In the world of transitioning business competencies facing today’s broker and brokerage, few have proven more difficult to overcome than the once simple concept of knowledge. For over half a century, most North American firms have focused their efforts in the area of agent and manager education. Unnoticed by most is the fact that, at some point between 2007 and 2009, education silently slipped into history and a whole new challenge took its place.
Welcome to the word of knowledge services and knowledge management. This article is offered to assist brokerages to understand the who, what and why of this transition, how it has occurred and how to adjust business operations to embrace knowledge as a product for managers, agents and the consumer.
The REALTOR® love affair with education can be traced to the post World War II era. The concept of professionalism in real estate is rooted in that point of history, when the industry set about to create a whole new configuration to deal with the post-war consumer, the returning veteran and a new marketplace. This process saw the transition of the pre-war dirt peddler into the post-war real estate broker, creating a whole new approach to real estate marketing.
Among the several elements on which REALTOR® leaders focused, with respect to their new creation, were the concepts of ethical behavior and education. Both were seen as being essential to any group that wanted to capture both the respect of the public and an appropriate market share.
Dictionary.com defines education as:
The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life
In fact, this definition highlights both the history of education in real estate and the current dysfunction. The REALTOR® culture spent the vast majority of the past sixty years trying desperately to accomplish each of the three functions inherent in the above definition. These efforts manifested themselves in the identification of perhaps two dozen basic courses that survived, for some 30 years, as the real estate “3 R’s”. Also refined was the delivery process of education, using a system of classrooms, lectures, examinations and designations, all of which enjoyed the presumption of lifetime memory.
It is not necessary, for the purpose of this piece, to pass judgment relative the success of these efforts. It is however, necessary to make the point that, in today’s real estate marketplace, there are no longer any time or resources, and should be no need, to develop powers of reasoning and judgment, nor to set about the tasks of preparing REALTORS®, intellectually, for a mature life.
Today’s REALTOR® knowledge challenge traces its origins back to 1985 – the year generally recognized as the beginning of the information age. Since that date three developments have occurred.
o First, informational technologies developed that allow us to collect and distribute information and knowledge
o Second, the consumer evolved from knowledge dependency to knowledge sufficiency, and is on their way to knowledge addition
o Third, an information culture coalesced that determined that the aggregation of information is a very positive thing, and that sharing these aggregations or “databases” is an even more important thing
The fact is, there is so much information flooding into the real estate space, that the mere acts of bringing it to the industry’s attention and converting it to knowledge will require vast amounts of the industry’s intellectual resources, and necessitate creating standards of practice that define the minimum levels of knowledge required to meet the expectations and demands of today’s consumer.
The summation of this analysis is simple. The real estate industry must realign its resources away from education, and into knowledge services (the act of determining what one should know) and knowledge management (the act of effectively distributing information and knowledge) so that REALTORS® know: 1) what they need to know about; and 2) where they can find it when they need to know it.
An excellent example of this phenomenon is currently making its way through the system. It was just over a half year ago, in November of 2009, that the Meredith National Media Group research unit shared their incredible disclosure of their summer research in a white paper entitled The Rise of the Real Mom.
As a starting point, the question could be asked; why would anyone in real estate care about what Meredith has to say about anything. The answer is simple. Meredith is one of North America’s leading media and marketing companies, with businesses centering on magazine and book publishing, television broadcasting, integrated marketing and interactive media.
The Meredith National Media Group features 23 subscription magazines, owns 12 television stations, and has approximately 150 books in print. They have established marketing relationships with some of America’s leading companies including: The Home Depot, DIRECTV, DaimlerChrysler, Wal-Mart and Carnival Cruise Lines. Meredith has 32 websites in operation.
Meredith’s consumer database, containing more than 85 million names, is one of the largest domestic databases. In short, Meredith is in touch with a lot of people, and it asks them questions and measures their consumer related behaviors every chance it gets.
If these qualifications don’t impress the reader, consider this: in the research leading to its “Real Mom” white paper, Meredith discovered that in today’s leading 18 – 43 year old consumer segment only 46 percent of men consider buying a home important, as opposed to 86 percent of women.
The Rise of the Real Mom white paper explores what multiple generations of American women want when it comes to family, work and life in the 21st century. It focuses, in depth, on Generation X (ages 30 to 44) and Millennial (ages 18 to 29) mothers (65% of the real estate market demographic) and how they differ from their older counterparts. It also examines how marketers can, and should, improve communications that target this demographic.
Now, six months later, Meredith is here again, this time painting an even more exacting portrait of today’s female consumer in another white paper entitled The Reality of the Working Woman; Her Impact on the Female Target Beyond Consumption.
“Working Woman” drills down even further. This discussion begins with an observation regarding the historic precedence set by the cover of the January 2010 Economist magazine that announces, “We did it.” This exclamation, of course, refers to the fact that in its fourth quarter 2009 labor statistics, the Bureau reported that women held 49.8% of American jobs. This is a big deal for America and even more so for anyone who would attempt to market to working women. For the Y generation, this statistic, and all that it stands for, will be a seminal event.
The impact of the information contained in these two publications, on the real estate industry and its practitioner, is nothing short of profound. Yet in the ordinary course of REALTOR® education, this information would not reach either REALTOR® seminars nor classrooms for at least 24 months.
Another even more immediate example of the challenge will be found in the soon to be released results of the 2010 census.
The deluge of information and knowledge surrounds us like spring runoff. The issue for REALTORS® is how these resources will be treated. Will they run, like a torrent, flooding the landscape, and end, wasted in dry riverbeds? Or will their potential be accumulated by knowledge dams, and released from information reservoirs through appropriate conduits, distributing their valuable lessons to working REALTORS®, in order to keep them relevant to the marketplace? The challenge starts with your brokerage. We can do this.