Lightning in a bottle

While planning a Coldwell Banker conference, a discussion emerged centered around the cost of hiring speakers relative to the total allotted time each were given to present on stage. At one point it was suggested that the longer the speaker spoke, the more “bang for the buck” we’d be receiving. While the notion seemed reasonable in some aspects, we ultimately concluded it wasn’t a constructive means of calculating the value of a speaker, or more specifically, the usefulness of a speaker’s message.

The Return on Investment (R.O.I.) of a hired speaker, we decided, should be measured by the impact the speaker is able to make on his or her audience, regardless of how long he or she occupies the stage. When calculating the R.O.I. of any project, venture, or initiative, it’s critical to ensure you’re evaluating its performance according to the results you expect, not just that it functions reasonably within a given set of parameters (a speaker budget, for instance).

So as we laid out the agenda for each event in the series, we assigned significantly less stage-time for speakers than at previous events. This method of allocating shorter times forced the speakers to winnow out any minor points and focus on their main objective, which was a good thing, I’d say. It also freed up time for us to involve more people as well as try out some new concepts, which added variety to the day. In the end, the speakers’ revised messages were, because of a simple time constraint, more compact and altogether better constructed.

Looking back, it appeared that less stage-time garnered a greater R.O.I., which I must admit seems somewhat counterintuitive. That being said, what I believe it demonstrates is that much of the time our creativity flourishes best when under constraint—that a limitation (like time) can draw out a better idea or lead one to produce greater value.

Being human, we feel a natural urge to defy our boundaries without fully contemplating the reason why those boundaries exist. Often, the most creative and meaningful ideas are formed when time, resources, or support is limited. In a recent Forbes article, David Stuart, VP at O.C. Tanner referenced a study examining the award-winning work of 1.7 million corporate professionals. The study concluded that constraint tended to be the leading source of inspiration, which brought about innovation.

So the next time you stare into the face of a challenge, be thankful, for now you have a clear point of reference to direct your path toward a creative solution, because creative solutions don’t run astray or happen arbitrarily. Something stirs them up; they happen on purpose, in response to a clear and visible obstacle.

And one more thing: applying creativity while under constraint isn’t about accepting or yielding to a limitation; it’s about focusing energy and effort to break through the barrier with the force of a battering-ram sieging the castle’s gate. Simply put, creative solutions are “creative” because they transcend what was thought to be possible.

How are you measuring the performance of a project, venture, or initiative? By how it conforms to constraint or by how it creates value in spite of the constraint?

What can you improve with a dose of creativity? While you think it over, here are a few simple ideas you might consider:

  1. Try paring down your listing presentation to address only the issues that matter most to your prospective seller. Then, use the time you saved to engage in more open dialogue. They’ve probably got a lot of questions and comments of their own.
  2. Experiment with Seller Stories to share some unique details that will enlighten prospective buyers with meaningful information as they search to find a home. I think we’d all agree that today’s consumers have become inundated with redundant online home searches. At Coldwell Banker, we use the expression, a “sea of sameness” to describe the average user’s experience hopping from portal to portal, desperately searching for the tiniest crumb of new information about 3/2’s in 07940, for instance. Mix it up, with Seller Stories.
  3. Consider leveraging smart tools like CBx (a data-driven and engaging iPad app for Coldwell Banker sales associates) to manage marketing and pricing dialogues with prospective sellers. These days, the number of variables possibly influencing the sale of a home knows no bounds, which means the responsibility is greater than ever for the expert agent to effectively guide the pricing conversation. Use CBx to identify the trends and market data most relevant to the conversation and avoid being bogged down by superfluous, inapplicable data.

Please add to my list by leaving a comment below!

Photo by Simon & His Camera

Jason Pantana, Realtor, Speaker, NashvilleJason guides real estate professionals through current and emerging trends in consumer behavior, sales and marketing, and entrepreneurship. To invite Jason to speak or to schedule a consultation, visit: