Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Conferences, Seth Godin, Tap Dancing

It's interesting:  This morning I sent an email out to a large group.  The number of "Out of Office" automated replies was surprising in some ways but in other ways it wasn''s just indicative of how much traveling people are still doing (or are they?).  Yes, this time of year there are all kinds of conferences and while the bean-counters in many firms have clamped down on travel expenses, when there's a "Must Attend" conference or meeting, people still should be permitted to go.  Our industry manages gazillions of dollars of money invested in real estate, much of it wisely invested for the benefit of retired people who are counting on getting their monthly check (I wonder what that would be like!).  Anyway, to seriously limit those folks that are managing that money from attending any/all conferences that they believe are important to them doing their job properly (and learning something along the way that may help them do their job even better) seems to me to be penny wise and pound foolish.

Some of my takeaways from one of the most stimulating sessions I've attended in quite a while given at the CBRE Americas Summit last week by Lara O’Connor Hodgson:

  • What happens when what we know gets in the way of what we notice?
    • “Why” is what you notice.
    • “What” is what you know.
  • We stop asking “Why?” because we're afraid to let people know that we don’t know something.
  • Be a contrarian
    • What would I never do?
  • Defiance
    • That won’t work-so how can I make it work?
  • Creative Reconstruction
    • Break down your assets/challenges and take each one away
  • Scenario-based thinking
    • Where would we never look?
  • Laughter at an idea means something is working
  • Innovation: look at a place completely differently and apply it to your industry
  • Quotes from Dr, Jonas Salk (Polio Vaccine):
    • “The answer is the question.”
    • “Ask the right question to find the answer.”
    • “You don’t invent the answer; you reveal the answer.”
  • Fostering Innovation in Real Estate
    • To succeed consistently over time you must understand key trends and time their activities accordingly
      • Creativity:  the ability to look at the same thing as everyone else but see something different
        • within 8 seconds of creating an idea, someone will tell you there’s something wrong with it-often it’s yourself.
          • Suggestion: Wait 8 seconds before commenting/criticizing
    • Real estate:  we literally change the world (buildings, cities, etc)
      • We commoditize our projects.  So, if we change our thinking.....(i.e.  we think about how to get 10 cents more per square foot, etc).
        • What drives value?
        • What is unique”
          • Don’t commoditize your product.
  • Success vs. Significance
    • Success is finite
    • Significance is infinite
      • If you’re focused on success you’re not thinking big enough.
  • Innovation is driven by noticing human behavior.
  • Your greatest solutions happen when you lack resources.
  • If you quit with the first “No” you may be asking the wrong question.
    • Don’t be afraid of coming back with another, “Why?"
  • Force your brain not to be you!
    • Your customer is not you-you have to get into their heads to understand their challenges/problems before you can come up with a solution
  • Figure out who does something well-what makes them own their industry-and apply it to your business
  • Look in places you’d never look-that is where innovation is-not at your competitors.
  • In a down economy no one is talking-you can sneeze and get noticed.”
  • Einstein:  “The world we live in today has problems that cannot be solved by old thinking

Seth Godin is a very interesting guy.  I was first introduced to his writing via one of his books called, "The Purple Cow."  He describes himself as a writer, speaker and agent of change.  I subscribed to his blog earlier this year and have found certain of his writings resonate with me.  He publishes every day and one from this week I share with you as I thought many of you would get something out of this:

Open Conversations or Close them.  
  • A guy walks into a shop that sells ties. He's opened the conversation by walking in.
  • Salesman says, "can I help you?"
  • The conversation is now closed. The prospect can politely say, "no thanks, just looking."
  • Consider the alternative: "That's a [insert adjective here] tie you're wearing, sir. Where did you buy it?"
  • Conversation is now open. Attention has been paid, a rapport can be built. They can talk about ties. And good taste.
  • Or consider a patron at a fancy restaurant. He was served an old piece of fish, something hardly worth the place's reputation. On the way out, he says to the chef,
  • "It must be hard to get great fish on Mondays. I'm afraid the filet I was served had turned."
  • If the chef says, "I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your meal..." then the conversation is over. The patron has been rebuffed, the feedback considered merely whining and a matter of personal perspective.
  • What if the chef said instead, "what kind of fish was it?" What if the chef invited the patron back into the kitchen to take a look at the process and was asked for feedback?
  • Open conversations generate loyalty, sales and most of all, learning... for both sides.

On Sunday I happened to catch the last half of "Dirty Dancing" on TV.  What a great movie.  How sad that Patrick Swayze died so young (57) another victim of cancer.  Watching that movie got me on to Youtube.  Many years ago, I worked for a company where one of the administrative assistants was the daughter of the famous dancer, Honi Coles (who also had a role in Dirty Dancing).  Check out this great dance routine.  Sad also that tap dancing like is from an era long gone. 

Congratulations to Paul Anthony DiCarlo who has joined Rockrose Development in the acquisitions group and Yokasta Baez who joined Pantheon as Vice President, Global Client Services in New York.  She was most recently with AXA Private Equity.

San Francisco Event:  Larry Souza, a very insightful guy is presenting the conclusions of his deep research project on real estate finance and capital market research, which includes monetary and fiscal policy analysis, public administration and political science, political economy and philosophical analysis.  It's on Tuesday, October 18th at 5:30-6:30 pm at Golden Gate University (536 Mission Street) in San Francisco, in Room 6208.  Larry says "You are all invited."

On the road....

Oct. 17-19:  Chicago for the PREA Fall Conference
Oct. 20:  Boston
Oct. 20-21: New York 
Oct. 24-28:  On the road...destinations TBD
Nov. 1-3:  Washington, DC to attend the CRE Annual Convention
Nov. 4-11:  New York including moderating a panel including at the PERE Forum
Nov. 15:  San Francisco to moderate a panel for JPMorgan.

These are my views and not that of my employer.

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