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The Apprentice Assessed: Week 8 - It’s Hamburg and Chips for Christopher

25th Nov 2010
R&D Director a&dc
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Blog Entry by Ali Shalfrooshan, Product Consultant, A&DC

This week we were treated to the now traditional culture-clash episode, where Lord Sugar inflicts an unsuspecting country with ‘Britain’s brightest business prospects’.

The task is usually characterised by the candidates souring international relations and demonstrating a lack of cultural sensitivity.  This seemed almost inevitable when Christopher exclaimed "I hate the Germans". Despite this, both teams performed relatively well and acted appropriately, making this a hard task to analyse as there was a limited amount of calamity or excellence.  This was reflected in the programme editing as it seemed to focus primarily on Stuart and Laura marauding around Hamburg, eating sausage and confusing crisp buyers.

Stella had arguably the more challenging role of project managing team Apollo, which comprised of Joanna, Stuart and Laura. There was a distinct sense of déjà vu as both Laura and Joanna showed a lack of Learning Agility by repeating the same behaviours they demonstrated during the beach accessory brainstorm. Laura again showed how not to facilitate a brainstorm, looking exasperated whenever she heard an idea she disagreed with (low Emotional Intelligence) and Joanna refused to back down on her curry flavour idea.

There also seemed to be a traitor in their midst with Stuart voting for Stella to become project manager purely to increase her chances of being fired (low Values). After last weeks’ comprehensive display of how not to behave and protestations of his ‘extreme masculinity’, trouble seemed to be on the horizon. 

Nevertheless, despite these early warning signs, Stuart confounded all expectations by throwing himself into the task and seeming to charm the German public. He proved to be a cunning linguist with his basic German. His mastery of the language was however, not on par with his estimation of his own ability. Having demonstrated his prowess by counting to 20, he proceeded to introduce Laura as his ‘male’ colleague and landed himself with a nickname for life, ‘Herr Baggs’. Unusually for Stuart, he did demonstrate some cultural insight by recognising that his attempts to speak the native language would be endearing and respectful (Intellect).

Language, however, did prove to be an issue for Laura. Despite agreeing to speak slowly during a major pitch, she proceeded to bombard the client with a vocabulary and speed of delivery that most fluent English speakers would find hard to comprehend. She compounded this (low Learning Agility), ignoring the client as he repeatedly told her that he did not understand and maintained her breakneck speed.

Laura did achieve one major milestone this week however. For the first time all series, she managed to make Stuart seem considered and professional.  The “it’s not fair” chip on her shoulder weighed heavy, as Stella stoked her ire by taking a sales pitch that she and ‘the brand’ were originally booked to do. This led to an undignified outburst and claims of ‘this is not how business works’, demonstrating low levels of resilience. This is not the first time that Laura has espoused the importance of fairness (Values), which is laudable. Nevertheless, her opinion would be more convincing if she didn’t adopt the communication style of an angry teenager and that her definition of fairness wasn’t about her getting what she wants.

Team Synergy led by Chris Bates seemed to have a more harmonious team dynamic. Chris demonstrated sound business acumen by picking flavours familiar to the German palette but diverse enough to differentiate (Intellect). He also showed strong desire to win (Drive) by immediately putting himself forward to be project manager as he wanted ‘to be in control of his own destiny’. However, in spite of team Synergy’s best efforts they still lost the task, which was predominantly due to the strong sales performance of Joanna (“firing on all 12 cylinders”) and Stella.

In the boardroom, Chris brought in Jamie and Christopher. Despite Jamie’s best attempts to talk his way into being fired by self-aggrandising and overstating his impact, it was ultimately Christopher’s time to leave the show. As we predicted in our First Impressions, Christopher was a good team player but did not demonstrate the commercial awareness that Lord Sugar is looking for, with the good Lord telling him that ‘you are not right for my organisation’ (Cultural Fit). However, I am unsure that any of our remaining candidates will meet Lord Sugar’s high criteria of ‘entrepreneurial genius’.

So it is down to the final 7 candidates, the competition is starting to get serious, but it looks like it’s a three horse race between Stella, Liz and Joanna.

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