How is Collaboration and Co-Creation done differently at Sylver Consulting?

August 26, 2015 – by Jean McDonnell



Some months ago I shared my perspective on how innovation research (the kind practiced here at Sylver Consulting) is different from market research. I noted four key points of difference – one of which is Syler’s use of process-oriented activities, particularly collaboration and co-creation.

I understood then that a well-structured process is essential as the means to drive success. But I’m not sure I had a very deep or well-grounded understanding of just how and why our particular brand of process is so unique . . . and so valued by clients.

Recently, Brianna Sylver (our President) has been making a concerted effort to ask Sylver’s clients for their feedback as to why they chose to work with us initially and, afterwards, how their experience of working with us compares to their experience of working with other service providers. Inevitably, clients tell us that it’s the quality of the experience they get when working with us that makes all the difference. They point to Sylver’s unique way of structuring the engagement so that it not only yields rich and actionable outcomes, but also delivers an experience so efficient and transformative that it continues to drive momentum and change well after the project has ended.

In view of this feedback, all of us here have been digging into the question of . . . “how is Sylver’s approach to process unique and what about it helps to deliver such a positive client experience”?

I believe the answer lies in the “spirit” and structure we bring to the mix.

Here is what I mean by that:

We provide an “evolved” form of collaboration. Most companies treat collaboration (and co-creation too) as a functional action step that gets plugged in at specified points in the process. Their focus is on the “end-prize”. We see a higher purpose and value to collaboration. Our process is based on two key principles and priorities: 1) that the needs, wants and concerns of people (meaning all project participants) come first – at least initially – before the project and the organization it’s meant to serve and 2) that every individual involved in the initiative (including all clients, consumers, and Sylver team members) is an equal and essential partner in the process. This partnership recognizes the unique contribution each individual has to make, all of which are necessary pieces to the puzzle we are trying to solve. On a personal level, this show of respect for individuals and their contributions goes a long way in terms of gaining people’s trust, inspiring their commitment, and involving them in the process. We all know how important this level of personal and group engagement is to the success of innovation and growth initiatives – and also how hard it is to actually achieve. By putting people first and enabling collaborative sharing among equals, our process elevates and accelerates the team’s ability to “get things done” and to feel great pride and ownership in the work that’s been created. We call this effect “up-leveling collaboration to co-creation”.

We take away the pain and inefficiencies of client involvement. Those clients who are most excited to work with us are those who truly value this kind of equal collaborative experience. Given the high-stakes nature of the projects these clients come to us for, they know that they and others on their team need to “get their hands dirty” and be integrally involved if the project is to be a success. However, a very real challenge these clients face is the lack of time and resources they have to devote to any single initiative. As strategic consultants, we understand their pain and work hard to develop a process where clients’ limitations of time and resources are fully respected and honored. Indeed, a key strength of Sylver’s is our ability to create highly efficient “collaboration points” across the process. This allows clients to dip in and get their hands dirty at the most important and opportune times, but not have to spend time wallowing in the details or more mundane aspects of the project. The net result is a highly efficient process that keeps clients appropriately engaged and involved without overburdening them.

We make our process transparent. Our structured process is not a “magic bullet” for solving problems nor is it a proprietary secret that we are reluctant to share. Rather it’s a highly-structured and customized roadmap of the journey we’ll all be on together. Everyone is introduced to the roadmap early and is encouraged to follow it, reflect on it, and collectively refine it as we proceed thru the project touch points. This kind of structure and transparency, clients tell us, is extremely helpful to them. It brings clarity and focus to the project scope and to the reframed “problem to be solved”. It describes the action steps we’ll be taking to solve the problem and shows how each step contributes to and ladders up to the solution. It provides a detailed schedule and description of the outputs/deliverables this effort will produce. And importantly, it communicates very specifically the requirements for each team members’ involvement and areas of responsibility.

We eliminate steps. One of the most unexpected and appreciated aspects of our process is the added efficiency and productivity it yields. Our clients tell us that the Sylver process is so focused and efficient that it allows them to shave weeks, even months, off their end-to-end project schedule. We do this by:

Clearly defining and reframing the problem to be solved. As part of our process, we spend a good deal of time up-front with clients understanding the background and context of the project request. Oftentimes time-strapped clients come to us with a highly specific request from an internal client and/or only a partial view of the issues involved. By clarifying and reframing the problem, we are able to design a more appropriate, focused and efficient path of inquiry. The result is that we are typically able to eliminate a whole or partial phase of consumer/customer inquiry that the client was expecting to need (i.e. formal secondary research, exploratory qual, quant market scoping, etc) which might have yielded some interesting related insights, but may not have gotten the team much closer to their final objective.

Taking out the additional “rework” effort that clients have come to expect. The need for “rework” happens only when there is a disconnect between the client and their provider. Since all outcomes of the project work are created in full collaboration with the client team, then there is no need for the client to have to re-interpret and repackage the final deliverables for people inside their organization. Moreover, because all key client team members are present and engaged in the process, there is no need to circle back to team members after the fact to build consensus and generate support for the project’s outcomes.

Many organizations claim they do collaboration and co-creation well. But, in my experience, unless these processes are embedded deep into the culture and practiced skillfully from a people and partnership perspective, they are not likely to generate the level of power (and empowerment) needed to create real and lasting change.

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Co-Creation in Action – A Sylver Success Story

August 26, 2015 – by Jen Gzesh


One of Sylver’s strengths is supporting organizations that need to grow and evolve, because for some reason the way they currently do business is not sufficient. It could be that the market landscape is shifting, or that the current way they operate cannot support their aggressive growth goals. Whatever may be causing the shake up, we provide a structured yet nurturing process through which these organizations can envision their future.

This past year we had a project that catered to a situation just like that, and it has become one of our success stories. This particular client needed to explore the market acceptance, technological feasibility, and customer desirability for a different type of product than what they typically produce as a result of major shifts occurring in the industry and the widespread national attention this topic is receiving.

The project had three phases. It began with a “meeting of the minds” – members of the Sylver team brought their knowledge from past project work done for this company and in the industry, while the client team brought their unique perspective on where they could provide differentiating value. We worked together to understand how to use this prior knowledge to shape the rest of the project. The second phase consisted of a quantitative survey taken by practitioners and users of the category to gain insight into the market acceptance of different ideas and to gain an understanding of how to move forward with the remaining phase. The final phase brought together key stakeholders from different business units with subject matter experts in the relevant field in order to co-create a vision for what shape this new offering could take.

The co-creation workshop took place over two consecutive days, and was one of the most productive sessions I have ever witnessed. Brianna, Jean, and I took a few minutes to reflect on why that session was so powerful. Below you can read each of our thoughts on three questions concerning the success of this workshop. We hope that by reading our thoughts you will get a better understanding of our process, and what it’s like to experience Sylver’s “co-creation magic!”


Question 1. Why was this co-creation session different from others you have led in the past? What made it special?


We gave the session the time that it needed and deserved to support the whole team (composed of clients, educators and the Sylver team) in developing the trust and respect required of one another to create something truly great! We weren’t trying to “pack it all in” to a couple of hours.

Also, we approached the session as a whole as something much deeper than ideation (which generally is the industry standard). From the session, we sought an “experiential blueprint,” a vision for what this new education software could become.  The two-day timeline of the session gave us the time and space in which to comfortably create that blueprint. The session was structured, but not pressed. Everyone could breathe, have fun, debate and create all-in-one.


The level of engagement and cooperation among participants was greater, better than I think I’ve ever experienced before. Part of this was due to the critical, high-stakes nature of the subject matter. Everyone, regardless of the stance they viewed the topic from, was deeply committed to finding a common solution to this problem. Additionally, it could not have been possible without two things: 1) the structure, facilitation and support that Sylver provided and 2) the client team’s spirit of cooperation, humility and respect for the opinions of its invited guests — the expert practitioners. This set the tone, I believe, for the experts to let down their guard, trust in the process and in the motives of everyone there, and get excited by the notion that a real solution to the problem can realistically be achieved if everyone works together.


This was the first co-creation session I have done where the invited “experts” have had such deep, professional knowledge of the subject matter. It was so wonderful to hear the discussion from both sides of the same coin. It made for high engagement and participation, as the participants truly expressed their deep, passionate feelings on the subject matter, and, possibly for the first time, were able to hear how passionately someone may have disagreed with them and why.


Question 2. What was your favorite moment from the 2 day workshop?


Oh … there are so many! But, probably the parting comment from one of our experts and practitioners has stuck in the forefront of my mind most. She said as she was saying her goodbyes to the group, “I feel like it’s the last day of summer camp.” That sentiment of bitter-sweetness sums up what that experience felt like for everyone involved. We had fun. We grew personally and professionally in those two days. We made new friends that we felt bonded with after that experience. This statement speaks mounds to the trust, respect and energy that pumped through the room those two days.


I loved all of it — but I also especially loved the final moments when everyone shared what they were taking away from the two days together. This was where I realized how truly powerful the experience was for everyone — on both a personal and professional level. This made me feel great about the effectiveness of our process — and also excited and appreciative for how much I personally gained from the experience.


Aside from the amazing collaboration and incredible outcome, my favorite part was actually the introductory exercise. On a very long table, there were about 30 random objects – including a yo-yo, a whisk, a little bell, a toy Bat Mobile, a slinky, a traditional Ecuadorian doll, a stuffed parrot – and as each participant entered the workspace, they were asked to choose an object from the table that they felt represented who they were. As we all settled in on the first day, each person introduced themselves, their role and why they were there, and then showed us the object they had chosen and explained why they felt it represented them. For example, one gentleman who had chosen the whisk as his object said that he felt it represented the way he liked to “stir things up” during conversations by playing “devil’s advocate” and challenging other’s thoughts and ideas in a collaborative and constructive way.

I loved this exercise for two reasons. First of all, it was a really fun way to get to know a small tidbit about each person in the room, and a great way to “break the ice” in a playful way. Second, how people described themselves in the beginning had a great way of coming back throughout the workshop and helped with personality dynamics that potentially could have threatened the spirit of collaboration and co-creation. But because we knew from the beginning that one person liked to stir things up, we as moderators – and the other participants as well – knew it was ok to take the spotlight away from that one person when necessary, and hand it over to someone else who was more on the shy side, or hadn’t had an opportunity to share their thoughts. This simple, fun exercise that we used as an icebreaker had a ripple effect that helped promote and foster the sense of collaboration and co-creation that the whole session was based upon.


Question 3. Pick a moment from the session that exemplifies how Sylver does co-creation differently and explain why.


I think the moment that exemplifies how Sylver does it differently actually started way before the session actually happened. It began at the proposal phase of the project and continued through to the creation of the session agenda and the materials crafted to support the session. The way we plan and structure these sessions is what makes how we’re doing them differently. And, specifically, I think it’s three things that set us apart:

1. We do not consider a co-creation session an ideation. The output we seek is not an idea. It goes much deeper than that. In the case of this project, the resulting artifact of the project was an experiential blueprint for what this new offering experience could become.

2. We involved clients and consumers in the same session and each came into the session on equal footing. No one’s role was better or worse or more powerful or less than anyone else’s role. There is acknowledgement that each attendee is bringing their own resident knowledge into the equation and creating something powerful and new as a result of that combined knowledge.

3. We provided the right amount of time and space for the session, so that people could effectively build relationships, think through and debate the different questions that emerged and have fun too!


The “Experience Boarding” exercise and how perfectly structured it was to yield great discussion while at the same time focusing the team on getting to the solution in a timely manner.


I think the way we set it up to have all three of us from Sylver moderating different exercises and discussions throughout the day. Also the way we heavily relied on our participants to take the lead at times as well. While Sylver may be the experts when it comes to planning the session and figuring out the activities that will get the group to where they need to be, the real experts in any good innovation process are the business team members and the consumers. By allowing all the different roles to “take charge,” you really get the best possible outcome of something that is innovative, solves the problem at hand, and is viable.

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Jen’s Ruminations on Co-Creation

August 26, 2015 – by Jen Gzesh

As we have been preparing for this “co-creation”-themed newsletter, I have thought a lot about what I personally believe co-creation is. It is a term that is used so often in the innovation industry, and a word we use to represent many meanings. I read many articles about what other people believe the term means, and have heard what my colleagues believe it means. I keep coming back to one simple thought.

Co-creation, in its most pure form, is creating something together.

I have long believed that my best work is an amalgamation of ideas and thoughts that can be challenged and built upon by others I am working with. I think back to something as simple as playing “pretend” with my brother and sister when we were young – I would suggest that we were a family, a mom, dad, and child. My brother would chime in with, “Let’s be Native Americans living in a teepee!” And my sister would throw in that we were out gathering our food for the coming winter. Hours of fun playtime would ensue.

Co-creation is not something I aspire to do, it is an ingrained, natural part of how I work and think (and play pretend). And I believe that is true for all us here at Sylver.

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Optimizing the “Quiet Collaborations” of Your Organization

August 26, 2015 – by Matthew


People typically associate collaboration with bringing people together. And, in our industry and especially the UX side of our business, collaboration is often expressed through a wall of post-it notes that is the resulting artifact of some intense group work.


While these definitions and images of collaboration are true, they don’t give credit to the more quiet collaboration happening daily — within Sylver Consulting and I’d bet in your company too. These “quiet collaborations” are those quick connections where someone is passing along an update or providing situational awareness related to a specific project or issue happening. These communications don’t require a formal collaboration format, such as a meeting, but are super important to make sure people know how to act as is necessary when called upon.

This is where Slack enters. At Sylver we replaced internal email with Slack several months ago to improve our internal engagement and facilitate a more agile approach to research. Too much of our communication and the trail of our decisions were getting stuck in email. Slack has remedied that.

In the spirit of sharing new things that I find valuable, I wanted to share a great article from Slack’s founder, Scott Rosenberg, where he discusses how Slack addresses the corporate abuse and ineffectiveness of email. And how his system optimally supports the “quieter collaboration” tasks that are often time sucks for organizations.

It’s about a 14 minute read, but well worth it if you’re looking at how to make your collaboration efforts holistically more efficient and meaningful within the organization.

For those not familiar, Slack is an enterprise software service that is revolutionizing how organizations communicate with one another. Organizations big and small have jumped onto the bandwagon of using this service — Sylver Consulting included.

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On My Mind Lately … Project Framing in Emerging Market Research

July 17, 2015 – by Brianna

At Sylver Consulting, we approach all of our work with a problem-solving mindset. Any question or study that comes our way begins with a solid contextual conversation on what’s the end game; meaning how is our client intending to use the research findings to support future decision-making within their organization? And, as part of that conversation, we ask about what’s within scope vs. out of scope for future products or services that might be born from this research or overall initiative.

This contextual conversation — while in essence is the same on any project we do, domestic or global — does tend to get more interesting when you start talking Emerging Market (or Developing Market) research, as the number of unknowns being negotiated are plentiful. To help provide structure around these contextual conversations, we often find that we turn to the “Cross-Border Strategy” model (below) — which we have adapted from the “Marketing with PowerWeb” textbook.


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This model — and the five questions we ask related to it — supports our team in understanding where our client is in mindset related to this initiative. This understanding, in turn, supports activities of project framing, related to both the design of the research and in the reporting of its insights and implications.

Our intent in using this model and asking the five questions below is simply to understand: How far is our client willing to go? At which point, does fear and pushback start to set in? Where is the “Do not cross” line?

So, let me explain how this works …

The model itself describes five strategic ways that a foreign company can enter a new market. On the y-axis you’ve got degrees of innovation that may occur to your market positioning and channels of distribution related to the offering. On the x-axis you’ve got degrees of innovation that may be required on the offering itself to make it relevant and meaningful within the local market. One thing to note related to this diagram … it assumes you’ve got a product or a category of products that you currently market elsewhere and need to make a strategic call on how much you try to repurpose the current offering (product or service) to a new market or create a wholly new offering for the new market.

Usually there is a lot of push and pull tension associated with this diagram and what it represents. Everyone wants the answer to be “extension strategy” because it feels the most comfortable and easily executable. However, so rarely does a pure “extension strategy” work. There are too many cultural and environment influences at play around the world to make that possible the majority of the time. More typically, an adaptation strategy is leveraged (one of the three presented), as this strategy takes a global offering and “glocalizes” it for the unique needs of the local market. On rare occasion, companies may enter a new market acknowledging that a wholly new offering is needed to succeed in that market and amongst the target consumers. Usually, however, the “offering invention” strategy is diverted to once a previous adaptation attempt has not achieved the success hoped for it.

So coming back to project framing … it’s important to figure out which strategies on this “Cross-Border Strategy” model are in-scope vs. out-of-scope for a project team in order to set the foundation for a successful research study. These are five questions that the Sylver Consulting team finds helpful in doing that:

1. What is the outer intention of this initiative for the organization? Meaning, which articulated goals will success of this project be measured against internally (i.e. financial goals, market penetration targets, etc.)?

2. What is your personal inner intention for this project? NOTE: This is not about the organization. This is about each member of the project team and what they personally hope this project means to the trajectory of their career, the legacy they leave behind, etc.

3. What do you hypothesize the solution or strategy to be? Why? What previous evidence — in the history of the organization or via other experiences — supports this hypothesis?

4. Which strategy feels too big and/or too wrong? Why?

5. What’s the long-term global plan for this initiative within the organization? How does that fit with the answers given to questions 3 and 4?

The answers to these five questions begin to set the mental frame associated with the initiative and its project team. This gives you, as the researcher, cues for both how to design the research and communicate its results and implications to the project team and their broader stakeholders. Successful study designs target studying the viability of the in-scope strategies (as perceived and articulated by the project team) with a little bit of stretch into the areas that feel uncomfortable as a means to test the viability of ingoing hypotheses.

If anything here struck a cord, we would love to continue the conversation on this model and its use. Please use the comments below to share what about this blog post has resonated for you.

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Translations: A Sticky Side of Global Research

July 17, 2015 – by Jen Gzesh

One thing I enjoy so much about working at Sylver is the ability to work on projects around the world. Learning about other cultures and comparing those learnings to my U.S.-centric mindset is always an enjoyable and insight-rich experience. What may surprise you is that I have gotten so much out of these projects without even leaving my desk here in Evanston!

There are so many moving parts to conducting global research that we found a need for someone back at our home office to serve as “mission control” for the projects. I have been lucky to serve as Mission Control Commander on 3 global projects in the past year. While there are many important parts to this position, perhaps the most critical is to collect all of the research coming in and begin analysis, often before the field teams return home. I enjoy this part of the process tremendously, but one part that always proves challenging is translation of research into English from other languages.

In this tech-advanced day and age, we are lucky to have many options when it comes to translating our research from other languages. We have used online services as well as human translation. Both of these methods have strengths, but both have drawbacks as well. Let me share a recent example that will highlight both sides of the coin.

While conducting an online study in Brazil, we opted to use the automatic machine translation service provided by the study platform so that we could moderate in real time. However, it soon became clear that the translations were so wrought with errors that they were unusable, and we decided to send the Portuguese responses to an actual person for translation. My favorite example of the difference in machine vs. human translation is when we asked the participants to imagine that their products were people at a party and explain each person to us.

Machine translation: “People dying.”

Human translation: “They are calm people.”

I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure there is a big difference between being a calm person and a dead person. And that difference will have a big impact on the findings and insights of our research. Our research process relies so heavily on the exact words our participants use to get to the heart of their individual experiences and how they think about the world around them. We definitely could not risk losing out on quality learnings by relying solely on the machine translations.

But that doesn’t mean that we have sworn off the automatic machine translations. When you are moderating a study that is taking place in a language you don’t know, it doesn’t really work if you can’t communicate with your participants. So although I couldn’t (and wouldn’t!) use the machine translations to perform analysis, they still added value to help me get a basic understanding of what a participant was trying to say in their response, and from there I was able to successfully moderate the study.

My story also doesn’t mean that human translations are fail-proof either. Particularly when dealing with short time frames, it is necessary to use more than one translator. Enter a whole new set of issues – different people interpret things differently, some participants use a lot of slang terms that only a native of that region would understand, some translators paraphrase while others translate verbatim. So now I have a data set that has been interpreted by 3 different people and I have to figure out what it’s telling me. While this definitely adds a layer of complexity, it is not impossible and can even make the work more exciting.

The bottom line is that when it comes to language translation and qualitative research, there is no one right answer. Each project has unique needs and will likely require a different combination of translation techniques. But no matter the challenge, Mission Control has got you covered!

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5 Market Research “Souvenirs” from Latin America

July 15, 2015 – by Adriano

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Anxious about your next research project? Imagine that global initiative to develop a new offering to low-income consumers, which includes Latin America, is launching soon. What if things don’t go as planned with the research? What if the outcome of the research is such that it puts your job at risk?

Launching a high-stakes research study across the oceans is scary. And it is your job to help your company learn about people outside the U.S. – to understand, through online surveys, ethnographic interviews, focus groups, etc., how they live, what they like and dislike, their behaviors, needs, beliefs, etc.

But just imagine: thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work invested, and then… lack of transparency in the recruiting process, poor communication with participants, sloppy field management, weak insights, poor collaboration among team members, and few “clear cut” ideas at the very end. Just one of these issues would be enough to keep you up at night.

If you haven’t done market research in Latin America, you may be a little scared to manage a project like that. But you shouldn’t be – keep calm. As long as you keep in mind a few important factors, you should expect to get great results from a market immersion in Latin America. After conducting high-visibility research studies in dozens of countries, here are my own best reminders related to the work I’ve done in that part of the world.

1. Latin America is not a homogeneous block of people

Believe it or not, Latin America is commonly understood as one country. Learn about Peru and you can extrapolate findings to the entire region. Learn about Chile and you can create a viewpoint for the other Spanish speaking countries. That is a common mistake. Approaching the various countries of Latin America as though they are one market will likely be a failure. There are twenty countries in Latin America, which cover an area that stretches from the southern border of the United States to the southern tip of South America, and it includes the Caribbean. Latin America is a region of the Americas that comprises countries where Romance languages are spoken; primarily Spanish and Portuguese, but also French and indigenous dialects. Each country has a different culture and a different way of viewing the world. Conducting the same market study in exactly the same way in each country, using the same methodological approach, may not work that well and results may be compromised.

2. Recruiting does not use a unified standard

Recruiting in Latin America is often done poorly if the right questions and specific demands are not asked upfront. In every country, recruiters have their own criteria for screening research participants. For example, “Criterio Brasil” is a socioeconomic classification model used for decades by media, advertising agencies, advertisers and research institutes. While it helps explain the consumption of major consumer goods, it focuses mainly on high-income strata at the expense of important emerging market segments that have grown in Brazil. If you are using Criterio for screening low-income consumers, make sure the recruiter understands each parameter and can adjust to other factors such as the location of neighborhoods, and number of people living in the household. In Mexico, you may chose to use the classification from the Asociación Mexicana de Agencias de Investigación, which is based on social class, income, lifestyle and wellbeing. In Colombia, the most used (and often abused) approach to define the social economic level is the “social strata.” This is a geographical breakdown of households defined by the Government with the purpose of giving preferential rates and social benefits. Depending on the project goals, our Colombian recruiter considers household income, education level and occupation in the screener, and asks research participants to bring their last utility bill to confirm their strata. Obviously there are other things that come to play when recruiting in Latin America, for example whether or not you need to screen people over the phone or door-to-door. The key takeaway here is that every country requires a customized recruitment strategy.

3. “Lost in translation” never happens…yeah right!

Spanish is the native language in most of Latin American countries, but it is also spoken differently around the region. Each country has its own dialect and because of this, it is a good idea to assemble a translation team familiar with the local words and expressions to make sure you get the most complete translations and avoid being lost in an alien culture. For example, we conducted a research with low-income consumers from multiple regions of Colombia. Participants had different educational levels and their vocabularies diverged so widely that most of the content produced had to be reviewed several times by a second translator. Most translators believe they can do the job, but they are often the source of translation problems. Some think they are perfectly bilingual and bicultural, or a writer at a professional standard. Others underestimate the time required to translate the original content and end up cutting corners to complete the job. Only a few translators are able to render the translation into a high quality, natural-sounding prose. And that is especially true for Brazil – the only country in Latin America where the culture and language are inherited mainly from Portugal – and researchers forget this at their peril. Regardless of the country that I go to, I often setup calls with my translators to test their translation skills, their familiarity with the American English and to make sure that they understand the research goals and terminology.

4. Insights are found underneath cultural factors

Local culture is complex in Latin America (and everywhere else, for that matter). What we can observe on the surface – clothing, food, festivities, art, or architecture – is the result of underlying cultural factors – history, faith, principles, attitudes and behaviors – that shape the uniqueness of each country. Without a greater understanding of the dynamics of these cultural factors at the country level, we can only wonder about the validity of our early perceptions and stereotypes. Let’s use the home cleaning product category as an example. In Brazil, cleaning is a weekly chore. Regardless of the social class, most Brazilians attach high importance to the cleanliness of their home and it is not uncommon to enter a home with plastic covered sofas and recently mopped floors with a nice scent in the air. In Mexico, the importance of cleanliness is accentuated even more. The mom is at the heart of the family and is expected to take care of the house on a full-time basis. Many have maids to help with the sidewalk in front of your house, removing fallen leaves, dust or dog feces. And there at the end of the year, they have a New Year’s Eve custom of mopping the floors with water and cinnamon before midnight. As a market researcher, if you don’t understand how different things are between cultures, and remain focused on conducting the same research protocol in exactly the same way as the one carried out in the U.S., your findings may provide few valid insights. Remember that you need to adjust your research to the local culture, rather than imposing a US-centric way of doing things – because the latter can lead to a lot of wasted of time and worse, poor research results. This leads me to one last reminder…

5. Lateness is the norm, but can be managed

Punctuality is a virtue in most western countries, but people in many Latin Americans countries take life at a slower pace and are generally late for appointments. Lateness is more notable by its presence than absence. There is a reason why Mañana is jokingly defined as “anytime between tomorrow and never” – and this is the reason why I always account for lateness and cancelations in the research schedule. When recruiting, I always add multiple confirmations to the process, and ensure that participants are incentivized accordingly. When doing the fieldwork, I allow enough time to accommodate delays, especially if the research team has to travel between sites or has multiple interviews or focus groups in one day. It is quite common for respondents to arrive late to interviews because they got stuck in traffic or have been watching the soccer match or telenovela! On the other side, locals are also willing to make adjustments to accommodate our crazy research schedules, which is always nice.

Certainly there are many other things one should know of and remember before starting a research project in any place of Latin America, including the research logistics (transportation, food stops), security, holidays and weather limitations. All of them will help you save resources during fieldwork and more importantly allow you to make the right decisions later on, in terms of opportunity definition, new product development, brand and promotion strategy.

So, go forth and don’t be anxious about your project in Latin America. However, if you are not convinced you can’t do it alone, reach out to us. We will be happy to assist you and your team.



Adriano photo 2

Adriano is the Vice-President of Sylver Consulting, an innovation research and strategy company. As a market researcher, he is specialized in the Portuguese and Spanish speaking markets, in particular the Latin American countries. You can find more about Adriano on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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It’s official!! The title of “biggest” now goes to Millennials

July 7, 2015 – by Jean McDonnell

Hipsters blowing confetti








Perhaps you thought that the topic of Millennials could not get any bigger. Well, you’d be wrong. 2015 is a very big-deal year for Millennials. A double-hitting, record-breaking year, in fact.

1. This is the year that Millennials surpass the outsized Baby Boom generation as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the population projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau and reported by the Pew Research Center.

Millennials are now over 75 million strong (projected number is 75.3 million this year), helped in part by an influx of young immigrants who are expanding the base size of this generational group. Conversely, the once hugely large and still influential Baby Boomer population (the parents of Millennials) has now shrunk just below 75 million for the first time ever (projected number is 74.9 million this year) as the number of Boomer deaths continue to exceed the number of older immigrants arriving in the country.

Jean Graph 1











2. This is also the year that Millennials surpass Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, more than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34 in 2015), and this year they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce.

This milestone occurred in the first quarter of 2015, less than a year after the Millennial labor force surpassed that of the Baby Boom generation, which has declined (and will continue to decline steadily) as Boomers retire. For Generation X (ages 35 to 50 in 2015), their place as the dominant generation within the labor force was very short-lived – just three years – as this “middle child” generation is significantly smaller in size than either Boomers or Millennials.

Jean graph 2








So, congratulations Millennials on a couple of really “big” milestones this year! I guess this means that – like it or not – the torch has been passed; the keys to the car (and the house and the store/factory, etc.) are now yours. Officially, the future is now in your hands . . . at least for a couple of decades.

As a Baby Boomer who, like you, was once and still is idealistic, optimistic and rebelliously anti-establishment (okay that last one is just me), I wish you god speed. Have a fun, thrilling, exhilarating ride in the driver’s seat – but be careful not to crash the car!


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On My Mind Lately… Attitude and Culture

June 4, 2015 – by Brianna

Sylver Consulting is currently seeking a new Quant. Analyst to bring onto staff (see description here). As we meet with candidates and reflect on past hiring decisions made in our 11 years of business, I’m struck by the level of importance that I personally place on attitude — both when evaluating candidates for new positions and when making raise and promotion decisions on our staff.

Our company is entrepreneurial is nature. To some people — like me — that’s beyond exciting. The sub-text that circles in my mind is, “Wow — no rule is unbreakable! The value I can bring to the table is limitless. I can create my own structure, a role from nothing and more importantly, I can make it my own!” These few statements are at the heart of why Sylver exists. Eleven years ago I was a misfit in the industry … not really fitting anywhere that seemed desirable to me at that time. So, I created a position (and a company) that gave me an acceptable container or vehicle through which to challenge the status quo.

Now that we’re a much bigger team, that challenging spirit has not waned. In fact, it’s only grown stronger as we’ve gained both manpower and brainpower in our numbers. We — as a team — excel at challenging the status quo, the way it’s always been done. And we empower and bring comfort through process, to our clients in doing the same thing in their businesses and industries.

What I’ve learned through interviewing and hiring over the years is that what I perceive as a limitless — and empowering — sea of possibility, other people, if not right for this environment, see as daunting, or even worse, judge with disdain. These individuals need the “x, then y” equation of success, the 10 year plan of promotion laid out visibly and tangibly before them. Unfortunately, however, that security of “the plan” is just not ingrained in the fabric of who we are here (and frankly if we tried make it, it wouldn’t be done with authenticity).

What I can say is this though … we value independent thinkers. Everyone here at Sylver is charged to push the boundaries for the collective good of our internal, client and industry communities. To do this is actually part of the job description of every level of employee in the company. And when an employee demonstrates that he/she not only can do that, but also thrive by doing that, we’ll take care of them (despite the lack of the concrete 10 year plan of promotion).

Bottom line, we’re a team of “go-getters” and we’re actively seeking one more. If you think you might be a good fit — for the current Quant. Analyst position or would like to be considered for future positions that become available — please reach out to us at

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How Researching Education Gave Me Insight Into Innovation

June 4, 2015 – by Jen Gzesh

Over the past 2 years, I have been fortunate to work on a number of interesting and exciting projects for a well-respected educational company. I admire this client and revel in conducting research for them, as they have become increasingly open to hearing from their users and using what they learn to better their organization and offerings. But above all else, my favorite part of working on projects for this client is that it has opened my eyes and mind to the depths of the education industry in the United States, and caused me to constantly challenge my own thoughts about education and testing. The more I learn, the more knowledge I seek, and I believe this has caused me to become something of an expert in the areas of education, testing, and workforce development. While I by no means know the solution for the problems that plague the US educational system, nor would I even venture to guess at what the right answers are, my desire to consistently learn more has led me to some interesting finds.

With that in mind, I would like to share with you a TED Talk that I came across and has stuck with me since I first watched it. The speaker, Adam Braun, founded an amazing organization called Pencils of Promise whose mission is to give every child access to quality education. Braun’s approach to and beliefs on education are simple yet poignant. But his ability to think like a true innovator and turn the question of how to fix the education system in the US on it’s head is what stands out to me most. I can only hope that as I continue my work in the education industry and other industries as well that I continue to have the courage to ask the difficult questions and to turn common conventions around to seek a better answer.

I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did.

What the U.S. education system can learn from the developing world: Adam Braun at TEDxUNLV

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