After building a foundation, Steiner says create an environment where people can inject their thinking, which will vary by generation.
“Once there is a consensus, then you go that way and still accept that months or a year into it, that you might have to change again,” he says.
That can be difficult because sometimes your ego gets involved. Steiner says it requires humility to have laser focus on where you’re trying to go, but to be loose about how you get there.
Freshen it up
Innovation and change doesn’t stop, either.
“It’s very easy when you have an asset of this caliber — it’s safer and it’s cheaper to keep what you have than to innovate because innovation disturbs,” he says of Easton. “You have to get rid of tenants, you have to modify buildings, you have to bring new people in, etc.”
While many try to keep up on trends, integrating technology and continuously upgrading infrastructure is just as important, even if customers don’t overtly see it.
When Steiner built Easton, there wasn’t much to the IT. Today, a central operating platform controls the building lights and temperatures, what music plays where and the security cameras.
With parking alone, first the garages were retrofitted with red and green lights to show open spaces, then counters outside told people how many spaces were open. Now, Steiner says they’re counting all spaces in order to put open spaces on an app. Eventually data mining and predictive modeling will help direct people to those spaces.
Looking back, Steiner says you’ll see missed opportunities, but you do what you can, based on what you know. For example, he would have added more residential. However, in 1997 and 1998, Easton was revolutionary enough.
“We can only push the envelope so far,” he says. “At the time we thought about putting in apartments, but we thought it was one step too far. In retrospect we should have done it. I’m not losing sleep over it — you innovate as far as you can. It’s more important to do something innovative that you implement, which is not perfect, and then you improve on it rather than seek perfection. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”