Real estate industry innovation…some considerations

What is innovation? How does one recognize it? Will I know it when I see it?

Wikipedia says:

The term innovation means a new way of doing something. It may refer to incremental, radical, and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations. A distinction is typically made between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully.

Here’s a Booz, Allen & Hamilton book review of “The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation” (Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, authors) that offers an interesting perspective:

The authors disapprove, for example, of the widespread American practice of benchmarking, in which companies keep a scorecard on their competitors’ business practices to stay a step or two ahead of them. This, the Japanese would say, leads to incremental improvement, not to true creativity or knowledge creation. In a Japanese company, knowledge is thought to be internally generated from basic principles laid out by top management, then improved on by brainstorming from within the ranks and finally some amount of feedback from external sources.

A U.S. use-case example of the above is the development of the 3M Post-it note:

The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company…gives its researchers time to play around in the lab and then to “socialize” knowledge by using the office as a beta-testing site. Co-workers were skeptical when one researcher passed around his innovation, little pads of sticky-backed yellow paper. But the Post-it was the future, and it worked.

This line of reasoning resonates throughout Rob Hahn’s post insurgent marketing: as the main brand players in an industry focus on carpet bombing their competitors, insurgent type marketers exploit weaknesses. Similarly, Seth Godin touches on this concept when he references “heretical marketing.” Finally, Matthew Ferrara hits on this concept too.

Innovation cannot be trained, but it can be fostered in terms of firms encouraging the development of creative knowledge environments (the 3M example above is illustrative of this). What are you doing to foster innovation in your firm?

Photo credit: IH (40)

List of social web resources 5-21-2009

Metrics
Here is a great primer on RFM analysis, which I believe has applicability to social media marketing. The foundation of RFM is something that can drive the establishment of engagement metrics as well as allowing marketers to do a better job at managing the social media marketing channel.

Social media
Scoop44, an online “newspaper” founded by college students, received a two-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (nice to see the support of online journalism pure-plays; eventually we likely will not even make the distinction). This site is a nice blend between traditional reporting and new media functionality.

General coolness
Anyone interested in exploring and discussing graphic design issues should consider visiting this site. It’s an excellent compendium of thought-provoking topics and trends related to graphic design. Cutting through social media chatter will depend more and more on effective design to engage people once they’ve stepped past the social media veneer.

Consumer centric disruption

Thank you to Nic Brisbourne and his The Equity Kicker blog for (a) highlighting an intriguing video of UK journalists debating the veracity and viability of blogs and (b) pointing out an excellent presentation on the Customer Development Model. Both offer some tasty take-aways.

I find the debate curious. Universal McCann’s 2008 Wave 3 study points out (page 22) that 17.8 million people in the UK have read blogs; this 17.8 million represents 32.1% of the total 16-54 population (in comparison 60.3 million people in the US–33.2% of the total 16-54 population–have read blogs). It seems to me–based on the anecdotal comments of the UK journalists in the video–that UK traditional news media has metaphorically walled itself up and studies blog culture with a telescope, as opposed to latching on to the interesting facets of blogs that attract readers and then combining these facets with traditional journalistic norms and ethos (during the debate some very sound and rational points were made about the role “traditional” journalism has in terms of checks and balances, fact checking, etc). Nevertheless, some very powerful apps and news platforms could result by embracing social web norms. For example, why not take an EveryBlock approach (see Russian Hill) and combine that with traditional beat reporting on the more nuanced and interesting stories cited in the raw data feed. Indeed, one could use EveryBlock data to track patterns which could form the basis for an investigative reporting series.

A visit to slide number 27 of the Customer Development Model presentation offers a succinct and cogent illustration of a consumer-centric product/service development process. The key elements of the slide: Build, Measure, Learn integrated in the overall development life cycle. If I were able to question the UK journalist panel, I’d ask a couple of questions: Do you know of any UK news company to have empaneled a group of consumers that routinely gather their news from blog sites so as to find out why these consumers like these blogs and how they use the blog information in their daily lives? Do you know of any UK news company that has analyzed what apps or smart phone devices their consumers use on a daily basis and how they would like to have news integrated in similar ways on their devices? The answers to these questions begin the consumer-centric design journey.

Finally, this article makes a compelling case as to how certain facets of the Customer Development Model can be a disruptive factor in the real estate industry.

Reinvigorating MLS information

Let’s assume a situation where intellectual property and licensing issues are properly resolved and set with respect to granting outside developers access to MLS content and data.

If you’ve heard of an MLS (or a broker with a VOW) that has engaged a group of skilled programmers similar to what Washington D.C. did with its content and data, please let me know. Don’t you think something wonderful could happen with real estate search similar to what’s about to happen with bioinformatics?

Dialogue between bioinformaticists and semantic Web developers has been steadily increasing for a number of years now as widespread data integration problems have clearly begun to impede the progress of research.

This is not to say that challenges don’t exist,

[I]f you’re talking about traversing [information and data] computationally, then it’s much more challenging to make sure everything means the same thing and that the object that you’re getting to on the next path has the same persistence, quality, and structure that you’re expecting to operate on.

Nevertheless, the vision for a more collaborative and effective future is vibrant,

Ultimately, what the semantic Web community hopes to have are applications that will make the complexity of the technology as invisible as possible.

The real estate industry has an existing standardization body: RETS. It seems to me that an MLS (or broker VOW) could provide great value to its public and real estate industry stakeholders by adopting a RETS standard (thus, at some level, solving the data standardization issue raised above) while opening its data pantry to a group of developers, similar to what Washington D.C. did with its Apps for Democracy contest held last year (according to the Apps for Democracy website, the city realized a $2,300,000 value, not to mention the fact that the public now has some nifty tools),

The first-prize winner in the organization category was a site called D.C. Historic Tours, developed by Internet marketing company Boalt. The information about area attractions came from the city, but Boalt developers decided how to present it…The site uses Google Maps as the basis for enabling users to build their own walking tours of the city. It pulls information from Wikipedia, the Flickr photo-sharing service and a list of historic buildings.

Imagine a pool of widgets, desktop apps, apps for iPhone’s, Blackberries, etc, that slice and dice real estate content and data in novel ways. The public would obviously benefit by accessing real estate information in ways that are most meaningful to them. The content/data provider benefits by engaging the public at a deeper, more relevant, and effective manner. And real estate agents ultimately benefit because a more satisfied, more qualified, and more engaged buyer or seller equates to increased business opportunities.

Photo credits: ducks (SleepingBear), tightrope walker (tallkev)

List of social web resources 5-8-2009

Semantic coolness
I stumbled across the Semantic Interoperability of Metadata and Information in unLike Environments (SIMILE) program at MIT. Rather than try to summarize what they’re doing, here are some examples: Music Composer Research Database, click a composer’s name to see what happens; UK Traffic, click a blue dot on the map to see what happens.

Web 2.0 coolness
Excellent interviews of Tim O’Reilly by HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. Discusses baseline concepts of what it means to “be Web 2.0”; change in thinking and corporate ethos and individual creed.

Art
Wonderful missive on the nexus between art and Web 2.0. I especially enjoyed the author’s discussion of what “avant-garde” means–as originally put forth in this essay–in the 21st century. Both are meaningful reads because each author broaches core issues relating to a wide cultural shift in collaboration across different societal strata.

List of social web resources 5-1-2009

Social media coolness
Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities, has contributed to a seminal eight part series whitepaper on redefining theories underlying how information spreads across the globe. This series’ concepts are particularly important to brand management practices employing the social web as a strategic messaging tool.

This is an interesting research paper compiling a list of research about online communities. The article details the social, psychological, and emotional benefits people derive from online communities. The article relates these benefits to organizations and defines success metrics for online communities. This is one of the best research articles I’ve found in recent months concerning social web communities and organizations.

Here’s a short article describing how federal chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, is launching a new site, data.gov, which purportedly will allow for the development of more public-facing applications using raw data feeds from government sources. The article also discusses some very innovative uses of Washington D.C. government data that developers submitted for a contest called Applications For Democracy that Kundra directed while he was chief technology officer for Washington, D.C.