Musings: Senior Lives Matter too

March 8, 2016 - 2 Responses

Dear Readers;

The world is focused on Millennials, that sexy segment of the population that is under age 34. As a market researcher I continually see client requests seeking insights into the hearts and minds of Millenials. What makes them tick? What attracts them to brands? How can we motivate them to shop our products?

Millennials are important of course, but senior lives matter too.

Boomers, born between 1946 and 1954 buy candy and liquor and sexy lingerie. They drive Harleys and renovate homes, they exercise and do yoga. They work, they retire, fall in love and travel. They make up a larger segment of the population than ever before, and have more discretionary income. According to a Forester report in 2015, Boomers drove 35% of all discretionary spending.

So why are Boomers and even the generation beyond being ignored from consumer research except for health care products and services specifically targeted to “older people?”  Why are we continuing to recruit participants aged “25-54” in most research forums? Is it bias? Discomfort with confronting mortality? Or just the expectation that the potential for customer longevity is longer with Millennials?

I think many marketers are missing the boat!

Senior lives matter- not just for their buying power, but also for their brains, insights and experiences in living longer. Effective market research and marketing to seniors requires deep understanding of their culture, survival tactics, expression and more. As we see in Millennials, Boomers are a complex, multi-faceted generation.

Let’s not ignore them.


Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises


Musings: Do we need new technology to understand emotions?

July 30, 2015 - Leave a Response

Dear Readers;

If you are involved in the business of market research no doubt you are inundated daily with a dazzling array of tools, techniques, platforms and choices for gathering insights into consumers needs, wants and behaviors.

So many options in fact that many of my research colleagues rarely interact directly, in face-to-face conversation, with the people from whom they are trying to learn. They predominantly rely on screen based research platforms. Of course those platforms have a place! But let’s not throw out common sense, and let’s remember that the folks we need to learn from are human beings, just like us, and not “research subjects.”

As human beings most of us are programmed to intuitively understand emotional responses. It was important for survival to hone decoding skills to gather critical information. The raised eyebrow, the lifted shoulders or downcast eyes, the sharp tone of voice, often conveys much more meaning than the actual words used.

As a researcher and a new grandparent what I find disheartening is that children are being handed screens in toddlerhood. What impact does this have long-term on the ability to look people in the eyes, to read and decode emotions? I’m not the only one concerned. There have been many scientific studies raising alarms when screen time and digital friendships are not balanced with in person socialization. Bruce Feiler’s excellent NY Times article notes a few of these studies.

Now linking back to the world of qualitative research, is the appeal of some of the shiny new toys like Facial Coding technology due to researchers’ feeling inadequate about trusting their instincts and natural abilities to read and interpret facial expressions and body language? And will the youngest researchers, those raised on screens, feel less comfortable in the world of empirical, in-person research without the support of “objective” technology interpreters?

Food for thought perhaps. Would you like to meet me “around the campfire” to discuss.?

And, if you want to test your own ability to decode expressions, follow this link!

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises

908-237-2246, 908-399-9460

Musings on Consumer Co-Creation programs: A dose of courage, creativity, and more

April 15, 2015 - Leave a Response

Dear Readers;

I had the pleasure of giving a keynote presentation in Toronto at the MRIA i3 Conference. My talk, geared to market research consultants, focused on practical tools and tips illustrated by client cases in snack foods, beverages, consumer products and durables.

Time precluded much discussion on the emotional and attitudinal components that are the backdrop for successful co-creation programs, so I will explore that in this first post and continue with more of the nuts and bolts of effective program design in later chapters.

But let’s start at the beginning.

What is Consumer Co-Creation? A buzz word today- but practiced by some forward thinking companies for decades. The term is credited to professors Venkat Ramaswamy and C. K. Prahalad.

Consumer Co-creation encompasses the way companies create and deliver value through the participation of clients, consumers/customers, providers, or partners. This process itself is an enriching experience for participants.

Co-creation these days is often accomplished via digital, crowdsourcing of ideas for new products or product improvements. But for my clients, the most effective approach has been small-scale, intimate, shoulder-to shoulder-programs in which my clients (representing diverse functions) come together with consumers (or customers) and sometimes with the added expertise and wide angle thinking of “Idea Sparks,” mostly at the very early stages of product design or marketing conceptualization.

While this in-person approach goes against the norm of many research consultants who never interact in person with their consumers, it’s really the best way to do programs for which taste, aroma, texture, kinesthetic experiences are important. (A lot of my work is in foods, beverages, health and wellness and these are multi-sensory products.)

Now here’s where Client Courage comes in. Co-Creation programs are all quite different; there should not be a one-size fits all approach. The process has to serve the Client (culture, category, desired deliverables, etc.) Custom-designed programs require enormous creativity and visionary thinking on the part of the Creative Facilitator/Research Consultant and a willingness to experiment on the part of the Client. There are no absolute guarantees. There has to be mutual trust that the Creative Facilitator has the depth of experience to invent a process approach that will yield the desired results, (whether new product, marketing or communication concepts) and the flexibility and spontaneity to change it up when things don’t go quite as well as expected.

The Client has to have a certain comfort level with ambiguity, a natural curiosity and willingness to listen well to what the market (their would-be consumers/customers) says… even if what they hear goes against their beliefs and assumptions about their company or brand. These courageous Clients have to embrace a new type of listening– without judgment, as they are listening for the subtleties, listening for the nuggets of consumer needs or desires that can potentially be met with the client organization’s expertise. This listening is active, not passive. Every “What if?” or “I Wish” or “How to” is a trigger for imagination, connection-making and idea generation.

The skills for this style of listening can be taught- we always begin our Co-Creation programs with client coaching sessions; but the underlying attitudes of curiosity and open-mindedness tend to be deeply ingrained in individuals and in certain corporate cultures- or at least groups within companies.

Find these receptive Clients and you are on the path to successful Co-Creation.

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises


MUSINGS on Pi…and what’s in a name

March 14, 2015 - One Response

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.



Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises


Musings on “Rewiring”

November 19, 2014 - One Response

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

Musings: Timeless Mechanisms to Foster Innovation

October 9, 2014 - Leave a Response

“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





Musings, memories & gratitude

September 11, 2014 - Leave a Response

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

Musings: Embracing a new year

January 1, 2014 - One Response

Dear Readers:

Here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous 2014! May you Dream Big and realize your dreams!

In my career I’ve learned that a key to success is being a comfortable, effective public speaker. Whether I’m giving a formal presentation to a new client or creating an immediate comfortable rapport with a group of participants in a focus group setting, I don’t go in cold. I draw upon a number of easy-to-engage tools and tricks to help me be a relaxed, focused, and spontaneous presenter. These are simple physical, emotional and mental warm ups: breathing, stretching, vocalizing, and imagining.  I’ve written about some in an article entitled:  Breathe It! Sing It! Imagine It! Do It! Inspiration for Expressing Authentic Voice published in QRCA VIEWS magazine, Spring 2011, pages 24-30. You can access the article via this link

If you are in the vicinity of Lambertville, NJ come join us on Thursday, January 9 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm for a great event hosted by Network Lambertville. Good food, good conversation and a mini-workshop on personal preparation for presentation will be held at Green Birdie Productions Studio, 21 Bridge St. Second Floor, Lambertville NJ 08530. Pay at the door: $20.00

RSVP: Rob Bell rob@greenbirdievideo.comImage

And if you want to hear a long, unedited, fun conversation take a listen to my interview with Dwayne D on Hunterdon County’s Chamber of Commerce Internet radio


Laurie Tema-Lyn

Musings: In Memory of Impromptu

November 20, 2013 - Leave a Response

Dear Readers;

Our beloved cat Imp had been failing.  Once a fat cat- the 17-year old was growing thin and moving slow. The vet’s diagnosis this August was dire. “Kidney failure, not long to live.” We changed his food, gave him subcutaneous saline treatments- singing to him to calm him down because he didn’t much care for the process! He continued to have a twinkle in his eye and even a month later “Bwana hunter” brought us “gifts” (which Ron promptly disposed of outside.) Imp didn’t seem to be in pain but he was bony and smelled foul. He followed us everywhere around the house and on short walks outside. He cuddled and snuggled whenever we sat down. Bedtime was on my belly with purrs before he melted and fell asleep. I’d awake 6 hours later and neither of us had moved.

We knew the time was soon approaching, but how do you make a choice to end the life of a beloved pet? Yesterday morning he let us know to let him go before the pain got to him, while he still had dignity. He went outside to enjoy the sunny morning, then came back to rest his weary self on the purple blanket.

We brought him to the vet and before the injection was drained into him he was gone. We wrapped his tiny body up and buried him in our back yard, near the weeping willow where we buried our Samoyed McCloud 7 years ago. The sun is shining again today, and our hearts are heavy with sadness.

Imp came into our lives quite unexpectedly, filled our lives with joy. He was a mensch cat- mischievous, funny, stubborn and very smart.

He was a healer. …The story of our “Thanksgiving trip Miracle” captures it…Imp was perhaps a year old. My parents were visiting us in Massachusetts and then we planned to caravan back to NJ for Thanksgiving holiday. But Dad’s car broke down on the road and Ron had to wait for repairs. So though I was grumpy and tired and not looking forward to a 6-hour drive, I found myself at the wheel with my parents along with McCloud and Imp. My mother was quite ill and in pain at the time. Mom was complaining, but soon Imp snuggled up to her and wrapped himself around her neck. He purred…so loudly that mom drifted off to a state of bliss-and peace. She literally didn’t say a peep until we arrived at her door that night. Imp’s comfort made her forget her pain.

One more story of Imp’s remarkable intelligence. As McCloud aged he started to lose mobility in his hind legs, and his eyesight was going. Our house has a steep flight of stairs and the dog became afraid to try to negotiate down them. One day I noticed Imp on the stairs right next to McCloud. The cat took one step down and waited for the dog to meet him. He took another step and looked to the dog to come along. My jaw was open as I witnessed this, and I thought it was an aberration. But it wasn’t. Imp became McCloud’s guide dog and for the next several months, that’s the way McCloud made it down to the kitchen and living quarters—being guided every morning, one step at a time, by Imp!Image

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises


Musings: Shaking the Foundation—Cheater’s & Repeaters & Manti Te’o

January 22, 2013 - One Response

Abby Leafe and I, co-chairs of the Philadelphia Chapter of the QRCA, recently reported some sobering findings of our initial research on research. Our small study was just in the Philadelphia market so perhaps it’s not indicative of the market at large. But we discovered a surprising number of “Cheaters & Repeaters”—consumers who found their way into qualitative market research activities like focus groups, in depth interviews and mock juries. We learned a lot about how they get into studies by tweaking the truth (“sometimes I forget I have children.”)  And we learned about their motivations—money of course is a big factor, but having their voice and ideas heard and being in the know about new things were also big motivators to “tweaking the truth” in order to be selected for a study. When they get into a research event that they shouldn’t have been recruited for they have strategies to deal with it—stay quiet and just agree with what others say. The more adventurous respondents prepare so that they will be informed on the topic and be able to contribute.

Abby and I conducted our research by telephone and video chat. Through careful listening and observation (those in video interviews) we felt we could get a good sense of how honest our respondents were to our queries.

Now the news this week is filled with this crazy story of star football player Manti Teo’s, Internet romance with a woman, who it turns out, didn’t exist! It’s one of those stories that makes us shake our heads in disbelief, and I think it’s another sobering reminder of potential pitfalls of market research studies conducted exclusively on line. While many of my colleagues appreciate the benefits of this mode of research, personally, I’ve always been a bit wary. Call me “Old School,” but I prefer to “see the whites of their eyes” and get the fuller meaning behind words that one can only do in a face-to-face situation. When I have conducted online research it’s been part of a hybrid study in which in-person work was also incorporated.

As Abby and I have started to share our findings with others in the qualitative market research community we’re developing a list of strategies and ideas to help us be smarter in our work and minimize the presence of the Cheaters & Repeaters.  We plan to continue our research and brainstorming and share our findings and ideas.

But for the meantime, I can’t help but shake my head and wonder about what is represented as “truth” and “reality” In this digital age.

I welcome your comments!

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Practical Imagination Enterprises