Some Dots Cannot be Connected




There once was a professor who passed out an exam and asked his students to write about what they saw — a single black dot in the center of the paper. The confused students did as they were asked, describing its size, shape, and location. 

“Ah, you all made the same mistake,” said the professor after they turned in their papers. “Everyone focused on the black dot, and nobody wrote about the paper. Many people make this mistake in life too. They focus on the leaky faucet, failed relationship, or office gossip. If only they took their eyes off the black dot and focused on the opportunities around it…” 

When I first heard this story, I couldn’t help but apply it to the real estate industry. After calling 2018 a defining year for MLS, several people had asked me if the change I mentioned in my letter was being driven by industry consolidation, legislative protectionism, or listing digitization. They were looking for the black dot. I was writing about the paper. 

As consumers continue to place their trust in technology, they will increasingly influence and drive how the transaction takes place. This presents a unique opportunity for the MLS industry to consider its value proposition to brokers, agents, and all stakeholders within the marketplace. If we are truly making the market work, then it is up to us to create a vision that sets the stage for a new era of leadership.

What will the new era of leadership look like? The answer to this question will be as varied as it is versatile. Tomorrow’s leadership will consist of legacy executives who have the courage to facilitate and encourage change alongside new leaders with the capacity to see the market in ways we never considered before. They will be both intuitive and responsive, leading innovation and developing the next iteration of best practices at the same time.  

This will be an era where chief executives leave administrator types behind and take an active role in evaluating, guiding, and inspiring their board leadership to see the future and show them how to get there. And depending on the organization, region, and the needs of the marketplace, different leaders will likely lead differently. Some will follow the transformative model created by Bright MLS; others will find different ways forward. 

The how is less important than the why. The paper is more important than the dot.

When the MLS industry talks about collaboration, they are no longer just talking about getting together to solve the latest industry hiccup. When the MLS industry — especially those who are CMLS members — talk about collaboration, they are taking action to do something better. They are lending their experience, expertise, and organizational innovations to advance the industry and raise the expectation of excellence through the voluntary adoption of best practices and industry standards.

As the professional trade organization that serves to advance the MLS industry, it is the role of CMLS to support their efforts to achieve industry goals — improving MLS policy, opening dialogues with brokers, researching efficient governance models, and developing a universal language that transcends geographic boundaries and organizational silos. These are among the most important initiatives our members will advance this year because they see it as essential to making the market work. 

This makes for an exciting time in the MLS industry as a different kind of leadership is emerging to not only embrace change but create it. It’s inspiring. It's an opportunity to look ahead and ask what does the ultimate consumer experience look like and how can brokers, agents, vendors, and MLSs deliver the market that makes it possible. 

Never mind the problems. Let’s talk about the possibilities. Never mind the black dot. Let’s talk about the paper. Leaders who aspire to inspire … they always do.

Tinus Swanepoel