I watched last night and was astounded by the bad business practices that are rewarded — and the good ones that are not.Â It’s a study in bad innovation practice watching these young candidates struggle. So much so that another show could be produced simply to show how it ought to be done!
I’ve got an idea for you Sir Alan!
The basic premise of the show seems to be about survival.Â It makes for good entertainment, but I think Corporate Darwinism does not make for good innovation in the real world.
I could write 5000 words on this, and maybe I will later, but let’s start with how they brainstorm — they don’t!Â When a situation calls for ideas they bring up one or two and then argue about them, this is classic bad practice.Â The aggressive participants win.Â There is no real evaluation of the merits of ideas. This couldn’t be more anti-innovative.Â Simple solution: make longer lists of ideas without debate, then debate merits — and have some objective criteria!
It’s also interesting that the contestants are quite flawed in marketing basics.Â Last night the task was to “re-brand” the city of Margate, UK, with the goal of re-attracting tourists. An interesting task to be sure and only two days to come up with a poster, brochure, and a presentation to the locals.
One team decided to appeal to the gay community. Nothing wrong with that by itself, in fact it might have been a daring innovation.Â However, the decision was made based on the thinking that a “family” branding would not be a “re-branding”.Â Family was not deemed different enough to be re-branding.
Wow, several fundamental and huge mistakes in the course of five minutes of air time.Â First, where was the market research? A simple reading of the Margate Wikipedia page would give you more good ideas than they came up with. A few interviews (before they pick a strategy) would have been even better.
Second, shouldn’t a re-brand be more subtle than family or gay?Â Couldn’t it be Young Families, Wealthy Families, or Those-On-A-Budget?Â Research would give clues into this.Â And, okay, if you take Gay as a brand positioning, couldn’t it be more subtle than putting a rainbow map of the UK on the poster?Â Couldn’t the positioning have been simply “We’re Open to All?” or something down the open door policy road?
The point is, branding is a very subtle thing and the choices of Family or Gay are so broad-brushed as to be ludicrous. Ironic then that the team that choose family won, simply by being safe and doing a better job executing the visuals.Â Not great stuff, actually quite awful, in the real world it would be totally ignored it was so boring — but good enough to win!Â This is a good example of why 9 out of 10 innovations fail.Â That which is good enough to keep your job isn’t usually good enough to get anybody to buy it.
An observation: it seemed that virtually nobody on either team had a clue about design, use of visuals, typography, photography, or composition. How can you market anything without knowing the basics of these arts? The few salient points made by those who knew a little something were ignored. Another observation: nobody seems to listen to anyone else! This does not make for good innovation team productivity.
I know that drama is what makes the show interesting, but drama is not what works in real life business. What works is people who listen, consider, and work harder and creatively to come up with and develop exciting ideas.
The person who got fired last night, Mona Lewis, was the voice of reason on her team. She was shouted down in the “ideation” phase of the branding, in spite of her inside knowledge of the Margate area.Â Her judgment, in my view, was better than the leader.Â Mona pitched in when the team went with the Gay branding, showing she could be a team player.Â The leader of the team, Debra Barr, screwed up execution of their concept.Â By not planning very well their “brochure” didn’t get done on time for the presentation. She then made up a big lie to cover her ass.Â Yes, it’s real world, but it cost the team — because it wasn’t a very good lie!Â If you’re going to lie, make it a good one! The truth would have worked better and been more ethical. So, who gets fired? The team-playing voice of reason. Who’s stays? The bad planning and uncreative liar.
Bad decision Sir Alan, good for the show, bad in real life. You’d think that The Apprentice, in addition to being entertaining, could also reflect real life best practice in business.Â Well, it does not, but it does entertain, I’ll be watching.