Today is Earth Day.
First held on April 22nd 1970, this year's theme is ‘Invest In Our Planet’. As part of my personal efforts, I thought I’d write a blog about dinosaurs.
Not the kind that became extinct 65 million years ago, but instead the ones that you can regularly find being vilified on social media. As if the Jurassic Park franchise hadn’t given our Mesozoic friends enough PR issues.
Despite their incredible longevity, the term Dinosaur has now come to mean someone who’s living in the past, hasn’t adapted well to modern life, and possibly complains a lot about technology.
In truth, actual Dinosaurs must have been pretty adaptable, as they inhabited the planet for approximately 165 million years.
So far human beings have managed roughly two hundred thousand trips around the sun, which seems a little inconsequential compared to T-Rex and his mates.
And given our current tendencies, I very much doubt we’ll reach the same milestones, although the conclusion might end up being similar.
In estate agency, being a dinosaur involves quite normal industry behaviours such as working in an office, wearing a suit and tie, and being contractually obliged to arrive and leave at certain times of the day.
In stark contrast sit the revolutionaries. Breaking new ground and doing things that have never been done before. Examples include dressing like Gordon Gekko, proclaiming that greed is good and that lunch is for wimps.
Which to my mind makes you more of an 80’s throwback than a revolutionary.
The Dinosaurs claim that the kids know nothing, are raucous and uncontrollable, and that if you haven’t worked through at least one recession, then you might be in danger of confusing a bull market with a genius.
Yes, the binary and polarised new world order has finally reached estate agency, with all of its ensuing mudslinging, name calling and an Ornithomimid-esque race to the bottom (the fastest Dinosaur, according to Google)
All of which presumably reinforces the general public’s opinion that most estate agents are simply out for themselves. That we’re far too busy criticising our rivals, or bragging about our achievements to be able to really focus on what we’re meant to be doing, which is helping people.
I think that a lot of this is due to the fact that there is so much pressure in today's world to be a total original. To disrupt, disintermediate and disparage.
When the reality is that most of what we see in popular culture is simply an updated version of something which already exists. There is almost nothing that is totally new, because if it was, people wouldn’t recognise it, and therefore they’d have no affinity with it.
Whilst Elon is quite possibly a genius, and the wealthiest person on the planet, he's no Henry Ford.
A Tesla is a car with a battery, instead of an engine. Henry’s Model T replaced a living, breathing animal. Which was an actual paradigm shift, not an evolution.
If most estate agents were honest, they’d admit that they were standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before them, and some who are still around.
Savills, Knight Frank and the like have given the industry a much needed sense of professionalism.
Jon Hunt jumped into his green Mini Cooper, picked up an industry languishing by the side of the road, and by the time he’d completed a whistle-stop tour of London, was £375m better off.
And we needed the previous iterations in order to get to this one. So whilst there’ll always be a place for innovators, what we need more than ever is a bit of humility.
I’m not so sure that the next cycle of estate agency will be defined by where we advertise our clients properties, what business model we adopt, how we dress or where we work from.
Instead it feels like it might be based on how good we are at listening and at solving problems. At being empathetic, at understanding what people are hoping to achieve, and helping them realise their goals.
Because let’s face it, in an ever changing landscape not every marketing initiative is going to work, and claiming it does is foolish.
But the more things we try, the more we think about how to get to our desired outcome, the more likely it is that we will achieve it.
And for me, that’s what industry progress looks like. Curiosity, vulnerability and above all else, the chance to serve the most important people of all - our clients.
Things I’ve been inspired by this week
“A book that will change the way you see just about everything in the natural world and its relationship with humanity. It’s about an epic struggle and mostly, about our future. I am taking notes on every page, and I mention the book in most of the conversations I have. Definitely a fine use of your time and attention. I’m glad books like this persist in a world that’s in too much of a hurry to get the tldr”
It really opened my eyes to climate change, population growth, the scarcity of natural resources and the future of our planet.
It’s well worth a read, and an appropriate recommendation on Earth Day.