Now THAT was a keynote speaker!

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Now, that’s a keynote speaker!
by Tom Lanzelotti & Bill DuBois

Kudos to CSI President Casey Robb...
Bill and I have attended the CSI Convention together each of the past three years, where there have been very engaging key note speakers including a former colleague of ours, Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity. But, this year, both Bill and I were in total agreement when we say that the mighty Casey did not strike out…His selection of Ira Blumenthal as the Keynote Speaker for this year’s event in Nashville was a stroke of genius...
So, you might ask, why would we be so excited about a Key Note speaker, we’ll tell you why:
By definition, according to “eHow”, the term keynote speaker comes from the ritual of barbershop singers practicing a keynote before singing a song…the keynote sets the tone for the song just as a good keynote speaker should set the tone for a meeting or event. Well Ira Blumenthal did just that, he sent the message in words, he sent the message in images on the screen, he sent the message through humor and he sent the message in song…
So what was Ira’s message, you ask? It was two-fold:
“Change is Inevitable and we have to Build our Brand for the Future.”
Regarding inevitable change, Ira said, there 3 things you can do:
1. Ignore it (and die)
2. React to It (and survive)
3. Alter Things (and prosper)
Change might not be good or bad but it will happen and if you rest on your past successes, you will most likely not survive.
Regarding Brand, Ira noted, our society is a “Brand-based Society” where individuals build an emotional relationship and very often a loyalty to specific brands which in many ways drives how we interact, spend, and live our lives. So the big Brand question is of course:”How is your Brand recognized?”
Ira shared many examples of top rated organizations/brands who refused to change and did not recognize the strength of their brand are now no longer at the top their industry and in many cases actually cease to exist (Eastern Airlines, Blockbuster, Kodak)…and top rated organizations/brands that continually adapt and strengthen their brand to emotionally grab a dedicated user base and continue to grow (Apple, Nike, McDonalds, Home Depot, Coca Cola).
What is the common thread in the stories of these companies/organizations; those that failed ignored the changing culture around them; they did not react and look to change; and did not alter their once successful business approach while those that thrive have embraced change, continually self-evaluated their brand and made the necessary changes .
So, as we left the Keynote session Bill and I were asking ourselves the question: ”How do these two concepts affect CSI as Professional Organization and us as members of a Professional Organization?”
These two words/concepts, Change and Brand, have never been more important than they are right now for the Design & Construction Industry and for Construction Specifications Institute. Last year, the Institute made a change to the CSI Image/Logo to downplay the “S” specifications part of the Brand. This was deemed a major change in thought process as the Institute has been long known for its role in the development and organization of construction specifications. But the question has to be, was it really enough? And, if deemed that the logo change was enough, is the message of the Brand changing enough to keep CSI relevant in the new world of Design & Construction?
Change and Loyalty to a Brand are very personal and have emotion at their core. As a three-letter brand, CSI unfortunately has to compete with other CSI brands, those of a television show and that of a religious organization. While we may joke about this comparison, it is an important issue to the continued success of the institute and its heart, membership.
As the week progressed, Bill and I talked more and more about the few minutes of Ira Blumenthal that we were fortunate to experience and the passion he brought as he placed a challenge on the table for us as CSI members. “Are we as an organization ready to address the Change in our industry and are we as an Organization ready to address how our Brand is truly recognized in the Design & Construction Industry? Will we become dinosaurs and be extinct or will we evolve to become the leaders of the next wave of Design & Construction?
Our consumers (clients) are asking for us to push the envelope with regard to Design & Construction in order to assist them in advancing their business enterprises. This is going to require a more collaborative environment and an environment were disciplines not necessarily previously associated with Design & Construction are going to be part of the complex puzzle.
In order for our organization to not only survive, but flourish, we cannot allow successes of the past and our initial premise as an organization to limit our vision of future success.
Change is inevitable- so let’s embrace it! Brand loyalty is a market driver - so let’s become more relate-able!
What is the Evolution of our CSI going to be? The time is now for us to figure it out. We are the generation of members to do it!

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