Archive for September, 2009

Musings on a clean slate
September 29, 2009

Dear Readers;

Yesterday, nightfall marked the end of Yom Kippur, a Day of Atonement observed by Jews. Though I consider myself more secular, than religious, I cherish this holiday and spend time with family and friends in synagogue in prayer, meditation and reflection.

Yom Kippur marks the end of a 10-day period known as the High Holy Days. During this period we reflect on the past year, recall the situations when we’ve “missed the mark”, and ask for forgiveness of those who’ve been hurt by our actions.  We rebuild relationships with others, and as important, we rebuild relationship with our harshest critic, ourselves. We mend fences, we move on.

I do this an individual and as a member of a community.

I can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if every member of a company spent a day in this kind of deep reflection…considering what effect actions had on those within the organization and all those whose lives were touched in some transaction. Would this lead to more corporate morality? More accountability? Greater focus on sustainability? More responsibility?

In this day of social media, it’s harder to hide mistakes over long periods; and those firms who openly acknowledge when they’ve “missed the mark” are more likely to rebuild public trust and faith in their businesses and brands.

All I can do is renew my efforts to do the best work that I can, to act fairly and with integrity in all of my business and personal relationships.

It’s a new day. A clean slate.

Let’s make the best of it!

Laurie Tema-Lyn, Practical Imagination Enterprises, laurie@practical-imagination.com, 908-237-2246

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Musings: Reporting on my research experiment
September 16, 2009

Dear Readers;

An offhand comment from my 25-year old niece a few weeks ago was the inspiration for me to try a research experiment. As I was serving a family dinner Sam said that she “never cooks, doesn’t want to learn, and there’s no need to anymore.” She went on to say that she’s not alone in this–many of her girlfriends feel the same way.

I was distressed, because I thoroughly enjoy cooking as a creative experience, as well as a way to get healthy fuel for my body.

Now I’m a member of the Boomer generation, and when I was growing up the Moms and Grand-moms did most of the cooking and the girls were expected from an early age to contribute to meal prep. As a college student, friends gathered at my house for a good home-cooked meal, and as I entered young adulthood, worked long hours, and was very much a feminist, I still did the cooking.  My niece’s comment struck a chord–I’d heard similar remarks from young women I’ve come in contact with in the last few years…and yet, I’d also heard from young adult males (my nephew included) who took pride and delight in putting a good meal together.

Serendipitously, that week I had been in contact with Jennifer Dale of Inside Heads who was launching a new on-line, text-based focus group platform called My Virtual Focus Room FacilitySM. Jennifer graciously offered me the opportunity to demo the platform without charge. I jumped at the offer to learn more about these younger generations’ attitudes toward cooking while experimenting with the technology.

You can read the details of my learnings in the white paper posted to my website.  I believe there are potential implications for food manufacturers and those who make appliances and tools related to meal prep.

http://www.practical-imagination.com/2003/pdfs/GenX-YCooking%20Research.pdf

I’ll share a bit of my experience in using this text based on-line focus group method. Now I have a reputation in the qual research world for being a creative, “high touch” researcher. I love to work with consumers, shoppers and my clients in personal, intimate, face-to-face situations where I can read the full array of emotions through words, tones, gestures, body language, etc. I’ve done some on-line research—mostly Bulletin Boards, and not been entirely satisfied. However, this was a better experience, and I can see a place for it in my moderator’s tool-chest.

The oddest thing for me was the rhythm of the groups–I would sometimes get a rush of responses, like a big family dinner party with everyone talking at the same time and no one listening to each other (but you get to see the words real-time, like a live screen opera libretto).  On the other extreme, sometimes I’d pose a question, and wait for what seemed like a long time to get feedback. Because you can’t see people thinking, it’s hard to know if they just have no opinions or ideas, or they are thoughtfully composing and typing a response. I discussed this with Jennifer who is exploring how they might solve this so the moderator gets some feedback that the respondent is typing away, even before the answer is sent.

At the end of the two groups I reviewed the transcripts and found them to be full of juicy quotes, and the on-line input mirrored what I had learned in my pre-groups telephone IDI’s. I was able to mine a lot from the two, 80-minute sessions and my take-away is positive. While I don’t think this platform is as emotionally satisfying for me to work, it certainly has many benefits in fast turnaround, ability to gather together larger groups of geographically diverse respondents and clients, and there are cost savings. Another benefit that’s not being talked about–if this swine flu hits us hard, on-line research may be the best option around.

I’d love to hear about the experiences of other researchers who have been working extensively in face-to-face and shifting to on-line.

Laurie Tema-Lyn, Practical Imagination Enterprises, 908-237-2246, laurie@practical-imagination.com

Musings on Connections & Reconnections
September 13, 2009

Der Readers;

I confess. I’m hooked on the Sunday Times weddings and announcements section. I scan the faces of couples and get an intuition about who will stay together or who will not. And the longer stories about how couples met are often inspiring. This morning I read of folks in Maine who re-connected after 70 years! They were playmates in a small coastal town, moved away as pre-teens with each going on to live full lives and then, they found each other again. Now, in their eighties they’ve married! What a story.

This got me thinking about connections and reconnections in business.  LinkedIn is one of my personal favorites for re-establishing connections with colleagues and clients. I find it fascinating to see the journeys people have taken across categories, industries, companies and countries. But what stands out most in my mind are the crucial stories of life. The clients and colleagues with whom I’ve shared celebrations of business launched, of product success in a market, of births, and anniversaries and running marathons and surviving cancer and divorce and challenging teenagers.  It’s the client team I was ideating with when we were stopped to watch the shocking news that morning of 9/11. It’s the stories of struggle and hope shared by research participants dealing with illness, of others  whose lives were improved by a product I worked on, or some whose load was lightened just because we were objective listeners to their stories and needs.

Certainly, I love my work for the creativity, diversity, flexibility and freedom it affords me, but mostly it’s because of the ability to witness transformation in people’s lives as we connect and re-connect over the years.

What stories of connections & reconnections do you have to share?

Musings on Letting Go
September 7, 2009

Dear Readers;

It’s Labor Day. The temperature has been noticeably cooler the past week; and while many folks I know are delightfully embracing the beginning of Fall…I’m kicking and screaming inside; not wanting to let go of summer.

Oh, but I wish I had another month of those hot summer days (even the humidity!) to let my toes be bare, to sink my teeth into luscious Jersey tomatoes, to relax on the beach, to dine al fresco after work, after exercise and long into the evening.

Not that fall is without charms. I do appreciate them, but still find myself saddened by the natural process of decay that Fall brings with it. I’d much rather plant seeds than rake leaves.  Letting go of summer is hard to do.

This Letting Go seems to be a current theme of many people in my midst.

A dear friend reflects on having to let go of his ego in order to embark on a spiritual journey. An elder relative who suffered a fall is wistful about letting go of her ability to live unassisted. A colleague says her sweet goodbyes to her son off to college. A client is frustrated having to let go of a business initiative that she shepherded for years; another client bemoans having to let go of plans to proceed with a research project because of reduced funding. The Board members I’m consulting to say they have to let go of self-limitations if they are to become a more powerful Board and successful organization.

So I’ll say a farewell to summer 2009, with a last celebration of its joys! And then remind myself of the new possibilities to embrace this Fall.

Wishing you a happy Labor Day.

Musings
September 1, 2009

“Pouring on the Pounds” Campaign

I was stopped in my tracks yesterday as I caught a TV ad sponsored by the New York Health Department. The campaign has a gruesomely powerful visual image — a bottle of soda, sweetened ice tea or sports drink that morphs into a blob of fat. The campaign is designed to encourage New Yorkers to rethink their drink and choose beverages with less sugar.

With drinks becoming supersized and 20-ounce bottles the norm, a single sweetened beverage—like a cola or iced white mocha can bring with it 13-16 teaspoons of sugar and 250 to 340 calories. Yikes!

I’m wondering if New Yorkers will take notice of this campaign and if it will be the impetus for change in consumers’ behavior. Will this spread across the country— with other cities taking up similar campaigns? Will we see more parents and PTA’s demanding changes in cafeterias and vending machines? Might we see cities across America sponsor “biggest loser” events?

But perhaps the big beverage companies will do more to beef up their “healthy” beverage portfolios. They all have their share of bottled waters and zero calorie, zero sugar or low sugar offerings. It seems that there’s great opportunity for innovation in developing more good tasting, mouth satisfying, thirst quenching beverages, without all the sugar.

For example, in my visit to the NY Fancy Foods Show this summer, I was impressed by the small companies that had created various fruit, herb and spice flavored waters–still and sparkling waters with coconut, cinnamon, coriander, other uncommon flavors. Some were unsweetened, others contained agave. Many of the products I sampled were delicious — the fragrant aromas fooled the palate and made up for the lack of sweetener.

What’s going to happen in the beverage world? This is a story that I think will be an interesting one to watch!

You can read more at NYC.gov Web site at

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2009/pr057-09.shtml