The Apprentice, Series 10 Episode 6: Playing the Game …

Lord Sugar’s intro voiceover continues to announce his roles as “Judge , jury and executioner”. Given that 11 contestants are still breathing, it feels like he’s been slacking. Pamela is practising her already advanced sarcasm skills, and Nick H and Karren are still wearing their oddly dated sunglasses. I half expect a few tunes from The Blues Brothers, but instead we get the shortest task briefing I can recall. Apart from the possibly dubious claim that HMS Belfast inspired the game Battleships, this consists of ‘you’re going to design, prototype and sell board games’. Bish bosh, job done, innit.

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The Apprentice Series 10 Episode 5: You’re Either on the Bus …

Was this episode entertaining? It depends what floats your boat, of course, but I think I cringed more at this than at any previous episode: I sincerely hope the BBC refunded the 45 tourists they were happy to film and broadcast having pretty dire days out. You can’t give someone 24 hours back, but surely they can stretch to £65? The candidates are fair game – they mostly earn any mockery that they attract – but in the wider world, where profit margins on foolish stunts are less important than dignity, the punters deserve more respect.

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The Apprentice Series 10 Episode 4: Vlogging a Dead Horse

Today, they’re off to the East End to see something over 150 years old that’s looking a little shabby. No, you heartless beasts - the building: Wilton’s Music Hall. In his Entrepreneur of the Opera capacity, Lord S appears on stage, waving a smartphone and explaining why he’s standing in what appears to be a festering heap: because eyeballs on YouTube channels sell advertising. Old toot for moolah, innit. People half his age do their best to look suddenly enlightened.

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Foot in mouth or fingers in ears? Feedback is a matter of give and take

David Silverman recently published an interesting article at Strategy & Business about the importance of listening, using a real world example as a metaphor. You can partly guess the example from his article’s title: George Harrison: Now That Guy Knew How to Listen. His essential point – that listening is a vital element of communicating – is important, but we need to remember that working life does not consist of a series of impressive solos.

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Too late for a 2014 Resolution?

So what will put the ‘New’ into ‘New Year’? And what might stop that happening, leaving us living through “2013 – The Sequel”? The first barrier is probably risk: creativity and innovation isn’t a guarantee of success, even if an absence of them might speed up the process of failure. In an environment where resources remain tight, and may continue to do so, a reduced appetite for risk is understandable. But risk is fundamental to success: ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ may be a cliché but it’s also a truism, and risk is one of the major food groups in any organisation’s diet.

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Populating the tent

Promoting other people in your own image not only says something about your preferences, it says something – and not something particularly healthy – about your own self-image. Leadership depends not just on developing self-awareness, but on maintaining it – staying aware of your impact, of the impression you create, and your relationship to the changing world around you. (If you want a truly ghastly analogy here, consider the scene in Behind the Candelabra where Liberace produces a photograph of himself as guidance for the plastic surgeon hired to ‘re-model’ his partner. If you want to be adored, try being adorable. It’s cheaper and it leaves fewer scars – on everyone – although it does mean finding out what other people find attractive.)

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Apprentice 2013, Episode 9: Hard to Swallow

As 6am rolls around again, the novelty of the early starts is plainly no longer working. Alex is (thankfully) fully dressed as he answers the phone, and the residue … sorry, remaining candidates are chauffeured off to The Gherkin. En route, Luisa reveals a hitherto suppressed talent for comedy, as she complains about being called aggressive. Alex meanwhile frets about why no-one takes him seriously enough to make him PM. Answers on a postcard everyone … Quite why they have to stand in Searcey’s Restaurant to be told ready-meals are big business is beyond me: nor have the r’n’r shots of the Apprentice house shown a lot of chopping and dicing action going down. But Lord S has laid on three top retailers for them to pitch to, and Voiceover Man gets to spout some stomach-turning puns. Most orders placed wins (so price doesn’t matter, I assume?), but they have some ludicrously short amount of time to create a ready meal and – ooh, let me guess – branding. Never saw that coming.

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Apprentice 2013, Episode 8: Open Heart Sugar-y

And somehow, Luisa survives. Having presented us with an hour of some of the least charming behaviour I’ve seen on television short of serial killer dramas, she lives to torture another day. I shake my head at the screen: anyone who behaved that atrociously to colleagues anywhere I’ve ever worked would have been frogmarched to a door and told to pay for their own blaady cab. But her card is now clearly marked: Karren firmly requests that she be allowed to follow her next week. Is it too much to hope that the budget might stretch to a blowtorch or a crossbow for Ms Brady?

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Apprentice 2013, Episode 7: Hitting the Road

The team were, if anything, lucky that only two of them were fired. The question is who will make the final with Neil, who currently seems unstoppable. But then their next challenge is to promote an online dating site, and Mr Clough may need to show a little more romance under the stubble. The teaser trailer hints that the course of true love - and of flogging some grim approximation of it in a browser - will not run smoothly.

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Apprentice 2013, Episode 6: Shambles Incorporated

The Business Away Day sounds like a discount railway ticket, but rarely delivers anybody to a worthwhile destination. And the journey – to use my nomination for the century’s most over-used word to date – can be pretty lacking too. Yet this is their task. Lord Sugar has lined up two clients, who will provide a budget, and the contest will be judged on profit and customer satisfaction. (Mindful of the importance of establishing clear evaluation criteria at the outset, I wondered how that might be measured, but I’ll avoid a spoiler: the answer is too obvious.)

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