Technology can only help people learn better if it complements the emotional, social and community aspect of learning.
Tech guys like me often overlook this, but today I'm talking with Elliot Lum, a very experienced marketer who has set up succesful learning pod Connect with Elliot Lum at twitter.com/Elliot_Lum
Find out more about Superlearning at https://superlearners.traverse.link/.
Learning is highly emotional. Technology can only help people learn better if it compliments the emotional, social, and community aspects of learning. Tech guys like me often tend to overlook this, but today I'm speaking with Elliot Lum of the association of national advertisers. He's a very experienced marketeer who has set up successful learning pods in different areas.
Hello, and welcome to another episode in the super learning for professionals interview series. Today, I'm joined by Elliot Lum. He's based in New York, and he's an MVP in the association of national advertisers. He's also got a bunch of creative projects, which I'm looking forward to talk about. Welcome, Elliot.
For having me appreciate it.
Elliot, how is knowledge management's important in the area you work in professionally, but also in your creative projects?
In the space of marketing, which is the space that I operate in, people have to be able to, both on the creative side or on the analytical side, to create messages that influence, drive persuasion, get people to take some form of action.
So that accumulated knowledge is really important to deploy, to get the very best creative result that, that ultimately for us as marketers drives, depending on what product you represent or non-profit, drives some form of action, which ideally is to get somebody to buy something. So it's crucially important to the field of marketing.
And I imagine knowledge keeps growing and growing in your field. So how do you keep up with that and how do you choose what specifically to learn about.
You know, Dominic I'm at the association of national advertisers. And so we're a trade body that represents more than a thousand plus marketers and those that serve them.
And so our entire mission is to drive growth for our brands and for our industry and for professionals as well at an individual level. And so the reason why I share all of that is, Our structure is built to enable better knowledge transfer between companies so that people are sharing best practices and learning from each other.
And, you know, the field of marketing is changing so rapidly that it is so important to keep on top of trends and hear what other companies are actually doing. One of the things that I've appreciated about the marketing field in general is, How do we build more, not just best practice sharing, but how do we build a community to actually lift down some of those barriers about professionalism and create more of a personal connection between people for that learning to accelerate.
So that's something that I'm, very much entrenched in with some of the executives who focus on learning and development for the marketing space.
And do you have some examples of what barriers there are and what you can do to break those down?
So what we've done like with the L and D community is how do we bring people together in a different format than your typical conference format, which is presenting, and then you have an audience of a hundred, 500, but there's this idea of expert to learner. And I think what we tried to do, particularly during COVID and moving to a virtual environment was create these pods, where it's peer to peer learning, where it's only eight to 12 people in a pod.
And the idea is that one company presents. And then everyone else has the opportunity to lean in, to ask questions, to get a better sense of, for instance, the learning management platform that their company has deployed and actually see the guts behind it. And this model is what I call it more of a give- get model, which is like you're giving, so being able to share learning , but then to be able to get, which is Hey, I want some feedback on something that I'm working on because you know, more brains are better than, than less. And so what you're seeing is true peer to peer professional learning together, and this idea of how do we create a community where people want to support each other, even if they are competitors in the same community ie Coke and Pepsi or visa, MasterCard, and American express. And there certainly needs to be boundaries, but just the spirit of learning is really important to cultivate in that kind of atmosphere.
Yeah. I think we see those small parts being successful in a lot of areas, both for learning and for community building.
So what has been your experience with setting up those pods? How do you do that in a way that keeps people engaged and do you remix them over time or do you keep the same people together?
Yeah, so what we do with that community is basically we have a year long kind of learning journey.
So right now the community is about 50 executives and what we try to do is have quarterly sessions where then we do other things monthly to create some continuity between the quarterly sessions. I send out weekly emails to create greater connectivity across everyone, and then set up tools like, you know, Dom, you're pretty familiar with a lot of these different tools, more so than I am.
To be able to create a directory sorts or a knowledge management repository in notion, or these kinds of places where people have knowledge embedded, but really where the magic happens is when people are connected with each other and want to actually lean in. And that often is hard when you have people from different organizations who have similar kinds of expertise, but when you break down the competitive nature of it and engineer, a collaborative environment through facilitation and great spirit and a willingness to create experiences like before COVID, we would meet for instance, at Pari or, you know, at Anheuser Busch and like have a happy hour to enable better social interaction. So all of those pieces are crucial to create the connectivity that we're looking for
yes. That's a great example of a community that actually works. So I want to talk a bit more about your learning journey because it's very varied as I've heard from you before, you even wrote a book. Can you talk a bit about how you got here and what's your path has led to your current expertise?
Yeah. So what I'd say is that I've been a lifelong marketer in four different phases. So phase one was a research phase at corporate executive board and studying marketers, corporate executive board is now known as Gardner. Number two is I was in brand management at Colgate Palmolive. So traditional brand marketing. Third, was, I was at Columbia records putting deals together between brands and artists. And then number four is now the association of national advertisers where I say is, I'm more of a community builder for marketers and loved all those different kinds of roles.
My learning intuition is all about curiosity and I'm not feeling comfortable just doing the same thing over and over again, but constantly exploring to see where white space opportunity is and to try something else that's new. And so what I often say is I learned best by doing and having some form of action attached to it with a result like, oh, so that's what happens? How do I do it better? Or how do I repeat or how do I build? And I've always been a very let's call it individual learner. I was a chess player when I was a kid and learned to play chess, went to a lot of tournaments, became nationally ranked, or even like the sports that I play, squash and tennis, very individualistic.
And the way that I learned is, how do I learn about X and then go test it out in front of an audience. And so it's the learning by doing and having a result attached to it that really has motivated me.
Yeah, it's very curiosity based approach to learning as described. Do you have some examples of how that has expressed itself over the years, because I know you'd had a lot of interesting stuff.
Yeah. So you mentioned that I wrote a book, so I took a year off between Columbia records and the ANA. The book is called entrepreneurial confessions. All of these different things that we learn are building blocks to other things that you can do. I was doing all that, anything professionally and like being very fulfilled professionally, but there was always something missing personally. So the book was a good building block for that.
I'm going to go out and try to interview like 300 entrepreneurs not to find out what their secret sauce was, but just literally to find out the why behind , why they started their company.
Cause like that is such a powerful, internal motivator if you're going to spend so much time on something you should have it pretty good reason why, and that was powerful for me. Cause it made me reflect on what's exactly my why.
I've come to a place where I can appreciate all the things that I'm interested in, whether it be writing a book or, doing this course creation, work with you Dom or, as I shared with you doing like, I was a chess player when I was a kid, but I was an art history major when I was in school and doing these art pieces now where I dipped chess pieces into paint and then paint a game.
So I would take a game that's been played either myself or a famous player and then create a painting off of that particular game because the pieces are acting as brushes to express the paint on the canvas. So these are things that I feel very, starting to feel much more creatively fulfilled.
That's actually making, learning less, let's call it functional and much more emotional and feeling like it's expressing my true identity and self.
Right. So you mentioned you were a nationally ranked chess player in your youth.
Do you think that has shaped your learning pathway in any way? Or are there still things you used when learning chess positions, chess tactics that you've been able to carry over in other areas?
Yeah. It's interesting. I do a bunch of like different cohort learning models where right now I'm doing one with first time people managers.
And what I'll often do is illustrate concepts through chess tactics or strategy. So for instance, looking at a famous player, like AnatoloyKarpov and just saying he was such a great defensive tactician, how do you use, maybe that kind of translates to you being an introvert or that translates to just waiting to kind of seize your moment right.
At the right time in a company. So I try to use a lot of chess analogies as well, a lot of music analogies, which are a little bit more fun, to be able to express these ideas. Like, oh, I never thought about managing, this person this way, or never thought about how I sort of showed up in an organization or how I should think about a promotion.
So I try to express that in different ways. And then I think the other piece that's interesting for me about chess is, I am very good at looking at the pieces on the board in an organization. When I was doing business development at Columbia records, it's like, how do I get this company to care about my artists and say the right things, sequence it in the right way, be able to maneuver everything so that I got to a, yes, that ultimately led to an unlock of resources that would benefit the artist and our label. And so recently I've been thinking about the concept of making emotional intelligence actionable. Everybody talks about the importance of emotional intelligence and can acknowledge that. But what exactly does that mean and how does that express itself in the form of action?
So that's a concept that I'm actually now exploring more because there's a lot of great research on like the importance of emotional intelligence, but how to actually deploy it is another question.
That sounds, like a fascinating topic.
I don't know if you have found anything that you are ready to share about it already.
I'm like putting this like construct together. You think about Columbia records and you think about all the famous artists that are on Columbia records, Adele or Beyonce or foster the people or one direction when I was there as well, but you know, there's a lot of characters and egos in the music business who are vastly different.
Emotional intelligence is really crucial in those environments where it's really important if you're going to get an artist to say yes, is to know, you know, parameters of what the game looks like, what do they care about? How do you ask the right questions?
How do you create the right social proof? What's the leverage that you can have for them to say we should do this, even though I'm on the fence or and I think the most success that I had, it, there wasn't necessarily the biggest deal that I did, but the fact that the quality of every single deals that I did came to a conclusion where everybody was satisfied with those results.
And I attribute that a lot to being able to read the emotional IQ of what everybody was doing, to get to a place where people would say we should do this and sign their name to a document, a legal document that says, we're going to show up that foot action to do this prank for a day, or we're going to do proposal right on stage, or have a little mix and have Hollister, host a series of, of sessions at Hollister stores for a little mix, even without an endorsement deal. So like all of these things are consumer facing very seamless, but the actual architecture behind is actually very challenging to get everyone to the same place. And I do attribute that to making emotional intelligence actionable.
Right? Yeah. I found it interesting you've been talking a lot about emotional intelligence and how that matters, about the like learning pods that you manage. And yet you identify as a very individual learner.
How do you unite this very social aspect with the individual component?
Emotional intelligence is like seeing a chess board, right? How do you coordinate all your pieces together? I'm plugging myself into the emotional intelligence of the L and D community or, you know, another one that I've built, which is the Asian marketing community of about 150 marketing executives.
Just understanding what I need to do to continue to cultivate that community and tap into the psyche of what a lot of these executives care about. Right. And like early on, we had a lot of, I don't want to say conflict, but differing views on what direction this group should take, with 25 to 35 executives, when I came to the conclusion that hey, you know, everybody wants to do something to stop this Asian hate that's going on. The reality is everybody's got a different solution, but the solution is not a problem. So like everybody's solution is valid. The emotional intelligence piece was like, oh, like everybody loves being with each other.
And there's this fellowship that's starting to develop. They may not agree on some of the issues, but they agreed to continue to meet and show up for each other. So, we continue to build it and it's been six to nine months since we made a decision to expand it. And now it's 150 and it's getting bigger and it's got some of the biggest brands in the world, like, Coke and Walmart and target and Google and Facebook and Tik TOK, et cetera.
And it's a great community that I'm excited to see to continue to build. So I think a lot of it Dominic is that I see myself in a lot of these different groups and I can plug myself into the group emotional intelligence, so that action can be driven.
Right. Really impressive Elliot.
One question I have is what has in this very long journey, been your biggest learning challenge and what did you do, to overcome that.
Yeah. The biggest learning challenge, actually for me, it's been personally is, so I, five years ago, and I'm very comfortable in sharing this is I got a divorce and that was a very emotionally riveting moment for me. We were together for nine years, we were married for four and it really made me look introspectively about what was going on with myself?
Part of the reason, why I wrote the book was that my ex wife became an entrepreneur. And that was the starting point of some of the deterioration that was happening in our relationship. And part of me doing the book was actually trying to figure out what was going on, right.
As an entrepreneur. Cause we were unable to like connect and communicate with each other. And the reason why it's important for me was like I needed what I'll call a learning partner, a therapist to help me, look at my past and see what I could learn about something that everybody should be, looking at, which is how they grew up. How they act and show up subconsciously, because that's the way that they grew up. And it's been like a really incredible experience for the past four to five years to come to peace and come to terms with that. So that is one of the hardest things that I could ever have done, which is confronting things that you didn't know that you do, or you're doing subconsciously and to be able to come out of it in a way that makes you feel more whole.
That's very impressive how you overcame this dip. And I think it also shows how reflection is a very important part of learning. Looking objectively over your past actions and experiences.
A hundred percent.
Thanks for sharing that. One last question, what do you see in the future of your field is needed to continue to benefit from the ever-growing knowledge and to be able to keep learning that effectively.
You know, Dom, you are incredibly at the technology piece and there's so much amazing technology out there that enables great community building and social interaction, but it's that interplay in my mind of like great technology deployed well that has, beautiful design and great user interface that combines with the people in a way that, creates a community where people want to interact with each other. And there's nothing like in-person interaction. But I also think that in person interaction every single day it's just not realistic, obviously.
And now it's like, how do you have different forms of experience that keep that sort of connection and maybe even deepen that connection through that technology. It's just like nice yin and yang of community and technology that will accelerate the rate of learning. Because learning is not just rational, it's emotional.
And so you need that dual power to learn in the flow of what you're doing.
That's very well said. It's something we technologists often tend to overlook the emotional people aspects of learning. Thanks for sharing that.
So if people want to find out more about you, what's the best way for them to do so?
Well right now, you know, Dom, like I don't do Twitter as much, so yeah. If you're a corporate person I'm on LinkedIn at Elliot Lum, and then I'm doing my chest art piece on Instagram at Elliot lung too. But I hope based on your inspiration, I get up on Twitter. So I am also at Elliot_Lum Twitter, but I hope to be there soon.
Awesome. I look forward to connecting with you on Twitter as well.
Thank you very much. Great discussion and appreciate the space to talk about learning.