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Every decade has its own zeitgeist

By Chris Golis - posted Thursday, 26 February 2009

In this article I intend to discuss the Zeitgeist of the Teens. By Teens, I am not referring to teenagers but to the next decade, 2010 t0 2019. Zeitgeist is a German compound word. Zeit means time; Geist means spirit. Every decade has its own zeitgeist or defining mood. To workout the Zeitgeist of the Teens I am going to use a theory of temperament that I first discovered when I came to Australian in 1973 after completing my MBA at the London Business School.

Temperament may be defined as our genetic predisposition to moods and emotions. The model I use is known as the Humm-Wadsorth or Humm for short. This model says we are all slightly insane and as I get older I am more and more relaxed about this hypothesis. The model also says we have seven core emotional drives based on the six most common forms of insanity and a seventh drive that tries to bring logic and order into our personality. In my books I have changed the original Humm names but have ensured that the same first initial is used as a short-hand.

Manics are known as Movers or Ms. These people are friendly, sociable, enthusiastic optimists and frequently work in sales and marketing roles. They typically initiate and seek change as it is more fun. Bette Midler has a personality ruled by the M component.


Depressives equal Doublecheckers equal Ds. These people are compassionate and cautious. Because Ds are conscientious and stable they make excellent administrators. Woody Allen is a good example of D dominated temperament.

Paranoids are Politicians are Ps. They seek power and are aggressive, decisive, and forceful. Ps often become managers in large organisations. They have a fierce desire to win and this component often found in sportspeople. Greg Norman and Donald Bradman are personalities with high P.

Epiletoids are Engineers are Es. They like to plan and complete tasks and are thorough, meticulous, and systematic. Es regularly work either as consultants or as project managers. Kevin Rudd has a lot of E in his personality.

Austistics are Artists are As. These people are creative, visually imaginative, and sensitive. As habitually work in creative roles or in product design. Often these people come across as inarticulate. Richard Branson has a lot of A in his temperament.

Hysteroids are Hustlers are Hs and are realistic, shrewd, and money-conscious. The acumen of Hs often leads them to become successful business executives. They often work as middlemen and agents. The late Rene Rivkin was an archetypal Hustler.

Normals are Ns and are governed by the desire for order. They are law-adbiding, traditionalists, who often appear logical and unemotional. Ns tend to work for professional organisations such as lawyers and accountants. John Howard, the conservatives’ conservative is a person with very high Normal component.


The 1920s was the M decade - the boom mentality, perennial optimism and the social whirl all typify the Mover. The frenetic activity of the Charleston the popularity of clubs and night-spots and the car chases.

The 1930s, the time of the Great Depression, was the era dominated by the Doublechecker mentality. Innovation in many areas stopped. The advertising and films of that time stressed security and quality. The family was all important.

The 1940s was the decade of the Politician. The dominant desire was the desire to win. Dress commonly consisted of a uniform and World War II was all about conflict of ideologies and aggression. Which would win? Facism, Communism or Liberal Democracy?

The 1950s was the Engineers' decade. These were the years of great projects such as the Snowy Mountains scheme, satellites in space, the American highway network and the start of man’s landing on the moon.

Meditation, beards, imaginative clothes, inarticulate mumbling, and socially indifferent behaviour were the characteristics of the Woodstock generation of the late 1960s that dominated the advertising of that period. Appeals to the imaginative, creative, internal self were now “in”.

The advertising of the late 1970s and 1980s was aimed at the Hustler. The advertising was dominated by glitter and flash dress. The famous quotation of that time was Gordon Gekko's "Greed is good".

In the 1990s we had John Howard, the Normal’s Normal. Conservatism, political correctness and corporate governance were all important. Howard was right, the times did eventually suit him and he was Prime Minister for 11 years.

In the noughties, the world turned full circle. We were back to the Mover zeitgeist. Films have been dominated by action scences. Everyone uses a mobile phone constantly and the internet is dominated by social networking sites such as MySpace. Kevin Rudd was elected on his ability to tap into the new zeigeist, in particular with his slogan “Kevin07”.

Following the sequence outlined so far the Teens will be the decade of Doublechecker. Avoiding risk will be become the mantra, family and homes will dominate the advertising. I worked in financial services industry since 1980 and one big change in the Teens will be peoples’ attitude to debt. During the Noughties household debt has risen dramatically. Australia is the only country in the world where margin lending and negative gearing exceeds credit card debt. As more and more of the houses of your friends are repossessed, decreasing your level of debt will become the #1 priority of most people. We are already seeing signs of this in the lift of household savings ratio.

However cheer yourself up, the Teens will not be that bad. The real danger decade will be in the 2020s. This decade will be dominated by the P’s desire to win. One obvious conflict will be religious divide between fundamentalist Islam and the atheistic, libertarian West. Be happy you are living in Australia, as far from the conflict as possible.

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About the Author

Chris Golis is Australia's expert on practical emotional intelligence. He is an author, professional speaker and workshop leader. His site is

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