We know that crises drive ingenuity. The Second World War gave us the GPS, the jet engine and even superglue. I’m not saying wars or pandemics are good things. Rather, I’m asking if there are hidden opportunities that the pandemic is offering us.

In this year’s Fjord Trends report, one of the trends we’re seeing is how the pandemic is helping to change how we innovate.

Across the world, more or less at the same time, people were locked in their houses for weeks on end. With that space and time on their hands, many people got busy.

Watch times for DIY and step-by-step videos increased by 65%.

Where there is demand, there is also supply. If people want DIY videos, then creators need to make them.

In June 2020, more than 50% more businesses were registered than 2019. In July, British entrepreneurs set an all-time record when they registered 81,000 new businesses in a single month!

People had time on their hands, and some people had a bit of breathing space because their banks gave them a payment holiday, or they could convert to working from home, and so people started innovating for themselves.

The big shift is that instead of waiting for Apple or Google or Samsung to innovate for them, people were using the tools they already had, and were taking innovation into their own hands.

This trend was made possible by the fact that platforms exist in the first place. Musicians had their 2020 touring schedules cancelled. So one musician went to the gaming platform Fortnite and held his concert there, for 12-million fans. That’s the equivalent of a lot of stadiums!

We all suffered through Zoom schooling. As a business meeting platform, Zoom was quickly co-opted to help with remote teaching. In Beirut, after their devastating port explosion, schools used WhatsApp. Teachers and learners could leave voicenotes and short videos for each other. WhatsApp is not a remote learning platform, but people didn’t care. They used their ingenuity—and the platforms they had access to—to create solutions for the problems around them.

The line between creator and consumer is blurring.

What does that mean for our experience economy? A key question we can ask is: how can we create a platform, and how else can the platform be used?

TikTok started as a way to help dancers and singers express themselves by lipsyncing popular songs. Now it’s used by comics, dancers and musicians as well as sexuality educators, queer activists and doctors to educate their audiences in a fun, accessible way.

I mention doctors because when it comes to opportunities given to us by the pandemic, healthcare has been a big beneficiary. Early in 2020, we saw alcohol manufacturers quickly start making hand sanitizer. A team in Colombia created cheap ventilators to help treat Covid patients. A UK company called Hygiene Hook started manufacturing ways to open doors without touching them. A South African opthalmologist invented a referral app for primary healthcare workers in rural South Africa. Using the app, a rural doctor or nurse can message a specialist, send photos of the patient’s condition and answer questions about the problem. These primary healthcare workers who are using the app have treated one in four patients themselves in their rural practices – patients they would otherwise have referred to specialists in the nearest big city, hundreds of kilometres away.

The idea that we need big business to come up with solutions to our problems has been shaken. We are now coming up with our own solutions by watching YouTube, or finding experts online and subscribing to their content on the Patreon platform, or even buying clothing we like directly from the creator, be it on Etsy, Teespring or even Instagram.

Perhaps that’s one of the opportunities the pandemic gave us: we are more connected to our own creativity and ingenuity, and more able to be rewarded for it than ever before.

To download the 2021 edition of the Fjord trends report, please click this link.