The new golden twenties

Universal Storyteller
5 min readNov 18, 2020

Every decade is known for something; and every decade brought us some key innovations they will always be associated with.

The 1960s were the decade of civil unrest and fundamental social change that also brought us colour television and the moon landing. The 1980s were times of cold war and nuclear catastrophe that also produced the widespread use of home entertainment and personal computers.

So, what will the 2020s be known for? What significant innovations will leave a mark on this decade?

Just in the dawn of the 2020s, COVID-19 has grabbed the whole world and shaken it severely. Things will never be the same again. The sad and devastating damage that cannot be undone is the loss of human life, and for that, we must all do our best to protect our fellow people.

But it was also encouraging to see how adaptable and resilient people can be when hit unprepared by a crisis. It proves my point that crises often bring out the best in people.

We have seen a lot of solidarity and volunteering out there. Indeed, I believe that we will come out a stronger and better society on the other end of this.

Some positive changes triggered by COVID-19 are already apparent: A growing awareness of public health, a revived appreciation for the outdoors, more flexible use of technology, reduced unnecessary commuting, less pollution, and international pharmaceutical cooperation. The recognition, and hopefully pay, for key workers improved, and the awareness for what is essential in life.

Also, this epidemic seemed to have been a good breeding ground for many innovative efforts;or who would have thought half a year ago that car and electronics manufacturers could develop and manufacture vital breathing devices in record time? Or that alcohol manufacturers produce disinfectants? Or that vast company-critical projects can be controlled and implemented entirely virtually?

In fact, history has shown that economic crises and significant innovations often go hand in hand. The “Long Crisis” of 1873–1896 and the “Great Depression” of the 1930s are generally considered the most innovative periods in human history. Among others, they brought us innovations such as the light bulb, the radio, the refrigerator, the steam turbine, magnetic recording technology, and many, many more.

Now seems a good time to innovate. However, to focus our innovation efforts, we need to focus on future trends and paradigm shifts that COVID-19 will bring.

Here are some trends that give us some guidance on what to innovate towards.


CONSUMER BEHAVIOURS. The interesting bit is that this crisis looms long enough to reshape the habits of consumers and make them stick. According to sociologists, it takes onaverage 66 days to adopt a new habit; this means, the behaviour consumers adopt during days of COVID-19, is likely here to stay. And of course, there has been a paradigm shift in the ways consumers think, act, work, play, and shop. Locked-down consumers spent more time than ever in front of their screens, watching television, participating in social media, playing online games, and shopping. And not only that, they even make appointments with their personal trainers, life coaches, and doctors virtually in front of their screen. Some brands are even moving product launches online, completely ignoring the possibility of physical stores. Stats say that during the current pandemic, the shift to online grocery shopping in Europe has accelerated at a pace which is the equivalent of three to four years in “normal times”. So, keep all the new consumer behaviour in mind when you innovate. What else can you provide virtually?

HEALTH. There is a way higher focus on health and everything which has to do with physical and mental well-being these days; and this has a direct impact on how consumers are thinking about the foods they eat, the books they read, and the activities they undertake. For example, polls indicate that more and more people find it important to buy healthy, non-processed food than prior to Covid-19. Think of how you can innovate in this space.

VIRTUAL MEANING. The pandemic gave us a clue how to use our virtual screen in a more meaningful and rewarding way. There have been some early inspirational examples. Cello masters post daily live concerts of a song that sustains them. Yoga gurus invite thousands of people for a virtual mass meditation. A Broadway diva invites performers from high school musicals to send their performances to her. There has been counselling, and coaching, and improv-acting via Zoom; all these disciplines were formerly exclusive to the real world; and they are meaningful. So, ask yourself how you can break open this digital medium with meaning and a human touch. Everything seems to be possible these days. First, figure outwhat people really need in these strange days and then translate it into the digital realm in a meaningful way.

THE HIGH STREET IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE HIGH STREET. This might be a bit counter-intuitive since many things moved from the high street into virtual spaces, and the return of out-of-home spending will probably be slow. But: people are still social animals who like to mingle and be out and abound in the real world. Thus, the high street has to be very innovative and come up with some fantastic concepts to win people back and invitethem to stroll and consume in city centres. Ask yourself what these new real-life concepts could look like while everybody else is busy inventing in the virtual world.


I hope, I could provide some ideas on what to innovate for. It will be interesting to see what big innovation this decade will be remembered for. Admittedly, the world has seen a toughstart into the 2020s; but we have over nine years to rectify this and turn it around.

And there is some hope from history: After the disastrous 1918–19 Spanish flu and the end of World War I, the economy bounced back surprisingly quickly and catapulted us in thearguably most exciting decade of the last century: The Roaring Twenties. Women liberated themselves, bobbed their hair, frequented speakeasies, and danced the Charleston. Thatturbulent decade also saw the birth of Bauhaus, Surrealism, Dada, Dixieland, and manyinnovations we still use today, like television, vacuum cleaner, band-aids, and automated traffic-signals.

Everything is in flux,and this crisis will be over at some point soon. Let’s get this behind us, buckle up and innovate our way into the new Golden Twenties.



Universal Storyteller

Nicolai Schumann is the founder of Universal Storyteller and teaches storytelling at universities and to corporates.