Words Alan Sugar is scared of
30/05/2008 - "Words Alan Sugar is scared of" by Donal Carroll
'Learning' for one... 'Insight' for another... That's quite apart from that whole one-dimensional sideshow of telling, yelling and selling posing as business leadership. Many Apprentice viewers interested in what makes effective business might wonder if the seemingly constructed-for-tv management style of Surulun is actually all there is.

It is worth remembering that just a year ago, Gordon Brown created a new 'Business Council for Britain' to inform two new Departments, for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), and for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR). Key members included (among others) Alan Sugar, Terry Leahy and Damon Buffina. Fair enough, these all manage successful businesses but what principles do they espouse? Sugar is now an entrepreneur in anti-ageing cream and property; Leahy fronts Tescopoly; and Damon Buffina, Permira private equity, with stated PE practice to fatten companies and 'exit' quickly, wallets groaning from financial obesity.

What would they advise Brown now, one year on –and more importantly, vice versa? What have they learned over the past year?
What about 'learning' then, and the opportunity to embed it for public consumption in a show like the Apprentice? Most people can claim individual learning. However, effective companies try to enable 'organisational learning' which multiplies the collective intelligence available so a company can continuously transform itself. If we applied this to The Apprentice, wouldn't the thinking of Sugar's two sharp, sidekicks, extend his, and more positively influence his decisions and style?

Wouldn't viewers benefit from seeing the thinking processes and exchanges between these three? Couldn't we also see some participant contradictions, for instance selling things they don't believe in, or why public judgement of the competitors suggests that the only people who would work with them are those forced to – other competitors...

Maybe then we could get beyond the blunt instrument approach of sales, crude results and 'facts don't lie' which mistakes the score for the game and the past for the future. Maybe we could then have some recognition of diversity –of candidate approach, wise questioning, productive challenge, or the positive use of gendered and cultural thinking, or even innovation -eg a co-operative approach to boardroom presentation where selected candidates say 'If you fire one you fire all', or even 'What we learned from this assignment'...

Learning: now that still seems the ultimate test for any business –and tv producers.

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