Perform a search on Google Images for Innovation and you’ll soon find your screen ablaze with colourful variations of shining electric light bulbs. How the incandescent light bulb came to be the universal symbol for innovation can be attributed to the transformational impact it had on society. Its inventor, Thomas Edison, had developed a safer, more effective, and in time, cheaper alternative to the gas and whale oil used to illuminate homes and businesses during the early 19th century. Interestingly, Edison’s arrival at the first practical design for the light bulb didn’t flash into existence in the same way that light bulbs themselves do. But it’s this instantaneity that has, over time, come to unfittingly symbolise innovation.
Rather than being just a fleeting instant of genius, innovation more closely resembles a serendipitous process that in some way evolves with that sudden moment of realization. The arduous process of failure and constant refinement that precedes it is far less appealing and easily overlooked, but is nevertheless fundamental to understanding how that climactic moment comes to pass, and ultimately, what innovation actually is.
It’s hard to let go of that romanticised image of a gifted inventor suddenly arriving at a light-bulb moment – that abrupt attainment of clarity and brilliance that seemed to come out of nowhere. But for better or worse, it’s that scene that everyone remembers, and is largely why innovation is often perceived as something beyond the grasp of the average person. The truth, however, is that innovation is a fundamental part of what it means to be human, and within reach of just about everyone. We need only remain mindful of what innovation is in its purest and simplest form – that is, the implementation of new ideas that create value. These three tenants of innovation are akin to the ingredients of the combustion triangle, namely heat, fuel, and oxygen. Remove any of them and there will be no fire. Similarly, fail to foster new ideas, implement them, and ultimately derive some form of meaningful value, and the possibility of innovation too will be extinguished.
The real value of fire lies in how we can put it to work on our behalf to further our objectives, and innovation is no different – only for pleasure do we create fire for the sake of it. Key to igniting innovation in your Real Estate organisation is understanding and agreeing on what matters the most to your business so that the process of innovation and everyone involved in it can be directed towards helping achieve success. Leaders asking for their subordinates to do innovative things without first conveying a clear vision of what success would resemble are stumbling at the first hurdle. Innovation needs to be in service of some greater strategic vision. Edison certainly meandered his way along the path that ultimately led to his success, but his objective remained steadfast – developing a more effective source of artificial light. Without that galvanized sense of purpose, those charged with innovating will direct their ambition towards what they perceive as most valuable, which is often not what is actually needed. In the words of Simon Sinek, we need to start with the why, which is the hardest part.
For many the concept of innovation is as abstract as love – fundamental to our long term prosperity but difficult to define and even more so to make a success of. It is only through first envisioning a favourable image of the future that we can look to strike out a path most likely to see us reach it. Thinking of innovation as a top-down human-centred process makes it somewhat easier to more tangibly comprehend. Like the script of a Quentin Tarantino film, knowing what the end should bring helps operationally-focused personnel formulate unique but restrained plans to achieve success while still affording them a large degree of creative autonomy.
At Open Box our purpose is to not only think outside the box, but to rather first understand what’s in our clients’ boxes so we can work together to creatively achieve what is most important to them. Understanding the why is the first step you should take in becoming more innovative as an organization, and we’d appreciate nothing more than to jointly embark on this journey with you.
Open Box works exclusively in the Real Estate market and has a deep understanding of the industry. We would love to spend some time with you and your team to help you take the first step towards creating an innovation strategy for your Real Estate organization to better harness the power of technology.