Covid-19 Sparks the Great Values Reset

We can all probably agree that we are living through one of the most disruptive events of our generation. With our worlds turned upside down, it comes as no surprise that the way people work in America has also vastly changed.

Just as news stories cropped up about 2021 being the year of the Great Resignationother stories followed asking the question ‘where have all the workers gone?’ I’ve pondered this question as well, seeing the ‘short staffed’ signs everywhere I go and hearing from countless businesses about their struggle to retain talent. 

The answer to what is causing the Great Resignation might lie in the reframing of the phenomenon. A smart colleague of mine, Vina Klein, astutely calls it the “Great Values Reset.” I really like that. It gives more insight to what is happening. People seem more attuned to their values when choosing how to live and how to work. At the start of the pandemic, we were sent home and we slowed down, we took stock, and we re-evaluated our lives. That experience impacted our choices in 2021 and beyond.

Now enter the gig economy. The gig economy has always been around, but something interesting happened as a result of Covid-19. Gig workers represented around 35 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2020, up from between 14 and 20 percent in 2014. The number of companies that fully operate on gig work has increased by 85% since 2014. That growth has only accelerated as a result of Covid-19. As workers reset values and put more focus on having some control over their lives, employees are leaving the confines of a 9-5 and corporate bureaucracy. The gig economy is where they land, and SIVO Insights has the perfect launchpad for these workers. 

I’m very fortunate to lead SIVO Insights On-Demand Talent. I’m passionate about helping my consumer insights consultants find fulfilling roles that match their skills and talent. I’m also very much “in the zone” when I’m able to help our clients fill a specific need on their team or find the right talent for a project. Matching our clients’ needs with SIVO’s On-Demand Talent experience and skills is the best part of my job.

SIVO Insights On-Demand Talent allows people to choose how they want to work. It provides the flexibility and work-life balance that comes with the gig economy. For companies, On Demand Talent delivers flexibility, too. Whether an organization is struggling to find and retain talent or is  not in a position to commit to a full-time hire, tapping into SIVO On Demand Talent is a win-win! 

8 Tips for Ideating Virtually

Ideation in a virtual setting might seem challenging.  Stimulating new ideas through creative activities, building on one another’s thoughts, and working as a team to diverge and converge are tenets of the ideation process that certainly benefit from being in person.  However, with some key tools and thoughtful planning, the process can work quite well in an online environment.  As you plan your next virtual ideation, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Have a simple yet detailed plan.
There is less room to pivot or change course in a virtual environment, so you will need to think through the activities, expectations, and timing in more detail. 

Employ collaborative technology tools. 
Use a virtual platform e.g. Miro, Mural, Stormboard to keep the whole team engaged and active. These platforms allow participants to post ideas, draw diagrams, and connect thoughts, taking the place of a whiteboard and post-its. 

Keep activities lively and varied.
Some activities can be fast-paced and include the whole team, while others could be small break out groups that require more thinking and discussion.  Include both synchronous and asynchronous activities for a mix of energetic brainstorming and quiet reflection. 

Go beyond words on a page – use images, illustrations, music, physical objects, and other forms of expression.
Use ‘real life’ tactile and tangible stim to keep respondents engaged and provide them a physical and mental break from the 2D
virtual world.

Create anticipation and surprise.
Bring in surprise guests or creative sparks throughout the session. This could be an expert speaker, or a box of stimuli shipped in advance that will be ‘revealed’ real time in a guided activity. This will keep up the energy and involvement throughout the session. 

‘Right size’ the group and mix up the interactions. 
Keeping the size of the group to around 10 to 12 is ideal. This creates a sense of connection among the group through visually seeing them on screen and knowing who is ‘in the room’. With too small a group, participants can drain quickly, and varying the interaction among people can become challenging.  

Keep session length to around 2 hours.
We have all experienced virtual fatigue, so it’s better to do several 2-hour sessions over a week or two than try to do a marathon session over a day.

Have at least two people run the session.
Facilitating ideation is not a one-person job.  One facilitator can lead the discussion while the other can manage logistics, keeps track of output, and troubleshoot.  

Creating a Category Vision for Growth

Over the past 18 months, businesses across all types of industries and categories have been on a wild ride. There was very little time to think about the future when 100% of our workday was focused on managing volatile supply and demand, finding new ways to compete effectively, and dealing with workforce and workplace changes on a massive scale. It required business managers to be focused on the here and now. But now, we’ve lapped the first year of the pandemic, our workforce has settled into new routines, and to keep growing, we must focus our attention on the future.

A great step in looking toward the future is to take stock of the landscape that you operate within, especially when there has been dramatic change in the external environment. The future growth of your business requires you to have a point of view on how your business will be impacted by changing consumer behaviors and preferences, the actions of your competitive set and external partners, and possibly the impact of new technologies. In other words, you need to have a vision of what your category/industry will look like in 5+ years to remain relevant in that future state and capitalize on future growth opportunities.

Our team at SIVO Insights has experience with helping clients build their category vision of the future.  In fact, we have developed a step-by-step process that results in a defined Future-State Category Map to inform the Category Vision and Key Strategies.  A Category Vision not only demonstrates category leadership and anticipates the future, but it allows clients to take control and literally create their own destiny…a future where the business can thrive.

Here is the high-level process for developing a Category Vision:

Define Current State: 

Clients need to define the space that they currently play in.  For some it might be narrow, for example, Skin Care.  For others it might be broad, for example, Beauty Products.  (There are pros and cons for how narrow or broad your category definition is and SIVO Insights can guide your team to get to a definition that is relevant and actionable.)

Incorporate data/trends signaling future state:  

This step requires the gathering of category, competitive and consumer intelligence from a variety of sources, to answer questions, like:

  • What is happening in the industry or category that my business competes in?
  • What segments are growing or declining?
  • What are the signs or hints of new segments emerging?
  • Are there new consumer behaviors that signal the need to operate differently in the future to remain competitive in this category/industry?

Articulate Future State:

SIVO Insights facilitates the client team through a small series of assignments and working sessions to envision the Future State of the category and to prioritize where to “place bets” within the category to maximize growth.

Create a Vision & Strategies to build Future State:

With the future state of the category defined, SIVO Insights guides client teams through the creation of a Category Vision that serves as the North Star, and Growth Strategies that the organization can put into action to drive category and brand growth for years to come.

A solid process with proven success. Are you ready to help your business create a vision for the future?  Email us at to develop strategies and plans that not only anticipate the future but create it!

Execution Eats Strategy for Lunch But… Without Strategy, Execution Starves

Is your organization hungry for strategic intent?

We are living and working in an environment that is full of volatility and change.  Many organizations are hungry for strategic intent, a term used to describe the intended direction, purpose, and plans that leaders put in place to achieve their organization’s vision.

Setting and communicating strong strategic intent pays off in many ways:

  • Drives alignment across the organization
  • Illuminates new opportunities for growth
  • Creates excitement and engagement 
  • Builds onto existing brand equity

SIVO Insights helps organizations set their strategic intent, by leading and facilitating the strategic planning process.  This process can be summarized into three steps:  Leaders must 1) Assess, 2) Align, and 3) Articulate.


Leaders must gather and assess relevant trends, consumer insights, market intelligence and institutional knowledge to answer critical questions across the 5C’s Assessment Framework.


With this knowledge in hand, leaders participate in a facilitated strategic planning session to review their assessment of the 5C’s, to ideate, prioritize and most importantly, to align on the mission, vision, and values that will carry the organization into the future.


Lastly, leaders need to articulate their strategic intent—the vision, mission and values as well as the plan—to employees, collaborators, stakeholders, and in some cases to consumers and customers. This communication needs to happen repeatedly, in multiple forums, in-person or virtually, in internal documentation, as well as, in external communication. Strategic Intent can’t be communicated enough to ensure it is internalized by all parties.

In this time of continuous change, with a refreshed grounding in foundational insights and market intelligence, combined with solid strategic planning (i.e., Assess, Align and Articulate), you can give your organization and your stakeholders what they are hungering for . . . strong strategic intent. Let SIVO Insights help!

Please reach out to us at to learn how you and your leadership team can create or re-establish your organization’s strategic intent.

The Creative Power of Talking to Strangers

There was a recent article in the Atlantic about The Surprising Benefits of Talking to Strangers that makes a case for sparking up conversations with people you don’t know. The cliffs note’s takeaway is that despite our age-old programming of ‘Stranger Danger’, some of the best moments of creativity, partnerships, and friendships develop from the meeting of strangers.

“Again and again, studies have shown that talking with strangers can make us happier, more connected to our communities, mentally sharper, healthier, less lonely, and more trustful and optimistic.”

This nugget of knowledge is something the founders of SIVO Insights, Cindy Blackstock and Marilyn Weiss, seemed to innately understand. Their chance meeting one fateful afternoon at a coffee shop blossomed into a partnership and business that has been going strong and growing since 2010. Their connection was immediate, and their partnership was destined. They have complimentary skills and can draw on each other’s strengths to run a company and build a well-rounded team. 

This team of two has steadily grown to the current team of 80+ industry experts spanning across a variety of topics and vocations. What Cindy and Marilyn recognized 11 years ago was the need for flexible work environments that centered more on balance and adaptability versus the classic 9-5 cubicle existence so many Americans were tied to. They recognized that there was a plethora of talented people that wanted to exist in the workforce in a different structure than what traditional corporations offered. Talent was curated with passionate people who were excited to work and thrive in a new business environment. This was visionary at the onset   ̶ and the visionary spirit continues.

SIVO Insights Villagers Katy Koestler, Jen Hawley, and Julie Monson on their way to talk to strangers in Washington DC – and do “what makes them come alive” together.

Fast forward to today, with SIVO moving toward their next evolution. While the core DNA is centered on discovering and integrating consumer insights to action for clients, there has been a steady expansion of tools and paths forward to bring insights to light.  This includes integrating all types of virtual engagements, listening tools, and digital insights.  SIVO’s most recent solutions, staff augmentation through On Demand Talent and Leadership Assessments, help clients run their businesses more successfully.

While most companies try to figure out their ‘new normal’ and ways of working in the pandemic era, SIVO is primed and ready to assist. SIVO can assess their workforce experience, provide talent to fill in staffing gaps, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of its leadership team. 

What Cindy and Marilyn have built is an organization centered on people. People that thrive on discovering what makes the world turn, translating insights into action, and sometimes talking to strangers. SIVO’s inspiration is centered on a quote from Howard Thurman:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 

SIVO is chock-full of talent that ‘comes alive’ in their work.  If you haven’t met someone from SIVO yet, you should. You might find that talking to a stranger can lead to an amazing partnership.

Can we return to in-person research?

This is a recent question we have been hearing from many of our clients. The answer – right at this moment – is YES! Consumers are indicating they are ready to return to face-to-face interviews. In our recent survey, 74% of US consumers willing to participate in market research state they are comfortable participating in an in-person interview.  

However, I would have to caveat that resounding ‘yes’ with the caution to ‘be prepared for changes.’ Of the small percentage of consumers uncomfortable with an in-person interview, more than half (57%) state concerns with COVID as their main reason. 

“The delta variant / Covid-19 spreads too easily. I am hesitant to be around individuals outside of my social group.” 

At SIVO, we are excited to be talking with consumers face-to-face once again, whether it is in-store intercepts or at-home ethnographies. We have learned that in order to protect research initiatives for our clients it is critical to have a contingency plan. Here are a few tips and tricks we use when fielding in-person research in the current Covid environment.

  1. Continually assess local / state mandates on gatherings and travel restrictions.
  2. Reconfirm participation close to the fielding date. A participant or a member of their household may have been diagnosed with COVID, or due to increasing delta variant rates they may no longer be comfortable with participating.
  3. Over-recruits are critical, and need to be planned in higher numbers as compared to pre-COVID.
  4. Offer higher incentives. It takes a ‘little more’ for consumers to want to speak with you during their shopping trips. We have also seen more recruits who are working from home and need a higher incentive to keep their calendar available for agreed upon interview times.
  5. Be prepared to flex virtually. This may mean responding to a concerned participant with a change to webcam, or adjusting an entire approach to mobile missions.

The good news is brands and products are looking to consumer insights for leadership in this time of change. Be prepared with a flexible plan to hear the consumer voice..

Perspective: Redefining What it Means to be a ‘Working Mom’ During a Pandemic

When you read the news these days, regarding women leaving the work force, the outlook and reality seem bleak.

“Due to challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis, more than 1-in-4 women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely.”

The Wall Street Journal

“There are now 3.7 million fewer women working than there were in February 2020, in large part because of the pandemic, eroding more than 30 years of progress in women’s labor force participation.”

White House Fact Sheet, April 21, 2021

Not only are these the facts, but this has been my reality. I have spent the last decade and a half building a business career in a traditional corporate setting, across Consumer-Packaged Goods companies that span from cereal to mascara. I’ve built a rich network of connections, and grown my skillset to span across sales, marketing, research, and innovation. I’ve invested in my career, but COVID-19 made me re-evaluate where my investment was most needed.

When the lockdown hit in March of 2020, I added an entire workstream to my day job: manage childcare and distance learning for my two young children. I also lost my part-time nanny, my relief and respite, due to the pandemic. I did not know how I would stay afloat, deliver against my job’s requirements, while also ensuring that my kids got what they needed.

COVID realities created both unreliable childcare and unreliable school days. One exposure could turn any sense of schedule or order upside down. Some of those months went by in a blur. I recognized something had to give. I had to give. I had to make a change for myself and my family. I chose to leave my corporate job to explore something more sustainable for my life.

Fast forward to early spring 2021 and some of the facts and realities haven’t changed all that much. While the nation is becoming hopeful with relaxing Covid restrictions and rise in vaccinations, women have not as readily returned to the workforce. This year, I shifted to the gig economy and started a new career as a Research Strategy Consultant with SIVO Insights, a local firm that really understands what it looks like to do the work you love while also being present for your family.

For me SIVO has been a beacon, offering me a way to continue investing in my career without compromising my family, especially during a pandemic. SIVO is a woman owned and operated business founded on the belief that the world needs more people doing what they love. SIVO recognized 12 years ago there was an overflow of great talent that wanted to work but NEEDED flexibility, especially parents juggling family and childcare demands.

I’ve learned that part of making it ‘work’ as a working mom is to find the type of work that meets your needs. Workplace norms have pivoted to meet marketplace realities. My advice to women is to consider something that fits YOUR lifestyle priorities instead of the other way around.

I love being a part of an organization like SIVO Insights, a company committed to redefining what work looks like. SIVO is helping companies work differently through their On Demand Talent (ODT) practice, which helps fill in resource gaps for short or longer-term engagements. Sometimes a company just needs an extra perspective on a special project, or someone to fill in during a parental leave.

SIVO Insights ODT can provide the right talent – at the right time – so that companies can keep moving forward without disrupting workflows or putting additional strain on existing staff. I am currently on an ODT assignment and am loving the opportunity to work on unique business problems while, not only continuing to nurture my professional career, but also be the kind of mom I want to be for my family.

Are you curious what working differently looks like? – just ask. SIVO Insights can help you figure out the best path forward for you or your company to get the resources – and talent – you need.

Cans to Bottles in 15 Days

Innovation requires seamless collaboration, agility, and the ability to pivot wisely and effectively. Timelines are tight and the right talent is critical to successfully manage the Insights process. SIVO INSIGHTS On-Demand Talent™  recently provided a Consumer Insights Innovation Lead for Betsy Frost, Chief Revenue Officer at DRY Soda Company.

First Moment of Truth

Right Talent for Right Impact

DRY Soda needed a Consumer Insights expert to manage the First Moment of Truth (FMOT) consumer learning for a new product launch, DRY Botanical Bitters & Soda, a ready-to-drink non-alcoholic cocktail with zero sugar.

Our seasoned Consumer Insights expert:

  • Developed an agile learning plan aligned to objectives
  • Pivoted effectively as marketplace dynamics shifted
  • Coordinated hands-on research logistics and findings
  • Served as key resource for the SIVO Insights moderator
  • Communicated seamlessly with cross-functional team

“…it felt like SIVO was a member of our team.”

From the get-go, the SIVO Insights talent creatively leveraged DRY Soda’s internal assets and owned social media to recruit the right consumers for quick-turnaround learning. Timelines and budgets were priorities, with no room for missteps. When supply chain complexities forced an immediate change in launch plans, the team worked smartly and effectively to pivot from cans to bottles in a record 15 days. Navigating a plethora of moving parts, including new package design, messaging, team alignment, and consumer feedback demanded an experienced team to pull it off successfully!

During Consumer Research, Frost was thrilled to listen, participate and ultimately make the right real-time decisions from an outside vantage point rather than having to lead and facilitate herself.

Frost said, “You made it super easy and streamlined for me…it felt like SIVO was a member of our team.”

To learn more about the DRY Soda story and line of products available, visit drinkdry. Check out this new product: DRY Botanical Bitters & Soda!

You can Shop Now or click the ‘Find Dry’ link to leverage the unique geo-locator. It allows you to buy online or from the store front retailer of your choice. This shoppable platform is powered by Pear Commerce technology. To learn more about Pear Commerce, see this 90-second video link.

SIVO Insights On-Demand Talent provides the right talent for your business needs; it is NOT a one size fits all model. What talent do you need to immediately impact YOUR business? Email Brent Budke to successfully match the right talent.

Using Market Dynamics to Drive Sales Strategy

The aftershocks of the global pandemic and ensuing market changes continue to reverberate across all industries. From CPG and retail to manufacturing and medical devices, everyone has questions about what the best strategy is to deal with the impact.

SIVO Insights recently had the opportunity to work with a medical device company to explore the implications of the pandemic on business practices for psychiatric physicians. Our client was experiencing shifts in attrition rates on their device and wanted to better understand the marketplace drivers and how they could use those learnings to influence sales strategy.

The objectives of the research centered around a few key questions that may be similar to your own questions about the impact of the pandemic on your business:

  • How are practices treating patients during the pandemic?
  • What trends are practices seeing as a result of the pandemic?
  • What is the current perception of this device and what changes are expected in the future?
  • What barriers exist for increasing the usage / adoption in the new marketplace?

These objectives led to a two-pronged approach by SIVO Insights, starting with qualitative research that engaged Doctors of Psychiatry. These initial deep dive conversations informed the focus for a quantitative survey across a broader audience of Psychiatric Professionals that would develop a complete picture of the current dynamics.

The resulting insights from the combined research led to key takeaways in 6 areas that all have unique influences on sales strategy:

Using a combination of intimate discussions and broader, quantitative assessment led to rich insights that bring the market dynamics to life in a way that can impact changes in the sales approach.

Please contact to discuss the key questions you’re facing and learn how we can customize a research approach to meet your needs to make an immediate impact on your business.

SIVO INSIGHTS On-Demand Talent™

Adding Contract Talent to Achieve Business Objectives

Are you facing these challenges?

  • More workload and pipeline projects than your team can execute
  • Questioning how to keep saying “Yes” to internal stakeholders
  • Not enough time or resources to meet multiple requests for actionable insights from leadership, product development, marketing, or strategy

How can we help?

SIVO Insights On-Demand Talent™ is a solution for Insights talent needs for teams just like yours. We leverage our extensive pool of Insights professionals, with years of experience and expertise, to help you achieve your business objectives.

We recommend three key steps for evaluating and making the case internally for hiring contract Insights talent.

3 Steps to Needs Evaluation for Talent Selection

As workforce talent continues to evolve, there is no shortage of options, including interns, short or long-term contractors, contract-to-hire, or direct hire. Below, we highlight the advantages of Contract Talent vs. Full Time Hire:

The pros and cons of contract talent versus full-time employees.

We have started engagements in as quickly as one week. To discuss your needs and how we can match the talent with the best expertise for quick solutions in your organization, visit SIVO Insights On-Demand Talent or email


At SIVO Insights, we are passionate about what we do and eager to put our collective skills to work for you.

To get the right solutions for your research needs, give us a call or send us an email. Or, just fill out the form on your right and we’ll get back to you shortly.

We can't wait to hear from you!
SIVO Insights, Inc.
3185 Fernbrook Lane N
Plymouth, MN 55447

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