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



Musings: Senior Lives Matter too
March 8, 2016

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: 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





Musings On Things Upended
November 4, 2012

Dear Readers;

There’s a giant evergreen lying on its side in the little koi pond right outside my living room window. It came crashing down Monday night in an 82 mile an hour gust of wind from megastorm Sandy. At first, we thought a limb crashed into the pond; with morning’s light we realized it was the entire tree, exposed roots and all, that fell. It’s disturbing, the vista is dramatically changed, and yet it’s also lush and exotic—as the dangling limbs make the pond look a bit like Rousseau’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Fortunately the tree didn’t hit the house, nor kill any of the fish—although we sadly discovered a “smushed” giant frog. As I clear debris from the back yard today I can see the enormity of the upended root bed and the crater left behind. 

In a way, this tree is a vivid metaphor for other things that seem upended these days. 

Within the market research profession, many are calling into question the question “Why?” Does pursuing this question bring the results of accuracy and relevance on which we have depended in order to ferret out insights into decision-making? Behavioral Economists like Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow suggest that consumers don’t really know why they make decisions—though they can rationalize and give a plausible story to support their actions. According to Kahneman there are two modes of cognition taking place—which he names System 1—which reacts quickly and automatically to facts, faces and simple problems and System 2 which thinks more slowly and deliberately. His work and others have enormous impact for how we design our research; and may be a contributing factor to the heightened interest in ethnographic or observational research to witness behavior and derive insights.

On a marketing front, some of my clients are now embracing the work of marketing scientist Dr. Byron Sharp and the researchers of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, who present data and thought provoking arguments in How Brands Grow. The key message of that book: widely held marketing practices are entirely wrong! For example: they say, we’ve all been taught that brands vary tremendously in loyalty. Not so fast, according to Dr. Sharp–“loyalty metrics for competing brands are quite similar.” 

These provocative thought leaders remind me that I need more time and reflection to identify implications for my business practice. 

And, as my back up generator hums along nicely in the background, I am also reminded that at this moment in time, nothing can be taken for granted.

While I feel most fortunate that my home and family are unscathed, it feels like a confluence of forces are catapulting changes and upheavals personally and professionally.

By nature of something being upended, you can’t return to the way it was before, you have to integrate the changes. So how do you use “upendedness?” I believe we can do this in two ways—one is to find alternatives for those necessary functions that were disturbed, and the other is to innovate uses of resources, priorities, etc.

The positive can happen if we continue to come together as professionals, colleagues, friends, neighbors and human beings to share our questions, assumptions, resources and to support each other’s endeavors. 

I see signs of that “lushness” in my environment.

 Laurie Tema-Lyn,

Practical Imagination Enterprises,

Musings: Another Market for Stir It Up! Recipes for Robust Insights & Red Hot Ideas
October 11, 2012

I returned from the QRCA national conference in Montreal this week fired up, feeling the joy from the learning and camaraderie. There were many great presentations from which to choose, and the informal meetings and conversations provided me with nuggets and new ideas I want to explore.

I was personally thrilled to hear such wonderful feedback from colleagues who have been using my book, Stir It Up! Recipes for Robust Insights & Red Hot Ideas (Paramount Market Publishing, Inc.) and getting great results to the exercises.

But an unexpected new market was suggested. John, a retired 8th grade teacher from NY, told me he had been devouring the book during the conference and thought many of its suggestions would be outstanding to bring to the classroom. His perspective was that many of the exercises as well as the principles would resonate with important programs about creating conversations, encouraging diversity and anti-bullying.

What an exciting suggestion! The education market is not something I have particularly focused on in the past—and while my sister and niece are teachers, the feedback I’ve heard from them is that the management requirements of the current NJ core curriculum make it hard to find time for creative exploration.

So I’m putting this out to the universe. Here’s a sample exercise from the book—Who’s Your Muse? I’m giving a shout out to you teachers—to check out the book and do let me know if you think these ideas and suggestions could be useful integrating with classroom activities!

My best,

Laurie Tema-Lyn
Practical Imagination Enterprises
908 237 2246
Stir It Up! cover

Whos your Muse


Musings: Themes & Trends of the 2012 Fancy Foods Show in DC
June 26, 2012

Dear Readers;

I haven’t begun to sort through all my notes from two intense days wandering the aisles of the NASFT Fancy Foods Show that was held in Washington, DC last week. This was the 58th summer show; I’ve attended about 19 of them in the past, although I missed the last two years because of work conflicts.

It’s always a thrill, and an overwhelming sensory experience to be immersed in so many different cultures, categories, worlds of food and beverages. A glance at the exhibitors and attendees tells the melting pot story: stiletto-heeled couture attired “beautiful” people doling out the finest in caviars; Birkenstock comfy vegans touting the latest longevity ingredient filled power bars; traditional Mennonite families presenting meats, cheeses and wholesome delicacies from the family farm; elegantly suited men seated in small booths making food import deals from all over the globe– Italy, Turkey, Tunisia, Poland, to name just a few. Spend some time at the Fancy Foods Show and you travel the world! The problem for me is that sensory and belly overload happen pretty quickly, so I’ve learned to take in the show in small morsels of time and walk in with pre-set lenses of categories that I most want to explore. Of course when it’s over, I regret that I couldn’t do more!

The aftermath of the Show is rich with reviewing notes, making connections and sending ideas off to various food and beverage clients, reading the pounds of literature that I gathered while there and the mountains that will come later by email and hard copy …for years.

This is my no means an exhaustive list, but some starting points of what was most interesting to me. In a sense not a whole lot was really NEW. In spite of my two years away; I saw more of a continuation of trends I’ve been following for years. Here are a Baker’s Dozen of my notables…

  1. A macro trend is how BIG and diverse some formerly “staple” foods have become—like salt, mustard, butter, and jams.  Now, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of varieties of each have been developed to appeal to every palate and pocketbook.
  2. “Single” is a new buzzword. Single source, singe origin, single variety, single garden tea, and single muscle meat. That seemed new to me, especially in the diverse categories in which it was singled out! Coffee, chocolate, wines, olive oil, meats, cheese, were just a few.
  3. Salty and sweet, savory and sweet like sea salt flavored chocolates were in abundance. That’s definitely a flavor profile that’s become more pervasive from where it was a few years back. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream flavor Salty Caramel, just one of many yummy examples.
  4. There was a lot of excitement in frozen desserts—ice creams, gelato, sorbet, with celebrity chefs like Mario Batali presenting a taste luxurious line including Roman Swirl and Blood Orange.  The real surprise for me though was just how much I liked the beer flavored gelato!
  5. The combination of upscale and down home seem beautifully melded in Good Taste Kitchen’s Brie & Fig Mac & Cheese, and also in David’s Peanut Butter and Jam Bites (enrobed in Belgian chocolate.)
  6. The quest for innovative good taste while watching calories was still very present with items like Skinny Dippers Plantain Chips.
  7. Nostalgia was in the air with foods, messaging and old-fashioned package designs, like the Scrumptious Pantry’s “Do you heirloom…?” catsup and pickles.
  8. The food as medicine theme still in vogue with items like: Get Burning Herb Tea for metabolism. And Republic of Tea’s: Get Young and Get Probiotic teas
  9. Whimsy was present with products from the Truffle Pig including little mint chocolate chip bars sculpted to look like a little pig.

10. Waters plus were certainly present with many players including Aloe Water, Goji Water and CocoWater from Thailand.

11. Growing gets personal with Bissinger’s handcrafted chocolates and their campaign of smiling faces…”Do you know Who Grows Your Cocoa?”

12. In the “mysterious technology” department I put Enzo’s nitrogen sealed, extra virgin olive oil. Honestly, I have no idea what that does, but the package was gorgeous!

13. But the piece de resistance perhaps, not for my taste buds, but in terms of strangeness was Blackwater Fulvic Enriched Mineral Water.  This is a fulvic and humic acid electrolyte drink, a natural organic complex of 77 micro trace minerals and electrolytes.” In short the drink is supposed to energize and revitalize. I can’t tell from personal experience whether or not it delivered, but I can say how odd it felt to me to be drinking black water. Now I sometimes drink black coffee, even iced, so I’m not prejudiced against a dark liquid. Part of the disconnect for me was the lack of other strong sensory and aroma cues that I would normally expect from a dark colored liquid (like red wine, for example.)

There’s more to tell…in future articles.

My net out recommendation: even if you’re not in the food industry, you might find the experience and the ideas inspired by spending a day at a food show like this well worth the time and effort. Mark your calendar for next Summer. The Fancy Foods Show will be back at the Javits Center in New York.

Bon Appetite!

Laurie Tema-Lyn

Musings on The Right Ambiance…for Love and Meetings
February 13, 2012

If you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day you just might be thinking that special meal with your sweetheart will not be at the local diner, but a setting where the food is good, the lights are low, the music soothing, the ambiance encouraging to look into each other’s eyes and have intimate conversation.

In similar fashion, creating the right ambiance for a meeting when the goal is the exchange of information and ideas, is critically important. I’ve written and spoken about this at length over the years –it seems to be a topic of frequent interest among my colleagues and clients– so I will highlight 5 Top Tips for designing creative meeting spaces here, and offer another 5 in my next post.

  1. The power of the circle: set the room up for eye contact and democracy. A circle (like a campfire) or a U-Shape arrangement of chairs immediately signals a more intimate setting for people to be candid with each other.
  2. A room with a view…natural light supports us physically and helps prevent fatigue. And a glimpse of the outdoor world often helps to expand thinking and be more open-minded. A few years ago I ran an innovation session at an historical village with large windows on three sides of our room. We had a beautiful vista of snow-covered fields…and then a big surprise as two baby goats came right up to the windows. An unexpected source of inspiration for our project on new confectionary products!
  3. Comfortable chairs, and a variety of seating helps prevent “fanny fatigue” and keeps people more relaxed and engaged. If your meeting is longer than an hour, ask people to get up and move to another chair or couch in the room—it prevents getting stuck physically and mentally.
  4. Weave in some Music—whether you like Hip Hop or Opera, a little music interspersed through a workday can do a lot for a teams’ creativity and productivity. I like to use the music purposefully to add excitement or energy to an activity, or to help relax and put participants in a more reflective mood.
  5. Adding color and visual stimuli—whether it’s a wall full of pictures that can “inspire a thousand ideas” the ways words alone may not—or setting up colorful paper, crayons, markers and Post Its on the meeting table offers an invitation to doodle and express ideas in different modes.

Hope this offers you a little food for thought!

And have a lovely Valentine’s Day!


Laurie Tema-Lyn, Practical Imagination Enterprises, 908-237-2246,

Musings on being a “Meeting Fairie”
January 5, 2011

I was tickled to read yesterday’s e-newsletter from Seth Godin titled…”Making meetings more expensive…might actually make them cost less.”

Seth encourages that organizations hire a “meeting fairie” in order to ensure that meetings are short, efficient and effective.

Yeah! That’s been my argument for the past 25 years as I’ve worked with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of clients to help them accomplish more than they would have on their own while enjoying the process of creative collaboration.

Seth’s list has all the nuts and bolts of running great meetings covered—like making sure that there is a clear purpose, managing the flow of information and following up to ensure implementation, but he doesn’t talk specifically about the art and science of harnessing a team’s best thinking to get creative and actionable results. That’s what we do, drawing upon a wealth of experience and a wellspring of tools and techniques –many of which I’m writing about in an upcoming book.

We creative catalyst/facilitators love what we do! Now, perhaps I should consider a name change to “Fairie”?

Thanks for the boost Seth!

Laurie Tema-Lyn
Practical Imagination Enterprises