PCBC 2018: Designed… From the Ground Up

Written by: Catherine Pedersen, PS&M's VP of Client Services 

At PS&M, we relish in opportunities to expand our knowledge base and learn from today’s most respected thinkers and innovators. Participating in the annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC), one of the homebuilding industry’s largest conferences with more than 10,000 attendees from across the nation, is no exception. So, Senior Partner Daniel Martin and VP of Client Services Catherine Pedersen packed their bags and headed to San Francisco for two days jam-packed with education, innovation and inspiration.


This year’s PCBC theme was Designed… From the Ground Up. No, the conference wasn’t centered solely around physical design of homes, of neighborhoods, of master-planned communities or the like. Rather, the design of any aspect of your business must begin, well, at the beginning, or in other words, from the ground up. How so? Read on for our key takeaways from the conference and you’ll begin to see this central theme played out…



In today’s world, the word innovation is almost commonplace. So what does it mean? Simply stated, innovation relates to the introduction new ideas that are original and creative in thinking, or,  the application of new methods, both advanced and original in form.


According to a team of Harvard Business School researchers, this sort of creative thinking that leads to innovation is not genetic. Rather, it stems from an active endeavor of five main discovery skills:

1. Associating – The ability to connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas. 

2. Questioning – Ask yourself… Why? Why not? What if?

3. Observing – Carefully, intentionally and consistently be on the lookout for small behavioral details.

4. Experimenting – Any form of active experimentation including intellectual exploration, physical tinkering or engagement in new surroundings.

5. Networking – Meet people with different kinds of ideas and knowledge to gain their perspectives.

The good news? These discovery skills are like muscles that can be strengthen over time – the more you employ them, the stronger an innovator you’ll become.


Take it from the John Burns Real Estate team, who coined the term SurbanTM after noticing a shift in today’s homebuyers ideal community: a desire for an urban lifestyle, but within a suburban area. Why make homebuyers choose between the two when integrate the two? Develop neighborhoods in suburban areas with good schools and lower crime rates that boast affordable homes and a community feel while also maintaining the connectivity and walkability aspects of an urban lifestyle with nearby restaurants, retail, parks and more.


Jennifer Riel, Managing Director of the Knowledge Infrastructure Project at the University of Toronto, would call the SurbanTM solution integrative thinking an approach to problem-solving that uses opposing ideas as the basis for innovation. The outcome? A thoughtful approach to finding a third and batter way to make important choices in the face of unacceptable tradeoffs.



There’s no doubt people gravitate to companies that deliver great experiences or those consumers feel they hold a personal, or trusting, relationship with. But what does it take to meaningfully connect with today’s consumers?


J. Walker Smith, Executive Chairman of Kantar Consulting, stands firm in his belief that we are entering a new era in today’s consumer marketplace, on that is based on:

• Experiences (not just products or services or goods);

• Relationships (with one another, not just brands);

• Algorithms (through technology, allowing companies to anticipate customer needs).


While Smith is looking ahead to the future, Jimmy Diffee, Founder of the Bokka Group, is urging companies to redefine how they approach the customer experience today. And it begins at the company-level through journey mapping. What is it? In short, journey mapping delves into the stages customers go through when interacting with your company – from Point A (the initial interest in your brand) to Point Z (the final conversion or point of sale) and everything in between. By understanding each potential touch point within a journey map, brands have the opportunity to bring joy and confidence to the customer at every stages. A delightful customer experience, and a happy customer, achieved.

So there you have it. Two-days well-spent at PCBC learning how to design innovation, integrated thinking, meaningful connections and more from the ground up. You can bet the team here at PS&M will do so!