Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

Musing: Stand-Outs from the 2018 Fancy Foods Show
July 7, 2018

Spending a day at the NY Summer Fancy Foods Show is a sensory overload- but an experience I relish, as I’ve been attending the annual Show for most of the past 25 years.

There are thousands of exhibitors from around the world, packed into 4 floors of the  Javits Center.

Because of the enormity of the Convention and the limited time I have to spend there I plan my visits ahead of time to focus on a select handful of categories or companies, wear comfortable shoes, and pace myself as I take in a multitude of tastes, aromas and stories from entrepreneurs, as well as larger companies who exhibit primarily to showcase their products to the trade. My lenses are not that of a food buyer, but as a market researcher and creative catalyst working with many clients to help them develop product pipelines or hone their positioning or messaging.

My tour visit lenses this year: scanning for macro trends, plus focus on the world of snacks (savory and sweet) and beverages. I was not disappointed!

There were dozens of exhibitors that were intriguing to me, from the moment I entered the convention hall.

My first stop was at the Alpha Food Labs Future Market Exhibit. The interactive concept store presented a variety of trends as product concepts of the future. The macro trends include:  total personalization/customization, sustainability, re-use. Among the exciting imagined products of the future…

  • Custom Culture– precision microbiome yogurt designed to meet the individual’s precise needs
  • Analyze me– via pills that conduct an analysis of an individual’s microbiome
  • Alga Marina– sea nutrition based pasta
  • Nano Farm, an aeroponic horticulture system that allows you to grow farm-fresh foods at home
  • Aquapur– eco-friendly hydration using “ghost plastic” packaging- which does not use plastic
  • Refuel– precision nutrition 3D food printing cartridge which calibrates the individual’s nutritional needs to the microgram
  • Trim Snack– each bag contains 2 oz. of “food waste”- zesty BBQ crunchy veggie chips and jerky mix

Continuing a theme of the last decade, an emphasis on “Healthy” foods was pervasive. The majority of products I noticed contained a long list of “No bad ingredients.” (Organic or all Natural, non-GMO, gluten free, nondairy, or were targeted to specific diets: Vegan, Paleo.) Furthermore, the line between “good for you” and functional foods or nutraceuticals is blurred. But taste is still important!

Among the intriguing “healthy” snacks…

  • Eat Real organic veggie twists, lentil chips, hummus chips, quinoa puffs
  • Aree almond rice snacks had delicious combos in their new Crisp ‘n Chips line: black pepper & mustard, Sriracha & Cheese, Butter & Corn, Rosemary & Tomato, Barbeque & Salty Vinegar
  • LUKES featured organic white truffle & sea salt potato chips (“urbani Italian white truffles with french grey guerande fleur du sel salt) with this appropriate tag line: “Snack like a kid live like a grown up.”
  • Living Intentions offered ACTIVATED Superfood Nut Blend: Honey Sriracha, Thai Curry, White Chocolate, Malted Maple

These ingredients popped up in a wide range of snacks and other product categories:

  • Quinoa
  • Turmeric
  • Mushrooms
  • Coconut
  • Maple syrup
  • Hemp
  • Chick Peas
  • Flax seeds

From the snack world: Undercover Quinoa– dark chocolate and seeds– crispy organic quinoa lightly covered with premium chocolate or milk chocolate and currants.

Yes, chocolate is good for you! Especially when it’s dark chocolate, organic, single origin, paired with a Superfruit or super grain.

Natierra offered organic chocolate mango, banana slices – “real fruit with Amazon rainforest chocolate.”

Even traditional, hand-made pasta is being contemporized with health-focused ingredients: hemp, chick pea, flax seed, brown bean and spirulina.

A newcomer to the grain world is FONIO– a West African supergrain which, according to the exhibitor, “has an impressive nutritional profile.” One to watch for.

Super fruits and Super veggies continue to be strong with Acai Roots presenting the Super fruit Lifestyle…”More than a berry. A lifestyle.” The lifestyle is symbolized by a beautiful athletic looking woman eating a bowl of Acai Roots Superfood Bowls. The Bowls are also available in hemp, coco nibs and goji berry flavors.

Maple Syrup is not just for pancakes and waffles. Continuing a trend seen the last few years, it’s become a more sophisticated and versatile ingredient. Runamok Maple has their Sugarmaker’s Cut (the best of the season). It’s a line of barrel-aged, smoked and infused maple syrups.  Flavors include: smoked with pecan wood, hibiscus flower infused, cardamom infused, merquén infused – (merquén is an ancient spice with smoked chili peppers from Chile). It’s a delicious ingredient for vinaigrettes, BBQ, mixed into sweet potatoes or with cheese.

In the world of beverages, shots are hot!  

  • Ginger People has three Rescue shots from which to choose: ginger shot with coconut, with wild turmeric and with lemon & cayenne.
  • Fire & Brew has a line of premium health tonics that strengthen the immune system- Vitality Boosters with apple cider vinegar comes in citrus, chai, and strawberry.
  • Kings & Queens: offers antioxidant adaptogenic teas in peach, blackberry and lemon, that are based on the “seriously functional immune system boosting power of mushrooms.”
  • Mingle: presented delightful handcrafted sparkling mocktails; these are nonalcoholic with natural botanicals for use as mocktails or mixers. Flavors: Moscow Mule, Melon Mojito, Cranberry Cosmo, Blackberry Hibiscus Bellini.

Two of the most intriguing, innovative products were in the water category:

  • ASARASI presented USDA Organic water harvested from trees! Sparkling and still waters that are sustainable and renewable. The water is a bi-product after 100% of the sugar is removed from the maple sap.
  • O. Vine offered wine grape infused water- now there’s a combo of two of my favorite beverages! The delicious nose of white or red wine in a non-alcoholic, fresh clean still or sparkling water beverage.

Often the story behind the food is the compelling idea, and there were many fascinating tales of the founders and impetus behind products. Some were developed by desired to create healthy alternatives for children or for people with food intolerances, others were driven by social mission.

Ziba products from Afghanistan had two offerings at the Show:  Afghani Sun Dried Kandahar Figs and Shakhurbai Almonds– roasted & salted. They are “biodynamic superfoods, sustainably sourced, nutrient dense”; but perhaps more important is that they are dedicated to “improving the lives of women and farmers in Afghanistan.” The women and their photos are on the back of each package.

Want to know more? Send me a note or call.

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises

laurie@practical-imagination.com

908-237-2246

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Musings: Immersion into a growing new reality
June 22, 2017

Dear Readers;

I visited the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) last week out of curiosity to see how the industry is evolving.

If your image is pot smoking hippies- you’d be surprised to see that the cannabis business today is characterized by professional, smart and sophisticated players.

My objectives were to learn; and my search images were primarily consumer products (not the greenhouses, growers, lights, extraction process and legal services).

The industry is rapidly growing as federal and state regulatory policies are becoming more liberal in many states, medical marijuana and recreational use are becoming legal or de-criminalized in many places. Research into the use of medical marijuana is showing promise in a range of health issues including seizures, cancer and lupus.

Some highlights of my wanderings through the Exhibit hall:

  • Cannabis, CBD (Cannabidiol) and hemp are being used in a wide range of edibles: butters, brownies, gummies, chocolate bars, cookies even water. I found CBD in animal health products– in organic dog treats touted as providing non-psychoactive compounds to help govern animal’s appetite, sleep, mood and memory.
  • CBD infused cosmetics combine CBD with essential oils and other active ingredients to help reduce inflammation, pain and stress while promoting anti-aging and skin vibrancy.
  • CBD infused topicals carefully indicate benefits of skin protection, muscle pain relief and many other benefits.
  • Infused waters and syrups imply medical value and mood/relaxation benefits.
  • There were a variety of vendors displaying other delivery forms including pen-like E-cigarette type devices, discrete canna-pouches (like chewing tobacco in a small teabag) sprays, crystals, vitamin dots and more.

My visit to the CWCBExpo was reminiscent of my annual visit to the Fancy Foods Show. It was exciting to see the new ventures and speak with passionate entrepreneurs about their businesses. I’ll be willing to bet that many of these will over time become block-buster, mainstream products.

The time is right. Turn on the news any morning and local and world events are likely to produce high stress. This world of cannabis is promising some relief.

I invite your comments!

Laurie Tema-Lyn, laurie@practical-imagination.com

 

 

Musings: A riff on Pi, π 3.1415926… on a snowy March 14th
March 14, 2017

Happy Pi day!

Math Geeks, Princetonians and yours truly have a special fondness for this day, in honor of the Greek letter that represents the symbol for the ratio of a circle to its diameter. Pi is expressed as 3.14 with an infinite string of decimals trailing behind it. It’s that long string of decimals that make Pi such a fun challenge for the mathematically motivated to memorize and to calculate to more and more digits.

My emotional connection to Pi is that it’s the shorthand nickname for my business, Practical Imagination Enterprises. At PIE we think big and we drill deep. We stimulate our client and consumer teams to dream, engage imagination and intuition as we tackle business challenges. Then we drive the insights, stories, and ideas we gather into actionable strategies, tactics, product and communications concepts for our diverse set of clients. Our programs are custom-designed, collaborative and fun.

Now here are some more fun facts about Pi…

  • Pi is a Transcendental number, which is any number that is not an algebraic number.
  • It’s intriguing that Transcendental brings with it other realms of meaning –spiritual or non-physical world, visionary and idealistic.
  • One of the world’s greatest scientists, Albert Einstein, is a Pi baby, born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Germany. But he moved to Princeton, NJ in 1935 where he lived and worked for the Institute for Advanced Study until his death in 1955.
  • Princeton is a short jaunt from where I live and work. And among Princetonians, Pi day has long been a cause for celebration with many events scheduled, from the playful to the intellectual.

But on this Pi day the wind is howling, the snow and sleet falling outside my window.

It’s a good day to work indoors…and perhaps top it off with a tasty treat this evening of some hot chocolate and a slice of pie.

Happy Pi Day!

Drop me a line or give a call if you would like to know more about how we engage rational, logical, emotional and imaginative thinking to solve tough business problems.

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises

laurie@practical-imagination.com

908-399-9460

Musings: Planting Peas and the Low Growth Trap
June 8, 2016

Dear Readers;

It’s been a long tradition of mine to plant my seeds for sweet peas in the ground on Patriot’s Day (this year it was on April 18). I get to harvest them before the 4th of July. As I was working the damp, rich soil, I thought of parallels to the work I do as creative catalyst, consultant and qualitative market researcher.

I plant peas in early Spring with the expectation of a hearty yield in summer. I become “Earth Mom” to my seedlings, committing to nurture and protect them with water and compost, thinning when needed, and providing support stakes as they grow. I know from years gone by that I’ll worry about their conditions when my business takes me on the road and hope my husband has the good sense to water them. Of course, there are no guarantees! Peas need the sustenance of natural forces–sun and warmth, a kind wind and non-invasive pests. As a gardener for many years I know the success rate is never a 100%, but it’s always bountiful and delicious.

I’ve heard that peas can grow under artificial light, but if they receive just a one second burst of natural, full-spectrum light they will open their leaves every 24 hours after that to look for more? I like that I don’t have to teach peas how to be peas; growth decisions are built in if they get what they need, when they need it. If the afore-mentioned clueless husband forgets to water them for 3 days and then drowns them right before I come home, in hopes I won’t notice, I will…and the plants will suffer. Delivering the right stuff but too late for the growth cycle just encourages decay, pests and the wrath of Mother Nature.

A report just issued by an international economic agency, The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development noted that there is increasing pessimism about global economic growth. This is due to volatility in financial markets, the potential British exit from the European Union and Europe’s inability to find a common response to the refugee problem. OECD said that this weak growth was becoming chronic. “This low growth trap involves a cycle in which diminished expectations become self-fulfilling,” said Angel Gurria, the OECD’s Secretary-General.

We’ve seen this cycle repeated many times. In periods of uncertainty many firms cut back on expenditures, and are cautious about innovation. While this financial strategy may make sense for the short term, we all know that it’s sure to have impact on what can be brought to the table in the future. Conserving resources, especially during drought, is prudent for the crops we have in the ground already. But planting for future crops we’ll need is an absolute requirement so we don’t eat up all our past work.

How to get more “bang” for the investment dollars you do have? Perhaps this year’s innovation activities are not focused on new products, but on ways to make better use current resources.

Some years ago we worked with a major brand that was being asked to slash 10 million dollars in business expenditures! A mind-boggling number for sure, and the first reaction was to consider letting go of large numbers of personnel. Fortunately a visionary leader intervened. We worked closely together with him running a series of innovation meetings with different business stakeholders: from first line supervisors at the plants, to members of the executive leadership team. It was the creative factory workers who first noticed significant ways to save money through some easy-to-implement changes. Continued idea development resulted in short term net growth! The long-term result was huge savings to the business and no one was let go! We’re very proud of that work.

For other clients, innovation investment in lean times has focused on developing deeper insight into existing customers’ needs, creating more distinctive and compelling communications or improving upon product packaging to make it more user-friendly.

Would your business like to have a great harvest this year? If so, let’s talk! We can strategize about an ideation or research plan that’s effective, productive and mindful of your dollars.

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises, laurie@practical-imagination.com

Office: 908-237-2246; Mobile: 908-399-9460

Musings: Engaging Research Respondents, vs. Bribery
April 5, 2016

April 5, 2016

Dear Readers;

The remark almost went unnoticed: “Is there an extra incentive in there if we do this exercise?” At the time I was facilitating a Co-Creation Session and I asked my research participants to sketch out their ideas for an eye-catching package that would succinctly tell our new product’s story. I breezily responded: “Well I certainly hope that everyone feels that they’ve been fairly compensated for their time and brainpower!” (Our panelists were being paid $150 for 2 ½ hours of their time.)

In the flurry of analysis and report writing I forgot about the incident until a week later. I was listening to a webinar on the use of Gamification in online consumer research. It’s a growing trend in our industry. Research platform providers are incorporating video game-like elements into research design to incentivize participants to answer questions or to do activities. While respondents get paid for their overall attendance in the online discussion, they are also rewarded with points or money for completing particular exercises. For example: upload a selfie eating your favorite snack for an additional $15. Answer a question in another section of the discussion and get an extra $10, etc. The providers’ rationale is that these games and rewards engage respondents and make the research more fun.

I’m all for fun and making research engaging, but I can’t help but feeling uneasy.

My concern is that as a research industry and culture, an emphasis on gamification is potentially creating a monster. We may end up attracting even more people who are just looking to “game” the system. We already know that there is a danger in the “professional” recruits, the “Cheaters & Repeaters.” Abby Leafe and I reported results of our study into this problem (50 Shades of Respondent Grey) at the QRCA National Conference in 2013 and we continue to share new ideas and strategies to mitigate against this danger.

How can we increase engagement without ”bribery” — buying completion of discrete sub-tasks?

In my experience, the major responsibility for engagement rests on the shoulders of the research consultant who should create an environment that is comfortable, safe, non-judgmental and friendly, even if it’s not filled with fun activities.

Nurturing engagement starts at the very beginning of a research conversation. I like to begin a group or interview by thanking my panelists for taking time out of their busy lives to join us. I underscore how important these conversations are for company personnel to learn how they can improve their products and services for all who use them. At the conclusion of the discussion I confirm that their voices have been heard, and thank them for their contributions. I’ve received enough feedback over the years from participants to know that these actions contribute to feelings of accomplishment, enjoyment and personal satisfaction, and they are not linked to the financial compensation they receive for their participation.

I also think we can also do more to recruit the “right” participants in the first place. Beyond demographics, product usage (and even) creativity and articulation questions, we can include some recruit questions to help find those people who are also more intrinsically motivated, internally satisfied. These are the people who feel enjoyment from doing a task itself.

Contrast that to those who are predominantly attracted to external rewards, or are extrinsically motivated.

Dr. Teresa Amabile, currently Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School, has developed an extensive body of work on motivation and creativity in individuals, teams and organizations. I have oversimplified her findings in this article. Teresa and her colleagues have produced landmark studies on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and how the work environment can influence creativity and motivation. The following is an excerpt from What Doesn’t Motivate Creativity Can Kill It (Harvard Business Review, April 25, 2012) by Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer.

We all need equitable, sufficiently generous compensation for our work, to avoid the distraction of financial worries, and to feel that we (and our work) are valued by our organizations. Recognition is another essential form of reward; it, too, signals that the person and the work are valued. Neither of these extrinsic motivators need damage intrinsic motivation or creativity. But when people feel that material rewards are being dangled before them like carrots on a stick, they come to feel externally controlled — a primary damper of intrinsic motivation.”

It strikes me that these findings should be applicable to our world of market research. In my quest to “up my game,” I’ll be experimenting with additional approaches to recruit and nurture more of these intrinsically motivated research participants. And I will continue to design ways to engage them in candid interchanges within the research arena.

Surely more to come on this.

I invite your comments!

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises

laurie@practical-imagination.com

MUSINGS on Pi…and what’s in a name
March 14, 2015

Dear Readers;

Happy Pi Day!

It’s 3/14/15 and the world is a buzz! Today is the only day this century that matches pi, the mathematical ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi can be rounded off to 3.1415, but in actually goes on infinitely, like imagination, it has no endpoint. Pi has been one of the central problem solving tools for centuries.

Now I have always had a particular fondness for the circle, more so than straight lines or angles. Circles are prominent in my home décor. And for years we’ve built my vegetable garden as raised beds within a large circle. Circles are power symbols for me.

In 1995, when I decided to re-form my work life and start a new consulting firm I knew I wanted just the right name and symbol to convey my offering. Self-reflection and brainstorming with my husband and close friends led to the name Practical Imagination…. a company devoted to engaging imaginative, creative thinking yet also focused toward practicality and problem solving so that “ideas” could become “reality” and brought to market. But then we playfully thought, wow, if we add an “e” we would have PIE. We landed on “Enterprises” to encompass a wide range of services and activities that we would serve up to clients to help them grow. Eureka! When I first said these three words, “Practical Imagination Enterprises” I knew it was exactly what I wanted to convey.

Practical Imagination Enterprises® has served us well all these years as we offer product innovation, marketing and research consulting services drawing upon three streams of expertise: diverse client teams, consumer/customer teams and outside Idea Sparks or Thought Leaders. We mix it all together in an approach that is multi-layered and playful.

Of course it’s no accident that our initials are PIE! But rather than “pie in the sky,” our logo is a global balloon, whose string is gently looped around the company name to signify that it is grounded.

Now for that other meaning… I think tonight is a good time for a tangy, sweet slice of apple pie a la mode.

 

Cheers!

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises

laurie@practical-imagination.com

908237-2246

Musings on “Rewiring”
November 19, 2014

Dear Readers;photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

I was catching up with an old friend the other night who mentioned that his wife had retired, taken up watercolors. She was framing this stage of her life not as “retirement” but as “rewiring.” I thought that was a pretty cool idea and wanted to share it with my friends and colleagues.

Then, the very next night, my husband and I found ourselves confronted with a shocking event that is forcing us to do some re-wiring too, in myriad ways.

Ron is an oral historian and had a lovely studio, a small wood building on our property. For reasons as yet unknown, the place went up in flames Saturday night. It was dramatic for our normally quiet country neighborhood. Fire engines, emergency vehicles, floodlights and neighbors flocking to see the goings on. It seemed like a movie set. But in the next morning it was clear that all the contents of the studio were destroyed. Ron’s vast collection of books, computers and recording equipment, many personal stories and so much more, now just ashes.

We’re trying to piece together information and memories to re-create an inventory of the material possessions, so we can work with the insurance company. Then we’ll be able to clean up the debris and rebuild- but perhaps a bird and butterfly oasis and garden, not another structure.

The fire caused a great loss, sadness, thankfully not a tragedy, as our home was untouched and we are safe. And it is one of those kick-in-the-face events that forces us both to re-evaluate…how we work, how we live, what we can do better, what we can learn from this, what re-wiring we want to do professionally and personally.

Not unnoticed is the fact that we’re both Aries; fire is our element. I have a basic trust that out of the ashes will emerge something new and wonderful if we let it.

Is there some “re-wiring” that you need to do in your work life or personal life too?

Feel free to drop me a line and share a story. We can build collective testimonies.

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

Musings: Timeless Mechanisms to Foster Innovation
October 9, 2014

“Innovation” is back in corporate America! It’s pervading the news, the literature and increasingly requested by my clients. It seems to me that the basic principles that fostered innovation 30 years ago are pretty similar today (though the digital mechanisms for employing them may be different).

In 1990 my then colleagues and I partnered with the Babson College Center for Entrepreneurial Studies to investigate existing practices of innovation in major US corporations. We reviewed the literature, conducted a survey and interviews with marketing and technological leaders from the Fortune 500 and engaged in a lively exchange at an Innovation Summit that we hosted in Cambridge, MA.

I’ll highlight our findings here…

We found four critical mechanisms necessary to foster innovation: (1) Strategic Commitment (vision & mission); (2) Resources (appropriate time, money and people resources); (3) supportive Structure & Systems and (4) Climate (e.g. environment, values, and corporate culture.)

Like parts of an ecosystem these components are interactive, integrated and iterative. Ideally all four are in place to be successful.

Strategic Commitment, often stemming from corporate vision, fuels the innovation process. It indicates the acceptance that things need to change, is articulated from the top and circulates through the organization. Strategic Commitment needs to be nourished at all levels through ongoing communications.

Our second factor has to do with Resources. Companies must set aside real resources (focused brainpower, time and money). The people side of the equation is fascinating. In my work today I still see how the combination of depth of expertise rubbing up against “naivety” is combustible (in a good way) and often produces the most novel and feasible ideas and solutions.

Our third mechanism is Structure and Systems, which involves such matters as whether innovation will be decentralized in a Venture group or “skunkworks” or more integrated into the central business. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. This includes Planning, Communications and Measurement and Evaluation systems, all of which are too complex to go into here.

Our fourth critical mechanism is creating a Climate or environment in which people will be able to innovate. On a micro-level I see how important this is in setting up a physical meeting space for conducting brainstorming. But it’s more than bringing in color and comfy chairs in terms of  a climate for innovation. Creating a corporate climate that will tolerate, even encourage risk taking is essential and hard for many business leaders to accept. “Fail early, fail fast, LEARN FROM IT and move on!” is the motto of the companies most successful at innovation. Visible support from leadership, even when failure occurs, sends a powerful message that the company is serious about their innovation mandate.

Want to know more? Send me a note.

Warm regards,

Laurie Tema-Lyn

laurie@practical-imagination.com

 

 

 

 

Musings, memories & gratitude
September 11, 2014

Dear Readers;
There are some days indelibly etched in my consciousness. This is one. September 11, 2001.
The sky was crystal clear blue, the sun was streaming. I greeted my colleague Harvey in the parking lot of the NJ hotel we were working in. We were filled with excitement about the day. Having begun our Innovation program the day before with our team- talented professionals from two companies- a pharmaceutical company and a mid-west food company. They had decided to explore whether they might form a unique co-venture to offer innovative new products for people suffering with type 2 diabetes. We had conducted qualitative research a few weeks prior and just began to integrate those learnings into a platforms for product development.
We entered the hotel conference room that morning, welcomed our team and began our first creative activities, spreading from our conference room to the corridors outside. We were all totally immersed in our work, and having fun too. It was well after 9am when a hotel member suggested we stop what we were doing and go down to the lobby to watch the TV monitors, something disastrous was happening…
Shocked, stunned, horrified we watched the replays of the Twin Towers in smoke. What could we do? What should we do? Were our homes and families safe? A rush to phones, to reach loved ones. A dash to get rental cars so those who had flown miles to be at the innovation program could return to the comfort of their families.

Over the course of the next week we reconvened by phone and learned that all were safe at home, all were physically “unscathed” but emotionally fragile. Weeks later we decided to continue our work together- but no one particularly wanted to travel, so we redesigned the rest of our program as a series of innovation days via video-conference. The process worked well, forged in the grounding we had begun together and the bonding shared by tragedy.

As the names of the 9/11 deceased are read this morning; I feel the heaviness in my heart as well as the joy and gratitude for the many blessings of my life.

Laurie Tema-Lyn
Laurie@practical-imagination.com