What Can We Learn From The Apprentice?

This is the title of a piece in a LinkedIn conversation.  Here is my perspective:

I think we need to be careful about what we learn from The Apprentice and other reality shows in the ‘business genre’.

‘Cost control’ is paramount in some organisations and in really simple tasks that only have to work in the very short term.  Keep costs low and con your way to a victory.  As long as you can keep finding new ‘marks’ you will be ok.  In the real world, appropriate investment and tolerance of ‘failure’ in the right market experiments is vital if you are looking to encourage creativity and innovation.

We could learn from The Apprentice that lying, backstabbing and cheating work.  As does staying off the radar for as long as possible.  All great tactics for having an ‘OK’ career in a traditional bureaucracy, but not what I would recommend to many of my clients who are interested in exploring their potential though and doing ‘good’ work.

Why do so many bureaucracies still reward such behaviour?  Because they are too scared of sacrificing the short term gains that they achieve in order to build long term value.  Managers often lack the courage, or do not know how, to do what is right.  I meet this situation OFTEN – especially in sales teams!  I also meet a lot of sales trainers who train this type of approach!  In fact I have seen highly successful teams that specifically recruit to this mode and just cull the worst performers every year.  It works a treat to shift units.  The costs in distorted and broken lives are externalised – so who cares….

What we can learn from The Apprentice depends very much on what we are trying to do and what ideas, models and values we use to frame it with.

My worry is that for anyone who has not been involved in ‘business’ they just learn that we are lying, cheating, money grabbing, backstabbing, environment wrecking, delusional dummies.  That business is about snake oil salesmen and the short term pursuit of cash and profit over any other value.

For aspiring ‘business people’ who just want material rewards as quickly as possible I think it legitimises a completely inappropriate set of behaviours that we should be sniffing out and eliminating.

For many managers it leaves them questioning whether they should maintain their faith in working with good, compassionate caring individuals – or whether they too should recruit from The Apprentice mould.

More perspectives inspired by the Apprentice:

Tre really is on another level

Management, Dragons and Apprentices

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