson reiterated the idea that we can’t ignore the onset of AI—it’s going to revolutionize our world whether we’re ready for it or not—but we can use it to better our society and world. As AI becomes not the future but the now, we must take strategic steps in our businesses to control the technology because no matter how innovative technology can be, it can never control us.

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