Shiva, The Destroyer

We worship creativity.  In describing a business, a leader, a product, or a service, I can think of no higher praise than to say it is creative, or visionary, or innovative.  Whether in marketing, or technology, or business process, or a blogpost, all of us admire creativity, strive for creativity, and think about creativity.

The real estate industry in particular has a love-love relationship with creativity.  NAR has its Game Changers, Inman has its Connect Create developer challenge, companies are lauded for their innovations, individuals praise for their creativity in using social media for real estate business (or whatever new creative thing they’re doing).

What I wonder about today is whether people truly worship creativity, or pay lip service to it.  Do you really want innovation?  Are you sure you’re prepared for what creativity means?  Are you certain that you want creativity in your life, in your business?

The Hindu deity Shiva is often said to embody destruction and regeneration, like the forest fire that clears out the dead leaves and old growth to enable new shoots to emerge.  To embrace creativity and innovation, then, is to embrace destruction.  Are you ready?

Destruction, Harbinger of Creativity

Something proponents of creativity rarely consider, and even more rarely mention, is that destruction is the prophet of creativity.  Meaningful creativity is not always an incremental good for everyone.  There are often losers when something creative appears; indeed, destruction of the existing order is often a pre-requisite for creativity.

This post on Orgpreneur.com scratches the surface of the creative destruction:

Innovation solely through growth is inherently unsustainable. At some point all organizations hit a plateau. Those that never bothered to learn how to stop something go from radical growth to radical stagnation.

Most of us assume that creativity can only help us, can only make our lives better somehow — like adding an iPad to our repertoire of gadgets.  But there’s a very good chance that the iPad will destroy the netbooks market, as the iPod destroyed the portable MP3 player market.  And before the iPod could even become reality, CD’s and digital music had to destroy the world of analog tapes and LP’s.

As one thinks about the real estate industry over the past several years, doesn’t the term “radical stagnation” fit perfectly?

Economists talk about ‘creative destruction‘ as the engine of long-term growth in capitalism.  The new kills the old, as automobiles killed the buggy whip manufacturers, as digital photography killed Polaroid, as the web and social media are killing newspapers.

It may be that true innovation requires destroying something else.  What are you prepared to destroy?  For that matter, are you prepared to be destroyed, as innovation marches on?

Real Estate and Destruction

So one question might be, what are the sacred zombie cows in real estate that need to be killed off, in order to unleash creativity?

Or thought of another way, when you look at the innovations in the industry today — whether mobile apps, CRM technologies, social media, RPR, or whatever — you might ask, “What part of the industry does this innovation destroy?”

If the answer is “none”, then that thing, whatever it is, is not innovation.  It is, rather, incremental improvement; a marginal gain in efficiency.  It isn’t the automobile, but faster horses.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing.  Maybe incremental change is all that we need.

But if not, if what is required to deal with the tectonic shifts in consumer behavior, consumer expectations, nature of the business, and all of that is real innovation… then ask yourself, are you ready for the destruction?

-rsh

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  • C.

    All of your example of the new destroying the old could be placed under the heading of “digital destroys analog.” The fundamental change, the revolutionary change, is transferrences of information into a medium which is infinitely, perfectly replicable, and thus very close to free. When information is embodied, it is limited, and because it is limited, carries inherent value — $10 bucks for a CD, $7.99 for a beach book, $0.10 a copy. $5,000 for an annual industry report on, say, coal production and reserves. When information is digitized, that value is nearly obliterated.

    Real estate, as an industry, blends two catagories of value — expertize and service. The consigliere and the concierge. It used to have three — experitize, service, and a monopoly on data. So the real question facing the industry is how much of the commission was for the monopoly on information, how much for the expertize, and how much was for the convenience of service? All are threatened by digitization — because the less of a PitA it is for me to find out what's for sale where I want to live and how much it's selling for, the less I'm going to want to pay someone else to do that for me. But the monopoly is destroyed. When the MLS was a book on a desk somewhere, the information in it was very valuable indeed….

  • robhahn

    Thanks for the comment, C. :)

    “consiglieri and concierge” — love that! going to steal that for something else in the future.

    BTW, I did mention “automobile replaced the horse-and-carriage” :)

    So question is, with digitization of information breaking the monopoly on information, as you've put it, what gets destroyed?

    -rsh

  • http://www.orgpreneur.com David Gammel

    Nice post and thanks for quote/link. Obviously in agreement!

    Clayton Christensen's books on innovation effectively lay out the imperative for self-disruption.

  • http://www.Kens411.com Ken Brand

    No kidding, somewhere and everywhere, then, now and tomorrow. I try to stay nimble, but maybe all that means is when the bus hits me, I won't be blindsided. Instead, I'll see it coming, just before I get creamed.

    Then again, maybe I can figure out a way to be the bus driver?

    Cheer Rob.

    PS. C., yeah, this is a cool turn of words: “The consigliere and the concierge.”

  • http://www.secretagent.com.au Paul Osborne

    Really powerful post.

    “What part of the industry does this innovation destroy?” If the answer is “none”, then that thing, whatever it is, is not innovation”

    I think that is the pivotal part of the article. So much of what the Real Estate industry sees as being innovative, is in fact not so.

    The ones such as RedFin, whether you love them or hate them – seem to be a model that is causing a form of disruption.

  • http://www.orgpreneur.com David Gammel

    Nice post and thanks for quote/link. Obviously in agreement!

    Clayton Christensen's books on innovation effectively lay out the imperative for self-disruption.

  • http://www.Kens411.com Ken Brand

    No kidding, somewhere and everywhere, then, now and tomorrow. I try to stay nimble, but maybe all that means is when the bus hits me, I won't be blindsided. Instead, I'll see it coming, just before I get creamed.

    Then again, maybe I can figure out a way to be the bus driver?

    Cheer Rob.

    PS. C., yeah, this is a cool turn of words: “The consigliere and the concierge.”

  • http://www.secretagent.com.au Paul Osborne

    Really powerful post.

    “What part of the industry does this innovation destroy?” If the answer is “none”, then that thing, whatever it is, is not innovation”

    I think that is the pivotal part of the article. So much of what the Real Estate industry sees as being innovative, is in fact not so.

    The ones such as RedFin, whether you love them or hate them – seem to be a model that is causing a form of disruption.

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