Some people don’t like to hear the same stories over and over. You know the type of story I’m referencing: the ones that always come out after 4 beers to groans, laughs, and quiet smirks. The stories could be a decade old but they still come out as if they are fresh. These stories are worth bringing up regularly for a couple of reasons.
These stories reinforce the common bonds between the team. They show that there have been shared events that have built the trust that is there. No matter whether things currently are good or bad, they give people something to fall back on. They form part of a shared experience that we can appreciate.
Another reason for these is that they give an opportunity for entry into the shared community. Being invited to listen in means that some part of the shared trust is being shared with you. Stories like these are not shared with just anyone. There is more than just words to the story that you are being invited to. Hearing stories of years before means that you should expect to start being involved in the next round of earned stories.
Repeating them over and over is worthwhile because the experiences relayed within them will change with time and context. There are morals about the participants in these stories. There are little ways for achieving victory. There is an opportunity for renewed self-reflection on how to avoid the situation in the future or how to handle it better if it does come back around.
Don’t underestimate the power of these stories.
Corporate real estate is a canvas that is to be painted on. No two solutions should ever be the same. The way you made decisions yesterday should not be the way you make decisions tomorrow. Always assume that the CRE ground has moved under your feet.
These may sound like random thoughts that simply emphasize the role of change in CRE. But the reality of this industry is that our job is to support our business today and create a platform for the business to be successful into the future. Our job is to make sure that we provide a solid foundation for our business to operate from.
What does this really mean? It means that no decision we make can be made in a silo. Everything we do impact someone outside of ourselves. If we put the business in the wrong part of the city, they may have difficulty hiring. If we don’t design the office to ensure productivity and flexibility, the business will have a higher cost hurdle to overcome. If we put a 9-year lease in place for a business that is only going to exist in its current form for 3 years, we’ve put a potential 6 year added cost burden on the company. If we sign a 2-year lease on a space that the business expects to operate in for 10 years, we add a risk of moving before the business would like.
Just because we know how to optimize a real estate deal or implement the most modern workplace doesn’t mean those things will work for the business we are supporting. Just because we know all of the market factors (labor, real estate, financial) doesn’t mean that those factors really matter in a particular decision. It simply needs to be about the business.
Real estate is a canvas to be painted on.
Many skills in this world are viewed as black and white. The thinking seems to go: If you know Excel, surely you can do this data mining project. Heaven forbid that someone knows Access, suddenly they become general database experts. The worst are when people know SharePoint development and they are automatically cast as developers.
All skills exist on a spectrum. I’m really good at AutoCAD but that doesn’t mean you want me designing your building. But to some that don’t know anything about AutoCAD other than that it is used by architects to design buildings, anyone that uses it must be able to design buildings. The skill seems binary – you have it or you don’t.
This kind of thinking occurs in all of us around different topics. If you have no knowledge or understanding of a subject then anyone on the spectrum has such a huge amount of knowledge beyond you that they seem like an expert. But to someone with some knowledge of a topic, there is a vast difference in types of expertise.
Masters and Doctorate programs exist for this exact reason. The levels of nuance and specialization possible once you have a solid base in a subject become many. Specialists can be developed into areas that no one else would have even thought possible simply because someone sees an opportunity to expand knowledge.
We all have our opinions on different issues. Is Atlanta a better CRE cluster than Charlotte? Is alternative working/work from anywhere here to stay? Two monitors versus three? (Surely you knew I wasn’t going to go political?)
With opinions, it’s very easy to hold an opinion for a long time and have it become more and more ingrained in how you think. Take my monitors example. For me, it’s three monitors; any fewer is simply inefficient and wasteful. Yet I also know many people that prefer a single screen and many that have very good reasons for preferring two over three. These people are insane but they exist and I have to acknowledge that their reasons make sense to them.
Opinions are driven by context and context is constantly in a state of change. Tomorrow a new type of monitor may be released that makes a single monitor the ideal. Or maybe VR will completely change the visual working game. The context of all of this matters.
Any long-held opinion should be reviewed because of this shifting change in context. Many opinions can survive decades with little change. Maybe there aren’t enough facts yet. Maybe the facts are suspicious. Maybe your personal situation simply encourages the opinion to be maintained.
However, long-held opinions are dangerous. They become glaring blindspots to us as we rely on them more and more regardless of context. At that moment, opinion becomes stereotype. Now you hold a position based not on fact, context, or situation but because you simply do. That’s what we should all be watching out for.
[Editor’s Note: I hate the term Millenials so I use Gen Y to help avoid many of the common mental stereotypes that exist around the term.]
Everyone in the CRE space is familiar with the sensation of seeing articles talking about how Gen Y are changing the way work is done. They don’t like to go to offices, they don’t work from 9 to 5, they text instead of calling, they prefer social media to email. The tropes are many.
I get very frustrated reading this because it’s not a Gen Y thing, it’s a technology thing. Smartphones and internet connections on the go make it convenient to work whenever and where ever necessary. Social media platforms are a better communication platform than email. Text messages are more convenient than phone calls. This isn’t something that is true for just Gen Y – Baby Boomers and Gen X operate the same way when introduced to these tools.
Is it true that Gen Y has adopted these tech tools faster than others? Of course, they started using it as early as elementary school in many cases. It takes time for others to learn about it and time for developers to make the tools enterprise friendly. It takes even longer for organizations to figure out how to push it out and get unfamiliar employees comfortable with it.
This isn’t a generational battle, it’s a technological revolution. Don’t confuse the two.
There’s a constant give and take in blogging about whether you should share your full thoughts and details or hold back and let people reach out to you for more. I personally fall into the camp of share everything. If someone is smart enough to take your thoughts and use them without you, they would have anyway. Most of your prospective customers are not going to fall into that camp.
I wasn’t going to write about this topic again except that it came up in a conversation last week and then Seth Godin wrote about it on his blog today.
Ideas are very fragile things. They are notoriously difficult to implement correctly and even more difficult to gain buy-in to even get to the implementation phase. Sometimes the environment isn’t supportive, others the technology isn’t ready, sometimes the team isn’t capable of pulling it off, sometimes you just encounter pure bad luck. Stealing ideas is hard.
Putting your thoughts on the web has the benefit of showing you’re not just an expert, but a conversational expert. When you can talk about something over several posts or in a casual way you have progressed beyond just “general knowledge.” It takes you beyond the point of being someone that should be considered for hiring to being someone that is the only option to hire.
The interview process – whether to hire a person or company – is filled with pitfalls. Do you really have enough information to make an informed decision? Do you really have the time to get to that point? What questions should you ask to make sure you have covered the right ground? When a person or company has a track record written down over years on a specific topic it is much easier to understand how they can help you in your specific scenario.
This should include what kind of outputs, methods, and models would be used to get to answers. Is the fact that you have a custom Excel model really an industry secret? Is the fact that you use BI to model the scenario that unique? Is your year-long effort to create a proprietary database of data really so special as to be kept secret except for face-to-face meetings?
Knowlege seeks freedom.
It can be easy to think that we need to get everyone rowing in the same direction; that someone dissenting is actively working against us. Most of the time, this isn’t true. We don’t need everyone on the same page as us. Usually, you just need a small group.
In any given group, most people are usually there to just do the job in front of them. They aren’t going to take sides or become evangelists for an idea because it’s not what they were hired to do. They will get their directions and move forward regardless of their personal opinion.
A much smaller part of that same group are the people (often known as leaders) that will care. Some will agree, some will disagree, some will think you are focused on the wrong thing. By definition, you cannot win them all over.
The trick is knowing that you don’t have to. As soon as you have a core group of leaders convinced, you can move forward. That core group will make sure the dissenting (or uncaring leaders) at least won’t actively work against the direction and get the majority of the group pushing in the right direction.
Hardest in this process is identifying the group of leaders you need to work through. The group changes depending on the topic – we all have things that are above our pay grade or outside the list of things we are going to worry about. The number you need to convince will also change given the impact of the decision or how many are directly impacted by it.
But never do you need to actually win everyone over.