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By Sarah Shapard

The Viral Spread

By Sarah Shapard Posted October 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I spent the night in Baltimore yesterday at the Radisson Hotel. It is a historic landmark in our country, and deservingly so. Its cathedral-like ceilings and brass signs remind me of the anti-smoking status quo in the early ‘20s. At the time it’d cost you $25 if you were caught smoking in the elevator.  Now — more than 90 years later — you can’t smoke anywhere in the hotel.

 
The anti-smoking policy was an idea many business owners — especially in the hospitality industry — didn’t think would spread. They didn’t want it to spread! They feared if they banned smoking, their business would suffer.
 
But, as with any virus, it was beyond their control. The anti-smoking sentiment spread far and wide — and nothing stayed the same.  Now every single room at this hotel is a smoke-free room.
 
And it seems to me when I ask if my room is a smoke-free room, I might as well as be asking if the sky is blue. It’s a given — nowadays.
   
how do you anticipate change?
You work backwards, for one, into time to see what ideas have taken root into society’s ground. Use history as your crystal ball. Pay attention to the patterns. There might be, for example, the occasional planting of an idea in one or two places, then a trickling of movement as it begins to break through the soil and spread.
 
The anti-smoking idea I mentioned goes as far back as 1575 (maybe even earlier) when a Mexican council regulated a policy forbidding smoking in any church in Mexico. Here was an idea that was planted in the ground.
 
Then the popes in the 1600s banned smoking in holy places (another idea planted) and King James I of England hopped on the bandwagon with his treatise in 1604 that led to higher taxes on tobacco (another idea in the ground).
 
Do you see the pattern? These ideas are beginning to spread more frequently. Then sure enough, they start popping up, like flashing yellow dots, all over the world and into the 20th century, where their sheer force in numbers shifted the status quo away from the acceptance of smoking in everyday life — and changed the way hotels, bars and restaurants did their businesses.  
 
So, take a look backwards for a pattern. Use this pattern to lay down the tracks into the future for your business. 

Is a virus heading your way? Are you anticipating any changes to your industry?

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