Brand U Work in the Disruption Economy

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I’m Scared of Problem Sets


Now, I’ve got your attention.

My name is Margaux. I’m 16. I’m studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects and interning at a tech startup –

So, what’s my problem?

I’m scared of problem sets? Say what?

What are Problem Sets?

Problem sets are problem solving and decision making STEM based homework and exercises, that I have to suffer through daily as a homeschooler.

Aside from doing the problem set, I’m expected to write a narrative on how to solve the problem.

I study on math, software (Java), and physics problem sets every day. Some are easy. Some are OK. Some are brain busters.

When they are brain busters, things happen. I stab my pencil on my notebook. I scream like crazy (OK, internally). I have to walk around until I can get back to the problem set.

I think all STEM kids go through this because we are under pressure to do good in really hard STEM subjects.

The Head Game

My frustrations:

My biggest battles are not with the problem sets but with what’s going on in my head. Specifically the messages I give myself.

I think that I can’t do the problems before I have even worked on them. I don’t want my teachers (my parents) to look at me with disappointment, disapproval, and frustration. It makes me ashamed.

Even though I understand the subjects, I’m not confident that I can do the problem sets. I freak out and go through a mental list of bad things that can happen because I don’t think I understand the material.

There’s a voice in my head that tells me:

“You might have to re-learn this.” “Don’t get too confident.” “You might have to do more problems and you’ll be behind on all of your other work.”

I get antsy and lose focus.

When I become like this, I forget how to solve the problem or I won’t try at all. I’ll stare at the problem, but I’m not trying to solve it. I’m trying to figure out how I can escape the frustration that comes with solving the hard problem.

Mastering the Game

I’m learning how to beat the mental game. How to clear my head when I get frustrated. How to stop escaping the problem. How to figure out how to solve the problem.

At these times, I give myself a lot of reassurance. I become my imaginary cheerleader.

Even though I still dislike going through the grit of doing problem sets, I’m building resilience and self-discipline. Those are hard lessons to learn. I’m learning what engineers, programmers, and entrepreneurs do day-in and day-out:

Solving problems and fighting the head game.

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Brand U’s Go For It!!!

So you don’t like your new boss? You don’t agree with the corporate values or new direction. Or most importantly, you’ve got some cool idea that you want to commercialize. You haven’t signed a non-disclosure agreement or a confidentiality agreement.

So, you want to go for it. Well you can now do something about it. If you know your core competencies and can communicate them, then you can find a new job in a few days. And, your managers know this. So, how do companies and bosses instill your loyalty? This is probably the #1 organizational question these days.

The Brand U Choice

Great! But, what are you going to do about it. What are your next steps? Nike’s logos say it all: ‘Just Do It’ or ‘I can’. What type of worker are you going to be? You can be a ‘fulfillment seeker,’ ‘risk taker,’ ‘high achiever,’ ‘clock puncher,’ ladder climber,’ or ‘paycheck cashier.’ The Brand U choice is yours.

Taking Smart Risks

Remember, there are a number of ways to develop personal competencies and be successful. It’s more than brainpower. More psychologists and others say that IQ is only one and may be the least important characteristic of success.

Robert Sternberg, a Yale psychologist, believes that intelligence consists of three factors: 1. analytical skills ensure high standardized scores such as on IQ tests; 2. practical abilities or street smarts ensure that the Brand U can adapt to new circumstances; and 3. creative talent implies the ability to develop and innovate new products.[i] The keys to Brand U success become a matter of taking smart risks, thinking outside of the box, seeing opportunities around change, exploring alternatives, thinking non-linearly, and seeing new ways to solve problems?

[i] Sternberg, Robert, Thinking Styles as reported by Innerst, Carol, “How to Think in High Style,” Insight, February 23, 1998, p. 42.

The Brand U Challenge

The organizational challenge is to communicate the right rewards to Brand U’s so they maintain and update skills that reinforce the organizational strategy. A new agreement is thus established between the Brand U organization and the Brand U worker. The Brand U organization communicates its present and future work requirements and offers Brand U’s the opportunity to update their skills. If skills add very high value or if the market supply is low, then Brand Us are offered substantial incentives or Brand U’s can sell our knowledge to the highest bidder.


Move Up the Value Chain

Commodity consulting goes for about $100/hour. Move up the how, what, why, and who consulting curve to offer more customer value.

  • How consultants are skilled technicians.
  • What consultants are skilled managers.
  • Why consultants are skilled communicators.
  • Who consultants are skilled leaders and politicians.
  • Who consultants offer clients peace of mind in today’s time challenged and anxiety driven world.

Know Your Value Proposition

Know your unique value and abilities. Then price your services accordingly. I differentiate consultants into 4 Brand U categories: 1. how; 2. what; 3. why; and 4. who consultants. How consultants ($100/hr) know how to do something right. What consultants ($200/hr) know what to do right? Why consultants ($300/hr) can distill why the right things must be done. Who consultants ($400/hr ++) know who pays for doing the right things right.

Self Managing Professional

In a projectized organization, Brand U work is organized into project teams that form and disband when work is finished. Each Brand U evolves into a self-managed, project professional responsible for getting work done on time, on budget while satisfying stakeholders. Often there are no permanent job titles or permanent job assignments. There are few bosses and job titles. Brand U teams and individuals self manage their work.

This work environment is not for everyone. The atmosphere is intense with tight deadlines. The flat hierarchy places a premium on Brand U people with ideas who can implement and commercialize them. Status and salary are earned and based on real value added contributions.

Academy Award Project

The Academy Award’s extravaganza maybe the world’s biggest party, excuse me I mean Brand U project. In a matter of speaking it’s both.

In today’s celebrity and media obsessed culture, the Academy Awards and the Oscars are big business. More than 10,000 people directly work on the event that generates more than $100 million in revenue. More than 75 million Americans watch it, second only to the Super Bowl. And, all in one night. And, nothing in this world approaches it for glitz and glamour.

This is a project with zero tolerance for lateness, poor quality, poor entertainment, unavailable performers, or inoperable technology – everything must work properly the first time. The Academy Awards is a world-class example why Brand U organizations are becoming projectized. Project management done right works. It delivers the goods on time, on budget, to satisfied stakeholders.

The Academy Awards shares many elements of time-constrained business projects. People, resources, and activities must be organized, monitored, and controlled. For example, at the Academy Awards more than 600 people build the stage set and another 400 behind the scenes move sets, operate cameras, supply lighting, and maintain the electricity. Eleven writers script clever lines for more than 50 presenters and for the show host. A team of musical arrangers composes five separate scores for each of the 26 Oscar awards so the 60-member orchestra can rehearse to perfection. Nearly 1,000 phone lines are installed, enough to accommodate a medium sized city.

This year’s show went off without a hitch. The following day, all facilities were demobilized, people were paid, and everyone went home happy. Project management was the key to another successful event.[i]

[i] Bannon, Lisa, “And the Winner is Anybody Who Has an Oscar Night Gig,” Wall Street Journal, March 21, 1997, p. A1.

Selling Skills to the Highest Bidder

According to the Handy work model, an organization’s middle ring is composed of Brand U portfolio or project people who have specific skills the organization needs for special projects. In this model, the middle ring Brand U’s have a bundle of skills that can be sold to the highest bidder, much like engineers, writers, architects or journalists already do.

These bundle of skills and accomplishments were often learned and developed in project teams. As Brand U’s, we’ll promote and sell our resumes and portfolios from employer to employer and from project to project. Well in many organizations, project people are in the ascendancy as they move from job to job accumulating and applying knowledge which translate to higher wages.