How to Scale Your Innovation Initiatives

Image of Michael Turner, President of Oxford Properties Group

Michael Turner, President of the Oxford Properties Group, has gained extensive experience in the global real estate industry over his almost 25-year career. As a trusted leader in commercial real estate, he understands the complexities of scaling innovation and has successfully led more than 2,200 employees through a variety of innovation initiatives. In the article below, Michael shares insights from his journey including the role of curiosity and the value of having industry partners like R-LABS to collaborate with along the way.

There is debate around the historically slow adoption of innovation in commercial real estate. We have seen trends over the past two decades like suburban occupiers and residents moving back to downtown cores, increasing demands for work/play/live spaces, and an unprecedented downward trend in interest rates. These trends continue to impact today’s market, and they collectively show that the real estate industry is primed for innovation.

Technology is creating new platforms and changing the way people interact with real estate. Just like the steam engine drove employment trends in factories, the personal computer led to an explosion of white-collar professions and most recently, an influx in service-based offerings. Airbnb is a hotel company without hotels. WeWork one of the largest office companies without owning office buildings. Amazon is one of the largest shopping mall owners without a physical mall. Going forward, we’ll all need to decide how we introduce technology into the mix – be it adaption or disruption.

At Oxford, we’ve spent about five years and $15 million on what we call our smart and connected strategy, putting network hardware and software infrastructure into buildings so that we can operate them differently. We’re in the early stages of this initiative and will move more of our services from analog delivery to a cloud-based digital experience as the Internet of Things evolves. We’d never take people out of the equation as we believe real estate is all about connecting people, but what we do in the cloud will allow us to manage our global platform completely differently than would have been possible even three years ago.

Image of Oxford's Hudson Yards Project, The Most Digitally Connected Community in the World
Oxford’s Hudson Yards Project, The Most Digitally Connected Community in the World

When you strip down things and focus on what you’re trying to achieve, it’s not likely that the process that you’ve used for the last decade or two decades is the most effective way to get your desired outcome. At Oxford, we are creating a culture where we can change the slope of our innovation curve, but we also know our capabilities and limitations. That’s why partnerships are so crucial.

To succeed in innovation, you need a group of intellectually curious people who set out to discover new things and do things differently than they have been done in the past. That’s where having a series of partnerships, as we have with R-LABS, has helped us bend that curve further and faster. There’s also a very collaborative conversation that happens amongst the largest global commercial real estate owners around sharing ideas and best practices so we can build out these digitally-enabled platforms. It will come down to good “co-opertition” among traditional competitors because we’re all on this journey together.

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