How often do we hear someone demean efforts to “reinvent the wheel”? When is the last time you did it yourself? “No reason to reinvent the wheel,” you say. But is that right? There’s no reason? None?
Let’s think about inventing and reinventing the wheel for a minute. I imagine a dude dressed in animal skins, placing a heavy object on a log and pushing. The log rolls; the object moves. Wheel invented. Are we done?
Pretty soon, another person comes along and points out how much more efficient two wheels in combination might be if you just keep moving the rear wheel to the front. Then, between the two of them, they figure out that a third wheel would make it all work even better because, with a third wheel in the mix, you can keep the load off the ground as you move the rear wheel forward.
A few millenia later, another free thinker realizes that she could just cut both ends off the wheel and replace the middle third with an axle, making the mechanism lighter, therefore requiring less effort to push it uphill.
What comes next? Spokes to make it all weigh even less? Combine wood with steel for strength and durability? How about a steering mechanism?
Turns out, this reinventing the wheel thing has been going on for a long time! It wasn’t until the late 19th century that John Dunlop patented the first pneumatic tire. Even now, we use wheels in new ways, including for launching and landing aircraft, and yet, we’re still going around trying to convince each other that “there’s no good reason to reinvent the wheel.”
You can see where I’m headed with this, right? It seems that there might be some reasons to want to reinvent ASHI.
I remember the pride with which my colleague Wade Elrod introduced me to the American Society of Home Inspectors back in 1997. Before I finished my first week working with him at HomeTech, Wade started encouraging me to join the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of ASHI. From everything he told me, I remember being so very confident of ASHI’s place in the professional world. Agents and journalists alike recognized ASHI as the standard bearer. And, as states began to implement licensing, they recognized the ASHI Standard of Practice as the best model for use in legislation. Even the federal government, through the U.S. Department of Housing of Urban Development, took its lead on developing protections for homebuyers from some of the foundations that were built by ASHI. The understanding in real estate offices nationwide was this: If you want a good home inspector, find an ASHI member because they are the best. But that was then.
It’s not difficult to observe the routines we now see frequently on social media: new inspector joins an online group or forum and introduces himself or herself. “Hey, everybody! I just finished my entry-level training through such-and-such school, and I downloaded my license application from the state. What’s my next step? How do I get started? Any advice would be appreciated.” But how often do you think that rookie who posts on social media receives positive vibes from an enthusiastic ASHI member like what my friend Wade shared with me when I was starting in home inspection at 44 years old? I suspect not often—or at least, not often enough.
My observation is that several newbies have joined ASHI recently and they’re trying to tell us something. As Speaker of the Council of Representatives, it’s my job to listen to everyone!
I was listening recently when an experienced member of ASHI recounted the major efforts that went into attaining his membership back in the 1980s. Wow! ASHI set the bar high and for good reason. Having the requirement that members would be able to demonstrate competence added value to ASHI’s brand. In turn, our members’ high level of competence improved the profession. It also helped to protect homebuying consumers in the public at large. It instilled confidence in the profession. It facilitated ASHI’s mission. All of that value is something that’s worth protecting—but at what cost? Or is this even the right question?
Much like those who’ve continued to reinvent the wheel, ASHI has been constantly reinventing itself for more than 40 years. Some changes have been difficult, even painful. Some even would argue that a few “reinventions” have been steps backward. But in my opinion, the overall trend has been positive:
ASHI is still not only the standard bearer, but also the standard setter, and this is the crux of the matter. New members join us because they recognize ASHI’s value. They, too, want to build on—or reinvent—the foundation that ASHI’s founders have established.
So, as we set out to reinvent the wheel that is ASHI once again, I say let’s not forget to apply the brakes judiciously from time to time. But whatever we do, let’s make sure that we keep ASHI’s wheels round. Square wheels just don’t roll very well.