I just returned from a trip to New York – business first in the city and then a couple of days in small cities to the north where the “leafers” come up from Manhattan and surrounding areas to enjoy the fall foliage. Everywhere I looked I saw the effects of intended and unintended change, stagnation, innovation, grit and so many other adjectives that can be used to describe what I saw and the thoughts that were provoked.

In New York we made time to visit One World, where the lessons are abundant and I could feel and see the energy of reverence and future opportunity. Walking the more than five miles from our hotel to Wall Street was a visual lesson in the diversity of the city. While I walked taking in the intense sights and sounds I was reminded of one of the big lessons of the previous days meeting of 100+ professionals brought together for a day of learning skills for their specific industry – Real Estate Valuation. For the most part it was a fairly standard day. Experts provided insight on impacting regulatory issues, new technologies and methodologies for the valuation of real estate and the halls were filled with peer to peer conversation about the industry at large. Real Estate Valuation is a small subset of the overall real estate industry, but sources say its $8.0 to $10.0 billion employing 65,000 to 80,000 and the numbers have been dropping by 3% – 5% per year for the last 10 or so years. This background is helpful to understand why my biggest takeaway from the all-day meeting was towards the end when one of the attendees asked “what should we in the valuation field, in our nation’s banks do to remain relevant?” Wow! It’s a question we should all ask ourselves every day isn’t it? Shouldn’t we ask ourselves what we bring to the table? What contribution do we bring and is it our best or are we simply “getting by.”

Granted the valuation experts I spent the day with have some unique challenges. Their industry seems to be dying a slow death or at least is experiencing a time of distress. But are they really all that unique in this kind of a position? The towns I visited after leaving Manhattan were in various stages of decline, rebirth, revitalization, growth and prosperity. Aren’t these the same stages that people and industries follow? And who leads through these trends? Who ensures they happen? I believe it takes the vision of a diverse populous with self and selfless motivations and intentions. People who remember that it is the intangible assets, a person’s personality, intellect and ability to bond with others that carry the effort. Intangible assets cannot be replaced by machine learning, they are what bring machine learning into play and see the value it brings, not the devastation it can cause.

So shifts are a natural occurrence and people caught in the shift have the ability to bring a lot to the table. Most of the services offered in the Real Estate Valuation industry require a high level of human interaction and experiential knowledge. As technology improves to handle more repeatable and mundane tasks, people are better positioned to use their intangible assets – their personalities to create new opportunities, preserve what has value and guide the inevitable cycle of growth, stability, decline and revitalization. So ask yourself, why would you want to participate and what you’re willing or not willing to do.  There’s no right or wrong place to be along the spectrum. Key is to know if you’re cool with stepping aside because you’re ready to do something different or you want to stay in the process. Both bring value!