Episode 132

Andrew Embry, Brand Manager and Spoken Word Poet

Published on: 18th October, 2021

We are back for another great interview, today with Andrew Embry, a brand manager -- plus a wordsmith, poet. and creative alchemist. 

Andrew combines spoken word & poetry with his data research and marketing roles at Eli Lilly and Company.

Listen to the entire podcast to hear Andrews poem “bringing love into work” starting at 15:47

Andrew has been writing and performing poetry since he was a child. He has managed to not only use poetry skills offstage but also bringing these skills to work too where he has performed in front of 1000 of his colleagues.   

He is an avid reader of books, blogs, and watcher of films to keep his creative juice flowing. One of those books is Radical Candor by Kim Scott. The book focuses on the importance of giving quality, direct feedback to individuals, which has enabled him to give and receive feedback better. Andrew says, if you can help people see how they're using their own style of creativity, then they can see how much that's valued and they can lean into who they are and bring even more value to you and your team.

  • Andrew has been writing his blog Striking Matches since Jube 2013, and he gives us pointers on how he has been able to get creative ideas over the past 9 years to keep writing. The way he has done this is by having a creative mindset-believing that there is a story and hidden beauty inside everything.  Looking at the world (experiences) as your oyster.
  • A few ideas on how to bring creativity to work especially in remote settings or working from home can include: getting up and taking walks, working out in the morning, or even taking breaks during the day just to go play with your kids.
  • As part of the brand management team, you can bring creativity in your solutions by being empathetic to your customers’ needs, while at the same time using the data you collect to make heart-level decisions when telling stories.

Andrews Blog: Striking Matches

Youtube: Andrews performance at Eli Lily's 140th anniversary

Company Website:Eli Lily & Company

Kim Scott’s book: Radical Candor

Summary.

The future of marketing will be more innovative in the digital space, as we focus on meeting customers at their point of need.   We need to know how to use machine learning to help turn data into insights that we can use to be better. 

Listen to the entire podcast to hear Andrews poem “bringing love into work”

Original creative work is copyrighted, provided by the artist, and used with permission.

Transcript

auto generated transcript

Mark (:

Well, welcome back friends to our podcast unlocking your world of creativity. This is the podcast where we travel around the world to talk to creative practitioners and experts about how they get inspired for their creative work, how they organize their work, and most of all, how they gain the confidence and the connections to launch their work and produce their work and perform their work with confidence. And today I've got a terrific guest who really combines that personal passion for creativity, with the expression of that creativity in a lot of different ways, and especially in the company and corporate world that he works in my guest is Andrew Embry from Indianapolis, Andrew. Welcome aboard.

Andrew (:

Hey, thanks so much for having me here. I'm really excited about our conversation today.

Mark (:

Yeah. And you've got such great energy. And Andrew, we were talking about just before we started the program about this pursuit of creativity, both, you know, as a personal passion, but also how you bring that creativity to work. How does that overlap work for you these days, especially in a time where we're working remotely? And sometimes we can't always count on the creative energy of either our workspace traditionally or our work team.

Andrew (:

It's really interesting. Not only are we working remotely, but the lines between work and home are blurring more and more and more like, as we're chatting right now, I'm working from my bedroom slash home office. And so I think for me, the biggest challenge is making sure I'm getting enough energy to fill my bucket, to keep the creativity going. And maybe that's getting up and taking walks. Maybe that's making sure I work out in the morning. Maybe that's taking a break during the day just to go play with my kids. I have two little daughters. And if you want creativity in a nutshell, just go hang out with the kid for five minutes, and that’s the kind of energy you need. You can gather that energy. Then it becomes so much easier to bring it into wherever you are.

Mark (:

It's wonderful. And Andrew has been publishing a blog for gosh, several years now. I, I kept scrolling to find the end and it's, it's a never-ending source of creative inspiration. Andrew's blog has called striking matches igniting new ideas and expanding the way we think about things. Andrew, you post all sorts of great articles about, curiosity and exploration, but also, techniques and tools and so forth to really spark creativity. Tell us a little bit about where you get your ideas for the blog.

Andrew (:

I appreciate that. And I was thinking just myself the blog is almost nine years old now. I'm very, very proud of that and the consistency of writing, as far as the ideas, I think it starts with this creative mindset and what I explained to people, because so often they're like, "oh, you're so creative. Like where does it come from?"Well, it begins with this mindset of believing that there is a story and there's a beauty hidden inside of everything. And if you believe that it's hidden there, all it is is for you to go and find that story and uncover it a little bit. And so, because I have that mindset, I can look at a wide variety of things, whether it's video games and seeing some of the interesting learnings we can pull from that or learnings from being a dad. The entire world becomes my playground at that.

Mark (:

You've mentioned several books and several movies and videos and things like this, that have spurred you. A couple of books that you mentioned. One was this idea of candor both personally in the workplace and in relationships. Where did you, get some ideas from that kind of a book?

Andrew (:

That book is Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I had a colleague introduce the book to me and in a nutshell, it's all about how important it is to give quality direct feedback to individuals. So I live in Indianapolis in the Midwest and often we can be Midwest nice. So we think we're doing a kindness because we're not really pointing out when people are making mistakes or things along those lines. And in the short term that keeps everybody comfortable, but in the long term, it doesn't help them in their own growth and development. And so from Radical Candor, what I really took away is if you really love and care about someone, you'll have some of those tough conversations with them. And if they know that you love and care about them, they'll accept that feedback. And they'll know that you're there helping them to grow. And so I think that's one of the most important lessons I've ever learned and whether it's giving the feedback or receiving the feedback. As we talk about creativity, there are a lot of times I have ideas that I fall in love with and I got to realize, just because I love them, not everybody else is going to either.

Mark (:

Well, exactly. I was thinking of our tender, fragile, creative ego sometimes, thanks for the candor, but I really wasn't that open to it.

Andrew (:

I've been there a few times.

Mark (:

I wasn't really interested in my growth and development today. But one of the expressions of your own creativity, Andrew is in spoken word poetry. And I love the combination of those two things. Because it's obviously part poetry itself, but also part performance and, standing in front of the group to deliver that poetry.

Andrew (:

It's something that I stumbled into. I've been writing poetry ever since I was a little kid. And then I performed in a few coffee shops when I was in college. After that, I got my first job, I moved up to Wisconsin and I found that they were competitions. So I started doing the competitions and it was so fascinating because that's when I really began to find what my voice is and really hone in on who I am as a performer, as a writer, as an artist. And it's a great chance to be able to stand up on stage and speak your truth. And not only do I love doing it outside of work, but I’ve also been able to bring so much of that inside of work, too. And so being in a large company, I performed in front of thousands of people. And I never thought that would happen, five, 10 years ago. But here I am being requested. I've had the CEO ask me to perform poetry for the teams. I think people are beginning to see it's a great way to trigger and pull out those emotions and passions that we all have deep inside of us.

Mark (:

Yes. Instead of just the straightforward sort of corporate speech with PowerPoint.Not everyone who gives a corporate presentation has it end up on YouTube, but I've seen your spoken word poetry at your company, Eli Lilly and Company there in Indianapolis. Speaking about the passion that you have for the company, but how everyone is engaged in that passion. it's a terrific video.

Andrew (:

I really, really appreciate that. And I was lucky enough that the CEO had seen me perform something else. And it's a funny story. He saw me perform something and he said," Hey, did you write what you just performed?" And I said, "yes, sir I did." And he said, "well, we're having 140th anniversary. I want you to write something about that. So I need you to send me an email tonight so I can connect you with my people." And so that night I went home and I was chuckling to myself because I'm thinking I'm totally writing my CEO a note to say," Hey, I'm the poetry guy. Just in case you forgot. "He loved it. And really, really appreciated it. And I think it showed a real human side to him too, as to be willing to bring that into a science-based company where it's easy to get lost in the numbers and the clinical side to help us remember how important the patients are that we're helping.

Mark (:

The camera angle is obviously from the back of the crowd, but when you see the heads nodding and of course the standing ovation at the conclusion of the poem and the performance must've been very gratifying.

Andrew (:

It was, it really touched my heart and, there's a standing ovation and there were people who had tears in their eyes and that's when, you know, you've done something magical. As a creative person, yes. you do it some for yourself, but you do it to touch someone else. And so when you get that type of feedback and you know, you've left an imprint on someone, that's when you know, you've done a job very well.

Mark (:

Yes. Well, listeners, I will certainly include a link to the YouTube video and to Andrew's striking matches blog in the show notes. So you can refer to that. Andrew, let's take off from there to talk about how you applied this creativity at work you're on the brand management team now of a terrific new medication there at Eli Lilly. But also, you have built a career of over a decade almost 15 years working at this company in various roles. How do you bring the creativity and how do you feel like you have a chance to apply that in your role, especially now in marketing?

Andrew (:

It's, it's really interesting because when people first start to see me in a marketing capacity, they're like, wait a minute, aren't you the poet guy, how do those two things work with each other? And it takes a minute for me to say, if you really think about it, writing and performing poetry, it's about understanding someone and their perspective really well. And then using words to pull feelings out of them. If you think about marketing, marketing is really about understanding your end customer incredibly well and walking in their shoes, and then using messaging and tactics to get them to think, feel, or do something. So I always joke, like it's very similar except for maybe poetry is painting with oil-based paints and marketing is used using watercolors. And so if I go back to earlier in our conversation, it all starts with this mindset of there's beauty, hidden everywhere. And so in my marketing case, the beauty is hidden in the patients that we serve and the doctors that we work with and really understanding them and their mindset and their struggles and their challenges. And once I can really step in their shoes and embody them, then I can see the world from their eyes and find a creative solution to help move them along to where they want to be.

Mark (:

And you're really taking it from a very empathetic understanding, the patient and the doctors as people. This is maybe contradictory to some people, but market research is about the numbers or how many people clicked or how many people agreed with us, or how many people gave it a 10. But you've really brought it down. Maybe to the heart level instead.

Andrew (:

Yeah, definitely bring it to the heart level. At the same time, all the numbers in the data, help tell the story too. Before I was in marketing, as I am now, I was in market research and I love market research because I could combine all of the qualitative interviews that were totally about the heartstrings, as well as all the survey data. And once you begin to synthesize and triangulate, you begin to paint a full picture of a person. So I'd say you need both sides of those things. And part of the creativity is not just generating new ideas, but figuring out new ways that those dots can connect to each other

Mark (:

Well, and in your industries, particular pharma and biotech but really in all industries, there's kind of a traditional and almost infamous sometimes conflict between that analytical, you mentioned scientists, and a very clinical thinking process and this creative, what if, but really aren't, they both innovation? Aren't, they both creative?

Andrew (:

They are both creative. And what's interesting is so many people say, "Andrew, you're so creative. I wish I could do the stuff with words that you do." And then I go look at the analytics people. And I say, I wish I could work the data the way that you do because you're able to turn all these ones and zeros into answers that actually matter. They're using creativity in an entirely different way. And I think part of what I've learned throughout my career, and my journey is, if you can help people see how they're using their own style of creativity, then they can see how much that's valued and they can lean into who they are and bring even more value to you and your team.

Mark (:

And what about this? You know, again, we're thinking about the industry overall. I don't think many people really can appreciate the amount of creativity and passion that maybe goes into marketing. These new pharma innovations, they think of it as," we're promoting drugs," they see a commercial on TV at night and think that that's what it's all about, but lift the hood a little bit and tell us about, how the drugs really do come to market and how those are serving patients.

Andrew (:

It really all starts with understanding the patients and their needs. And like I said before, really walking in their shoes. Because for any product out there, there's a functional benefit, but there's also the social and emotional benefits as well. My iPhone allows me to make phone calls and stay connected on the internet but also allows me to feel cool because it's an iPhone and it does all these other things. And so, as we're thinking about drugs, yeah. The clinical information is incredibly important. And that really matters because if you don't have something that's efficacious and works, then it's not going to be good for the patients. But as you go from drugs to developing brands, it's how do we use those insights about the patient to really tap into what motivates them from an emotional level, right?

Andrew (:

Because it's not just that the drug helps treat the disease, but the drug helps it to treat the disease, which then enables that patient to go do something else. I help treat a disease. So my grandma can have more time with their great-grandkids. Treat a disease. So my mom has more days where she's feeling good about things. And so that's what we're really focused on. It's the outcome of being able to treat that disease and being able to bring some of that to life. So people can envision their life, what a better life could be for them.

Mark (:

Well, Andrew and a brand management team you're also surrounded by a lot of other people who are applying may be different parts of their creativity. I love that one of the books that you mentioned in your blog was the six thinking hats by Edward DeBono, a book that has a tremendous impact on me and my creativity, and my career. Do you really see that diversity? We often use this term now to mean a lot of different things in HR language, but the diversity of creative thought is so important as well. Isn't it?

Andrew (:

It is. Just yesterday. I was in a meeting and you had the brand managers, you had what we call the omnichannel managers who are thinking about all the various channels. So digital, source of authority, things like that. We had our sales leaders on. We had medical, legal regulatory on. Everyone's on there talking at the same time, sharing their own creative insights. And then as our group, we're trying to navigate all of that. Because of all of its valuable input. And then it's a matter of how do we bring it all together into something that can create that secret sauce that really helps us be successful in the market.

Mark (:

Let's think about the future. You know, I think all of us are percolating in a layer deeper than what we're living right now, thinking about what the future holds when we're all back interacting in a little bit more personal connectedness, but for you and your work, what do you see over the hill over the horizon?

Andrew (:

That's a really, really good question. I think we're still trying to just make sense of, the world as it's changing now. And so, as we kind of sort through all this, I think there are marketing innovations of we're going to have to be more digital than ever. And we're going to have to meet customers where they are more than ever. And I think everyone's trying to move, move that way. I also believe like there will be a resurgence if you will, of how important that human to human contact in relationships is. I know I miss going into the office for the deep relationships I have, but also just those short little interactions where I see somebody and make a joke. Cause I haven't seen them for a long time. And so I think it will be a combination of both of those things that we'll have to figure out how we begin to navigate through. I think the other thing, and we've talked a little bit about this around data. We're getting more data than ever now. And so how do we use machine learning to help us turn that data into insights that we can use to be better? And I think that's something that all industries are sorting through and trying to figure out how to do

Mark (:

Well, Andrew, I couldn't help, but think that you're probably got something on your laptop or something in your notebook that you've been working on. Could I put you on the spot and have you share a little bit of your work? So people get a flavor of that creativity.

Andrew (:

I would absolutely love to share something. So this is a poem called bringing love into work. And as we talk through our interview, I'm all about bringing your full self into work, bringing your creative passions and things and something I'm very passionate about is loving and deeply caring for other people. And so I'm bringing love into work. Here is the poem.

Andrew (:

" Someone once told me they didn't think I should discuss love at work. Love doesn’t fit in corporate America? It might make people feel uncomfortable. It's too pie in the sky, too. Squishy, too soft. My response one, I'm sorry to anyone who feels uncomfortable when I talk about love, I do not apologize for the discomfort. I'm sorry for what that discomfort means for you. If love makes you uncomfortable, maybe you've never been loved before. If so, it must be startling to see love popping up in unexpected places like seeing a peacock at a grocery store it's wild and powerful and beautiful, but you don't know how to process what's happening as this majestic bird walks towards you in the canned goods aisle.

Andrew (:

See you're not used to seeing extraordinary things in places you believe are supposed to be ordinary. This says more about our environment that you live in than it says about you. It's not your fault. I do not blame you. Maybe you have loved and been heartbroken. The wound's still fresh. And every time you see love it rips part of the scab off to defend yourself. You decide this can't be real like a Mirage in a desert offering clear blue waters. You waste away from dehydration lying and unforgiving sand. I assure you it's real, but I won't ask you to believe me. Only believe me. When you feel my actions have given you sufficient proof I can be patient. I will keep showing you love.

Andrew (:

Two love is pie in the sky. Really? Do you believe love is rainbows and butterflies, blue skies, and unicorns? Do leaders show your love with relentless positivity with their heads in the clouds? As they walk through fields of landmines and challenges, that's not love. That's refusing to live in reality, dangerous daydreaming, selfishness. Believing that gravity doesn't apply to you. Love is attention of paradox. It's draining a blue sky and having both feet on the ground. Love is leaders who see the horizon and the mud who we will wait to get there. The possibilities infinite like stars and the heartaches and jagged rocks. We all encounter on our journey. Love is seeing the top of the mountain and acknowledging when our hearts are some deep in the dark pits of a valley. Love is feeling despair and tapping into the strength to move forward. Love is the grittiest most real and most powerful thing I've ever experienced. Your pie in the sky has no part in my love.

Andrew (:

Three love is too squishy. We must be talking about different things. Squishy is the jellyfish spine of a leader who likes principles, who never has the hard conversation get smiles, but never true feedback. They're People feel good, but it's only because they don't know they're being lied to yet. So you love may be hard to define like care, compassion, and being supportive. But love is not squishy. Love is a strong backbone and steel gaze. As you stare someone in the eyes and tell them the truth that they don't want, but the truth they need, this truth might be hard to swallow, but their heart will think you for love is too soft. It's a soft skill and it has no place in the hard world of business filled with cold, hard data, cold, hard financial figures, cold, hard metal, cold, hard machines, and people you wish were cold hard machines.

Andrew (:

I think that's what you're saying, right? But businesses are filled with messy, glorious, and perfect warm humans trying to work together and navigate the chaos. There's nothing soft about leading. There's nothing soft about love. Loving someone is the hardest skill you could ever hope to. Master love is totally in tough dirt with calloused hands planting, weeding, nurturing until people grow into what they always could be. Love is using your power to stop the vice grips from closing your mind. So you can remain open to your team. Love is being strong enough to silence yourself so you can hear someone else until they feel seen. Love is putting yourself out there on center stage and bright lights where everyone can watch. And judge you, where do you are your most vulnerable, fully knowing you're likely going to get hurt and knowing this is one of the few ways to create safe spaces. Love is committing to all these things and more day in and day out. There's nothing soft about a task. So hard a bond. So powerful.

Andrew (:

Five. I will not blame you if you choose not to bring love into your work. It's scary. It's complicated. It's hard. People are worth this commitment. So I'll keep bringing loving to work and I'll keep loving you too.

Mark (:

Thank you, Andrew. So powerful. I

Andrew (:

I R=really appreciate that.

Mark (:

Podcasts are a funny thing. There's no such thing as ratings like radio. So I have no idea if a hundred people heard that or thousands of people heard that, but I know somebody needed to hear that today who needed to bring love into work. So I appreciate your sharing that

Andrew (:

Thanks for giving me the chance to share. And as long as it touches one heart, that's all that matters.

Mark (:

That's right. We want one at a time. Wonderful listeners, I hope you've gotten some creative inspiration from this conversation. I've really enjoyed it. Andrew, my guest has been Andrew Embry is a brand manager at Eli Lilly, but even more, he's a creative spirit. He's the author of a blog Striking Matches a spoken word poet and he's the marketing poet. I love the combination of those two things that makes a great back-of-the-business card kind of description of you.

Andrew (:

Well, thanks so much. It's been, my pleasure really enjoyed our conversation.

Mark (:

Absolutely. So listeners be sure to check out the show notes for a lot of links that I'll be sharing about Andrew and his creative work and then come back again. Of course, next episode, we'll continue our around-the-world journeys. We'll be stamping our passports in places literally around the world. As we talk to creative practitioners about how they get inspired for their work, how they organize that work. And then of course how they gain the confidence and the connections and create the opportunities to launch their work out into the world. So until then, I'm Mark Stinson and we've been unlocking your world of creativity, see you next time.

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About the Podcast

Unlocking Your World of Creativity
Catalyst of Inspiration, Stories, and Tools to Get Your Work Out Into the World
On UNLOCKING YOUR WORLD OF CREATIVITY, best-selling author and global brand innovator, Mark Stinson introduces you to some of the world’s leading creative talent from publishing, film, animation, music, restaurants, medical research, and more.

In every episode, you'll discover:
- How to tap into your most original thinking.
- Inspiration from the experts’ own experience.
- Specific tools, exercises, and formulas to organize your ideas.
- And most of all, you’ll learn how to make connections

 and create opportunities to publish, post, record, display, sell, market, and promote
 your creative work.

Listen for the latest insights for creative people who want to stop questioning themselves and overcome obstacles to launch their creative endeavors out into the world.

Connect with Mark at www.Mark-Stinson.com

About your host

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Mark Stinson

Mark Stinson has earned the reputation as a “brand innovator” -- an experienced marketer, persuasive writer, dynamic presenter, and skilled facilitator. His work includes brand strategy and creative workshops. He has contributed to the launches of more than 150 brands, with a focus on health, science, and technology companies. Mark has worked with clients ranging from global corporations to entrepreneurial start-ups. He is a recipient of the Brand Leadership Award from the Asia Brand Congress and was included in the PharmaVoice 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life-Sciences Industry.