The Apprentice – Business as a Team Game

Tuesday, 10 May 2011, 17:50 | Category : General
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The new series of The Apprentice kicks off tonight with the usual array of brash, overweening candidates. The programme is now in its seventh series and you’d think that contestants might have realised that arrogance, bluster and belligerence are generally not the qualities required to succeed in ‘the process ’ – although, admittedly, in the case of Stuart Baggs or Michael Sophocles they can get you quite far.

Knowing what we do of previous series, when new candidate, Edna Agbarha, says, “weak people in business are a waste of space”, you can’t help but wonder at how she defines weak. Courteous? Tactful? Willing to consider others’ views? Another contestant, Melody Hossaini, has attracted a lot of attention ahead of the new series with a statement on her unbridled ambition: “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”

The candidates are no doubt encouraged to these heights of parody by the producers and, indeed, such material is what makes The Apprentice such great television.

What’s interesting is to consider what the contestants are actually parodying, which seems to be some bruising, unprincipled, dog-eat-dog business world where only the hungriest and toughest individuals survive. The first few episodes of the series often provide the most striking examples of contestants playing up to this outmoded stereotype as egos jostles for early supremacy.

At times, Lord Sugar does little to discourage this view of the unforgiving and individualistic nature of modern business. Peer beneath the TV-friendly one liners and put-downs though and you’ll find he recognises that business is a team game. As he said today on Twitter: “What fascinates me about The Apprentice is [that] they just don’t get it. Act as [a] team, you win and you won’t be in the boardroom.”

The nature of the modern economy means that, even if we work alone, we’re all part of a complex network of skilled, often specialised, individuals and are frequently required to work well with others. The Apprentice candidates that grasp this most quickly will be the ones we see in the latter rounds.


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