Most real estate associations realize the value of innovation, but some find it hard to achieve. Association leadership, especially in small and mid-size associations often lacks the time, the tools, and the creative process to nurture exciting new ideas. I recently brought together a few small and medium sized associations to innovate their communications process. As our “Partners in Innovation” process gets started, we’ve discovered ways to jump-start innovation.
1. Set side the time to get creative. The participants all said the biggest creativity boost was simply allocating the time to looking for new ideas. Taylor Oldroyd, CEO of the Utah County Association of REALTORS®, said, “We all get into ruts. Setting aside time specifically for this project allows me to focus for a minute, to ignore the staff members that are poking their head in, and instead actually take the time required to do some creative thinking.”
2. Bring together diverse participants. All of the associations in the project have strategic plans and are constantly discussing how to communicate, but have had trouble coming up with new ideas. What’s different in this project, according to Diane Streichert, CEO of the Burlington Camden County (New Jersey) Association of REALTORS®, “is the integration of people from different sized associations and interaction with people from all parts of the country. It’s lead to more innovative ideas.” Her Communications Director Liz Peters agrees. ”You toss around ideas daily in your office, but its even better to hear ideas from other people that we would never have thought of,” she said.
3. Designate a facilitator to keep the creativity flowing. My role in this process is to guide the conversation and push the participants to keep digging deeper. The participants all agree having one person whose focus it is to facilitate makes a huge difference. “It gives me a purpose, a reason to stop and think and engage,” said Rob Hulse, Executive Officer of the Lawrence (Kansas) Association of REALTORS®.
4. Give yourself license to think crazy thoughts. After their initial meeting, the group was given an usual homework assignment. Before our second phone call, I asked them to come up with the craziest idea for improving their communications they could imagine. “It was helpful to have that direction, that push to come up with something that isn’t traditional,” Hulse said. And it lead to some very useful ideas we can refine as we move ahead.
We are determined to show that process like this can lead to positive change that your members will see right away. Please stay tuned, I will share the fruits of their labor as we progress!