OK – here’s my “junk TV” admission (actually I have several – but this one is a little less embarrassing than some of the others). I am a fan of The Apprentice – and I must admit I am more than a little hooked on Celebrity Apprentice – although it should rightfully be called “A Few Minor Celebrities That Haven’t Worked Lately And A Bunch Of People You’ve Never Heard Of Apprentice”. Donald Trump is on the verge of creating a new “Loveboat” – and every actor who hasn’t been employed since Tony Danza was in prime-time must be rooting for his success!
But misnomers and casting difficulties aside, the show is decent junk food with a sprinkling of real business mixed in. And as much as I dislike his hair and ties, I have to admit I like the way Donald handles this faux business. He always seems to conclude an episode with sound decisions, and I like the way he drills to the core of the issue without hesitation. While The Apprentice might be based on silly business premises and ridiculous contrived drama, every week I see a spark of realism in the show. It is a classic illustration of Warriors, Workers, Whiners, & Weasels – and the difficulties involved in managing and optimizing employees that fall into different categories.
For the show – and a business – to work, you need at least one Warrior leading the way. On The Apprentice, they try to cast three or four to create dissension, which is not unlike what happens in a real business if you have too many Warriors that aren’t managed properly.
To complete the tasks and win you need Workers carrying out the duties with enthusiasm and competence – and on the show they manage to seed the teams with a few of them.
To create drama on the series (which is unfortunately what often happens in the workplace) – you need Whiners and Weasels. And unlike in a real workplace, on The Apprentice, Weasels reveal themselves rather quickly.
In business the ultimate goal is the success of the organization. On The Apprentice the goal is the success of one individual (which creates a Weasel-friendly environment). But the show becomes a great illustration of the importance of managing towards an organizational goal, as opposed to creating incentives that create conflict in the company and drive people to make decisions based on their own welfare.
Of course, most of us will never face the difficulties of managing old rock stars or heavyweight boxers, but The Apprentice is a good reminder of the importance of building the right team with a solid goal and organizational structure.