So what did we learn from last night’s Apprentice?

So what did we learn from last night’s Apprentice?

Week 7 of The Apprentice and the task was to create and launch a new soft drink for the US market, pitching to hard-nosed NYC execs. Let’s face it, even to seasoned professionals, coming up with a new product in a super-competitive category and market over 3 days is no small ask. Left in the hands of the current brace of Apprentice teams it is a master class in how not-to brainstorm. It was Big Dawg vs. Aqua Fusion and apart from the obvious winner in the name stakes, the task was a shambles. So what did we learn?

1. Park your ego

If you listen to people talk about the tasks it’s all ‘I’,’me’, ‘it’s my neck on the line’, ‘it was my idea’. It’s obvious you’re not going to get wallflowers on a show like this but even so their egos are staggering. “I like it or I don’t like” it is not a valid way to evaluate ideas but resorting to gut feel is the default on The Apprentice and still in many group brainstorms.

”We’re happy with the name, we’re going with the name” was just one of the announcements about the chosen route – it’s all done on gut feel, with no logic or process and it’s hard to watch. Not least because I know that I’ve been in that room with steamroller decision-making like that many, many times. But can you imagine over at Coke that’s how they decide how a new brand is born? I know Gladwell talks about the power of thinking without thinking and snap judgements in his bestseller Blink, but I don’t think there’s any real quality thinking going on here at all.

2. Defer judgement

It doesn’t matter what you think as the Project Manager or facilitator unless you are deciding that a focus group of one, outside of the demographic of the target consumer, is the best way to assess your ideas. We bang on about IDEO, masters of design thinking here at Now Go Create, and their 5 rules of brainstorming. Number 3 is ‘defer judgement’ and that one rule can radically improve the idea generation phase of a brainstorm. Just treat the ideas and conversations as material until the time comes to assess the ideas, which of course you will.

3. Build on the ideas of others

The problem is that whilst they have to work collaboratively in teams to win the tasks they are all saboteurs with individual agendas. I’d like to see some individual tasks that test their various skills so there’s no room to hide, back stab or blame others for the (good or bad) results. They are so busy bitching and sniping at each other in the name of competition that they don’t nurture or build on each other’s work. To IDEO’s rule number 4 – build on the ideas of others.

4. Play to your team’s strengths

The teams did not play to any individual’s strengths – there were misrepresentations of ability, arrogance, complacency – you really wouldn’t want to be a in a real-life pitch with this bunch. You know it would be a hiding to nothing. Lord Sugar was true-to-form pantomime brutal: “What are they good at? You stick 2 lawyers in front of a bunch of marketing people. Dull, dull, and dull”. Ouch. Brady said it was “more like a sermon than a pitch”. You can find out more about how to pitch your great ideas here. We also run presentation skills courses on how to pitch your kick arse ideas here.

My favourite quote of the night from Lord Sugar on the bland Aqua Fusion branding and product: “Where is the creativity? Yellow on yellow on yellow doesn’t work on yellow. Cautiously played, it’s the Piers Morgan of drinks, and America doesn’t want it.”

If you’re interested, Lord Sugar based his decision (in his own words) on instinct and gut feeling and fired Lauren.




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