178. From Paris, naturally (Condition #26: smell)
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I like a lot of different smells. A lot of food and drink smells make me happy. I am ambivalent to most cosmetic fragrances, but really like some others (and ya, I also can’t stand some of them). I love many of the varied smells in a natural environment. I even kind of like the smell of skunks because I think skunks are very cute and hilarious, so I get excited when I smell one and sometimes wander around to see if I can find it. Some other people have really negative reactions to smells – both natural and artificial. I did a bit of poking around to see if I could find any research to explain this and the only paper I found that wasn’t just based on either tiny samples or self-reporting in surveys was from 2019 in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, where Basketter, Huggard and Kimber found “adverse health effects arising from fragrance inhalation are uncommon and remain to be identified and confirmed by methodologically rigorous epidemiological investigations supported by a convincing biological and mechanistic basis.” In other words, yeah some people definitely have bad reactions when they smell certain things, there’s no reason to believe that the fragrances CAUSE the bad reactions. But that’s no reason not to be interested in creating an environment in your boardroom where people feel most comfortable and welcome. What if, and I’m just spitballing here, your board becomes more creative and strategic when the room smells like Cinnabon, and more careful and detail-oriented when the room smells like cedar? What if half of your board members are super bothered by strong smells while the other half gets really stoked when they can wear their favourite fragrances? You’d probably want to know these things, right? And maybe be intentional based on what you learn.

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