Brad Inman reflects on his interview of Gary Keller and why more CEOs need to step up and speak out about this transformational moment in the industry.

Last week, I interviewed Gary Keller.  Actually, I didn’t interview him, I awkwardly bantered with the iconic KW founder who is beloved and respected by so many, and despised by some.

He lectured me, I interrupted him, he pointed his finger at me, and I artlessly implored him to sit down. A force of wills made for uncomfortable but memorable entertainment. I would not change a thing, it is etched in the stone of real estate lore.

Through the muddle, this living legend offered a wealth of insight about how many people in the industry see the world, their resolve and their vision for what should stay the same and what should change.

But there was something else going on.

Ace Inman reporter Andrea Brambila, who wrote a story on the wrestle, said to me afterward, “it is amazing that two people in the audience sitting side by side could see two completely different things on that stage.”

There is a name for this, “blind spotting,” when a situation can be interpreted in two different ways, but you can only see one of the interpretations. You have a blindspot to the second interpretation. (A new movie is out about this concept, Blindspotting, about race relations in Oakland, California.)

Why do we blind spot? Two legitimate views of the real estate world, with equally passionate and smart folks on both sides.

Some are crazed about preserving the best elements of what works in real estate: hard working representation by qualified, ethical and capable real estate agents who help millions of consumers each year realize their dream of owning a home.

Equally passionate are entrepreneurs who see and want to change a broken system of inefficiencies, poor customer service and a protracted and expensive process that millions of consumers suffer through each year.

Now more than ever, those two sides are locked in an epic battle. Keller defined the two worlds clearly, one consisting of tech enabled agents and the other technology enabled companies with agents. The lines are drawn.

Neither side is wrong, neither has all of the answers. But while they both have blind spots, they agree on more than either will admit.

In some ways, it is about control and power. Keller criticizes Zillow and Redfin for trying to control data, which it is determined to do. But he too promises to be a gatekeeper of his agents’ data, as he builds the technology where agents will house their information and share in ownership.

Who doesn’t want to be the middle-person, no matter what words they use to describe their role: media company, friend of agent, partner, platform, application, whatever?

In the end, this industry has no tenured faculty; no one with the divine right to control its fate; no one with a lock on consumer trust and no one with a business model that is superior to all others.

This is an industry in flux, in conflict and in the midst of change. As the action plays out, blind spots will be common and unavoidable until a new industry takes shape. For now, all bets are off.

To better figure out the future, more leaders like Gary Keller must put themselves out there. Too many CEOs hide out and are gutless when it comes to expressing controversial opinions.

At Connect, Keller reminded me of Christopher Walken’s lion speech in the movie Poolhall Junkies. “Every once in a while, the lion has to show the jackals who he is.”

Email Brad Inman

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