Lessons from The Apprentice

Watching yesterday’s ‘The Apprentice’ I was shocked. I saw a team of guys (who I’ll call… Team Win) approach a task with minimal preparation, yet defeat the girls’ team (who I’ll rather candidly call Team Fail) who planned the task out extensively. The task was similar to a treasure hunt with each team asked to hunt down a list of unusual items including truffles and work top counters. Team Win split up the list and just went for it while Team Fail prepared their actions, with a sense of responsibility and professionalism you’d probably expect from businessmen/businesswomen.

For a while I’ve been an advocate of all things improvised and spontaneous, with an idea that it might work in business, but I’d never seen it. I’d certainly never seen it work. That changed tonight.

Team Win, won. Despite not gathering all the items (no doubt, due to their lack of planning) they were able to spend less than their counterparts and win this week.

What can we learn from Team Fail?

From a business point of view I think Team Fail failed because they lost sight of the objectives- a good reminder for all business and ad people reading. Objectives, objectives, objectives. Never forget why you are doing this project/assignment/campaign. It should be the rational behind every decision that you make.

It was a bit of a rookie mistake (you really hate to see it) especially considering these are these are supposed to be the ‘brightest british business prospects’ (cough,cough) but I think they were blinded by the penalties laid before them concerning completing the list in time. I feel that they failed to use fear the way it should be and yes, fear is useful. You can use it as a tool in business to motivate and focus yourself and others, ironically, you just can’t let it scare you.

One area both teams failed was gathering the necessary knowledge resources. I would like to point out that I didn’t see a single contestant using the internet, even Wikipedia. I consider learning the usefulness of Wikipedia to be a priceless lesson from university, not necessarily as a main source of information, but a good starting place at least. I’m sure those phone were equipped with web-browsing facilities. I don’t know if the rules prohibited the use, but if not they’ve all got some explaining to do.

Neither team knew their products- I think that was the point of the exercise from Sugar’s perspective, but at least Team Win had a good strategy for bargaining though. They didn’t know their product but they adapted and developed a strategy for dealing with hagglers and getting the best deal (the objective, if you, like Team Fail, had forgotten). You have to commend Team Win for their adaptation. Probably accustomed to large scale business deals, they were able to adapt their language, adapt their behaviour, negotiate strongly and do whatever it took to get the sale, even making up stories about their brothers. upcoming weddings and forgotten exams.

That brings us to the real key to their success. Their adaption. Planning can only get you so far. I’ve alway believed that in business, and life in general, that instinct plays a much bigger part than anything planned. We have no real control over the things around us, so being able to adapt to what comes your way will always be important for success, no matter what field you are in. Obviously, I’m not saying don’t plan anything because it can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. My suggestion is that you don’t let it dominate your thinking.

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