By Sally Duros
On Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times celebrated its Innovation Awards;
it was also the day that Chicago-area homebuilder Neumann Homes
announced reorganizing under Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.
The 10 winners of the Innovation Awards were feted at an amazing
event at the Goodman Theater attended by nearly 800 people of all
stripes who enjoyed food, wine and spread copious kudos around for
the winning risk-takers.
I say risk-takers, because that’s the core of innovation: Stepping
off a cliff into the dark chasm of uncertainty to meet a market
need that sometimes only you — the innovator — sees.
Neumann had taken its risks, too, by expanding into Detroit — at a
time that’s now proven to be too late in the game.
Neumann’s bankruptcy is a topper to a decade of real innovation in
Chicago’s as well as global real estate markets. Innovations like
automated underwriting — which rose from nonexistent to the
standard over ten years –meant transactions between buyers and
sellers became faster and faster, creating new opportunities and
classes of securities.
We are seeing now the double-sidedness of this speed. Even as it
removed barriers to homeownership, it also enabled abuses and
Innovation is like that. It cuts like a knife to the quick of a
market. Seemingly overnight it creates winners and losers. Most of
all, innovation ensures the future is unpredictable. It means
tomorrow is always a new day.
Now that real estate is working through its dark night, we’re
looking forward to innovations soon to come at tomorrow’s dawn.