Speaking at the REinnovate conference, a tech-enriched conference for agents held at Sydney's The Star in early April, The New Inventors’ James O’Loghlin emphasised that innovation is not always the result of a stroke of genius – it is a process that everyone can implement to improve their business. Here, he provides a series of steps and strategies for how to master that process.
Speaking to a roomful of real estate agents at REinnovate 2016, Mr O’Loghlin noted that in light of the rapid development of technology, it is foreseeable that in the not-too-distant future, vendors may have the option to sell homes without agents.
In response to this very real possibility, he said to agents: “Rather than assuming 'they're always going to need me' – when they actually don't need me – how am I going to make them want me anyway?"
“How am I going to demonstrate that I’m still valuable even when they have another option?”
This is where innovation comes in.
But how to be innovative?
“Being innovative isn’t a skill you’re born with; it’s a set of steps you can go through,” he says.
Set time aside to think
Despite the increasing digitisation of the real estate industry, Mr O’Loghlin emphasises that “innovation doesn’t begin with the computer – it begins with someone having an idea”.
The first step of the innovation process, he says, is to set time aside to think of ways to take advantage of opportunities or to solve problems.
He emphasises that it’s important to integrate this thinking time into the work day.
“If you spend 100 per cent of your time doing today's work and none of it thinking about how you can be ready for 2020, you might be over-prioritising today at the expense of tomorrow,” Mr O'Loghlin says, suggesting that opportunities for innovation can be found by identifying things that can be improved.
“Every time an interaction doesn't go perfectly, it's an opportunity for you to step back and think, 'what did I do wrong there? how can I do better next time?'
“As you go through your normal day, make a list of everything you identify as not being perfect – a list of opportunities for innovation.
“Then take some time each day – just five or 10 minutes – pick one, and think about how to do it better.”
Break out of habitual thinking
Mr O’Loghlin also highlights that habitual thinking is “the enemy” of innovation and encourages agents to implement strategies to step back and find opportunities to make their businesses better.
One strategy he recommends is to “question everything in your business”.
“What assumptions are you making, and are some of them outdated? Try and identify them all, go through them and think whether some could do with a bit of tweaking,” he says.
Reframe the question
Mr O’Loghlin also notes that at times you may find it difficult to find a solution to a problem in your business.
If this is the case, he recommends taking a step back to consider 'What’s the next best thing?' and offers the example of attempting to generate more leads through your website.
“Maybe the next best thing is just to get more people on your website and encourage them to hang around for a bit longer. Now that’s a lot easier," he says.
“You can put interesting content in there – content that’s relevant for buyers and sellers of houses. Get good content that will get people to spend a bit more time on your website. And the longer they spend, the more likely it might be that eventually they get in touch.
“Look for ways where you start to pull the question down to something less ambitious,” he says.
Think like a customer
Finally, according to Mr O’Loghlin, part of identifying and taking advantage of opportunities for innovation is to “think like a customer”.
“Make sure you do it regularly,” he says. “Make sure you really go through the process of being a customer, interacting with your website, with your own business as a customer and find out what things aren’t great and where the little pinch points that you can improve on are.”
Thinking like a customer helps to identify opportunities to improve their experience, he says.
Click below to hear more about how to “put yourself in your customers’ shoes” in a real estate transaction: