business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

In 1895 the first two cars ever driven on the roads of Ohio managed to collide. And just last week in Rosslyn, Virginia, an Uber passenger flung open a car door smacking right into a Bikeshare rider.

So maybe Karl Marx had it wrong when he said, “history repeats itself; first as tragedy, second as farce.” Maybe irony comes first.

One can only imagine the reaction folks in 1895 had when they heard about the accident of the only two vehicles in the state not attached to horses. They probably thought it ridiculous and couldn’t have imagined how dominant cars would become nor could they foresee the incredible rate of fender benders and worse.

Just like that we have to consider the omens of a collision between a person using a high-tech mobile app-based transportation network and another on a communal bicycle - two people traveling via vehicles that neither owned, that were part of services that reflect a changing economy. It is possible that 100 years from now such services will be as commonplace as cars are now?

Who knows?

What we do know is that priorities are changing, needs are evolving, and companies are making decisions based on factors that just a few years ago would not have mattered at all.

I happen to live less than three miles from the world headquarters of Marriott International - although that distance may be about to grow. Marriott is looking to relocate. The reason is that while the current facility is conveniently located near the junction of two major highways, it is inconveniently at least one bus ride from the closest mass transit train station.

As Marriott executives explained recently to the Washington Post, the only way to attract the young employees the company needs is to simplify the mass transit commute. In fact, one of Marriott’s chief rivals, Choice Hotels, recently made that exact move one town away.

There are countless articles these days about the changing lifestyles of the younger generation and the myriad ways those shifts are impacting the simple elements of life. It’s their lack of interest in homes, car ownership, cable television contracts, marriage and even all the stuff they have left in their parent’s homes.

It takes a very small amount of extrapolating to see the incredible impact this has on food retailing. Mega-stores surrounded by even larger parking lots will have minimal importance to people who eschew car ownership and large homes. Rather, we see increasing pressure for smaller stores in walking-friendly neighborhoods.

Now let’s first take a deep breath and remember, things change. These ownership-adverse millennials could shift their living habits drastically as they age, start having families and see the value of one-stop shopping and suburbs. Remember, the same generation (my generation) moved from “don’t trust anyone over 30” to ”60 is the new 30” in the blink of an eye. (Well, at least it seemed like the blink of an eye.)

We know things change. We just don’t know how. But we still have to find ways to prepare.

It is like the "butterfly effect" that Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) describes in Jurassic Park: " A butterfly flaps its wings in Beijing, and weather in New York is different."

An Uber passenger opens a door, and hits a Bikeshare rider. And history changes. Again.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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