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What did Al Capone, Babe Ruth, and Coco Chanel all have in common? Al Capone understood that working men just wanted to enjoy a beer after a long day at work…and that working women wanted exactly the same thing. Babe Ruth understood that people wanted a show, not just a game…even if they would never see him play. Coco Chanel understood that women wanted freedom from tight corsets, flowing gowns, and complex updos…even if (especially if) that meant showing some skin. Each one understood what their customer wanted and found a way to give it to them. We’ve heard amazing stories like these so often over the past 100 years that they’ve become…well, normal. But that’s only because no one alive today remembers what life was like before the so-called “Roaring 20s” – the most misunderstood decade in American history. Capone, Ruth, and Chanel were indeed unique, but they were not alone. Dozens of innovators used the same approach to systematically change every aspect of our daily lives in a 10-year orgy of societal transformation unknown before or since. The 1920s ushered in nothing short of a Consumer Revolution – one just as transformative as the Industrial Revolution that preceded it or the Information Revolution that followed. Consumer culture not only changed what we buy and how we buy it, but more important than that, it changed how we see ourselves and our role in society. We’re more than healthcare patients, college students, social advocates, and citizens. We’re consumers…and we demand to be treated as such. It’s long past time we reexamined the Consumer Revolution, and the 1920s, with a fresh perspective. Each story is epic in its own right, but when we see them as a whole, a clearer picture emerges. Together, they taught Americans to vote with their wallets. Our world – for good and for ill – would never be the same.
In a career that spans more than 25 years, Jason Voiovich has launched hundreds of new products – everything from medical devices, to virtual healthcare systems, to non-dairy consumer cheese, to next-generation alternatives to the dreaded “cone of shame” for pets, to sex aides for cows (really!). He’s a graduate of both the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota, and he has completed post-graduate studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His formal training has been invaluable, but he credits his true success to growing up in a family of artists, immigrants, and entrepreneurs. They taught him how to carefully observe the world, see patterns before others notice them, and use those insights to create new innovations. History is Jason’s favorite way to observe the world. He believes the people from the past have plenty to teach us about the challenges and opportunities we face today.