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“Innovate” was the word echoed by Barbara Jackson during her time speaking at the REfresh Expo at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver Oct. 11. Jackson, director of the Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, addressed a crowd filled mostly with real estate industry professionals and students and urged them to take it upon themselves to elevate the field.

“Nothing in the universe exists without [the real estate industry],” Jackson declared, “health care, housing, education, transportation, energy, entertainment, worship, recreation,” she lists off the top of her head. Yet, with all that, she points out that the majority of the industry has yet to fully leverage technology.

Jackson cited several other industries where all previous expectations have been disrupted and left many key players behind. “Uber is the largest taxi company in the world and they own no vehicles; Alibaba is the most valuable retailer and they have no inventory; AirBnB is the world’s largest accommodation provider and they own no real estate. This is the peer economy,” she said.

She referenced Building Information Modeling as a tool that can be used to create a peer economy in real estate at the moment. Jackson believes that the innovation must be “through the entire process; through the entire ecosystem.”

The REfresh Expo was intended to get people from all facets of real estate together to exchange ideas about the future of the industry. The expo boasts the tagline: “get inspired. get connected. get enlightened.” and Jackson helped attendees do just that by touting that innovation should be the primary goal for which they all strive.

As a major player in the field of real estate, Jackson certainly practices what she preaches in terms of innovation. The Burns School has continuously pushed for innovation in the industry, offering courses such as CityCraft®, which is the notion of regenerative development in an effort to restore communities economically, environmentally and socially. Jackson has also reimagined her product to stray away from degree selling into selling education, skill sets and certifications as well as traditional degrees. Her words at REfresh; however, were not to display her own work, but to inspire others to join this movement. She conveys an understanding that this type of innovation needs to be an organizational effort.

Jackson pointed to consumer desire lines as an essential and often ignored concept. A desire line is an indication of what consumers really want regardless of what is provided. Many people in real estate think the product is fine because people are buying it, but when people have more options that all can change in an instant. She says that innovation starts with what is desirable to the users, but many are making the mistake of looking at historical or traditional models and not looking deeply enough into what is possible with technology.

With the question looming: “where do you start with innovation?” Jackson asserts that those ideas that you hold most precious, that you know will never change, are exactly where you need to search first.

“If it feels like you will change the fundamentals of your business forever,” she posits, “that’s exactly where to look.”