Innovation. This word is stuck on every podcast, every New York Times best seller, and every c-suite executive’s bio. Sometimes it seems unattainable, reserved for the likes of Steve Jobs. Sometimes it seems like a participation trophy, hooray you updated! All joking aside, innovation is no less important.


Innovation is a great idea, executed brilliantly and communicated in a way that is both intuitive and fully celebrates the magic of the initial concept. – Pete Foley 


“Empathy is at the core of all innovation,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella 


So, how about innovation in real estate? There are many broker-owners that feel they are relentlessly competing for agents (recruiting and retention), for clients (transactions and referrals), for commissions (profit). We’re starting to label each other as disruptors and struggle to define the company’s own unique value.

Think of innovation as the way to success by competing against yourself.

Challenge the way your company has always done things. Are there ways to fulfill needs that you previously thought were ‘out of your hands’? How can you delight and engage your agents and your clients in different ways to build that unique value?

Why should you make time for innovation?

Well, like exercise, if you don’t set aside committed time, you aren’t likely to ever do it. If you don’t make innovating a part of your business goals, you aren’t likely to see sustained success. Put time in your day for listening, looking, and analyzing. Your competitors are challenging you because there’s something in your current practice that needs fixing; that needs to change.


Marc Davison from 1000watt, once tweeted: The real estate industry is broken. The abundance of innovation taking place by outsiders is fueled by the opportunities the torch bearers create for them by not fixing what’s broken. You need to get unstuck & start doing obvious things that you’re not seeing 2 protect ur future.(9:49 AM – 15 Jul 2019)


Making time for innovation is about making your brand #futureproof. Get unstuck, fix what’s broken, protect your future.


… but how?

How do you make time for innovation?

Take action. Like making time to exercise, you just have to start. Marketing Director, Meghan Cheeney, always refers back to a fantastic exercise from the Harvard Business Review. We’ve taken their process and specifically applied it to the modern real estate broker-owner’s concerns around recruiting. (Tip: you can use this for innovating in marketing, training, transaction management, any of your current workflows!)

imprev innovation exercise - step 1

First, either on your own or with a group of thought leaders in your brokerage, dedicate 15-20 minutes once a week to this exercise. Take a notebook or whiteboard and divide it into three columns. You’ll be asking and answering 3 questions to churn up innovative thoughts. Make a copy of each of the sessions answers and compare them over time.

Question 1:
What is the current way we recruit agents? What do we currently do to affect retention?

  • Jot down notes and phrases of your policies, key beliefs, assumptions, and practices.
  • Now, reflect on those phrases together and identify any that may seem obsolete, redundant, or old-fashioned.
  • Circle those obsolete or old-fashioned phrases. Then, move on to the second column.

Imprev - innovation exercise step 1

Question 2:
What are the outside forces that affect the way we recruit and retain?

  • Think about changes in the market, local or regional effects, new technologies/services/assets that are currently affecting our could affect your current practices.
  • Circle the forces that may seem to be the strongest or most impending. Then, move on to column 3.

Imprev - innovation step 2

Question 3:
What can we do about these disruptions?

  • Your internal disruptions (inefficient/obsolete/old-fashioned practices) and your external disruptions (market changes/new tech) are going to be the impetus for innovation.
  • Column 3 is where you’ll begin to develop the best ideas. When an idea starts to take shape during your meeting, circle it. This will be your new innovative project.

Imprev - innovation step 3

But the key part to innovation?

Just like handwashing: lather, rinse, repeat.

Harvard Business Review recommends doing this exercise weekly. By normalizing your approach to change, you open yourself up to be more creative. The ideas that come out of the first exercise attempt, may not be as grand as the second. Or, by the third exercise your team may realize that a disruptor that seemed important earlier wasn’t actually as forceful as they felt.

  1. Lather – Put forth energy and attention for a solid 15-20 minutes on this exercise.
  2. Rinse – Simplify your findings, wash the extraneous stuff away.
  3. Repeat – Do it again and again for healthy innovation.