The OPPrentice - Episode 2

Posted 13 May 2011 by

This week's win by the girls' dreadfully named 'Ampi-Apps' came as a surprise to both teams.

And to us.

We don't think we would ever install either app in, let's see, a million years - despite them being free. Amazing that anyone did at all. That both apps were soundboards indicates that there may have been a certain restrictions to which the audience were not privy: they only had 24 hours to develop one after all, so they were possibly encouraged to pour their ideas into a preset mould.

In a stark illustration of the artificiality of some of this programme's tasks, neither the quality of the app, nor its ability to generate revenue, was important. Volume of downloads was key. And it was potentially this strategic realisation that was lacking when the boys' better-named 'Slang-a-Tang' used UK-centric accents to tempt a global audience.

That said, if team cohesion were the prerequisite for winning Wednesday's task, the boys would have waltzed it. As they insulted one national group after another, they worked together much more effectively together than the girls, demonstrating co-operative teamwork through building supportive relationships, and working collaboratively towards a shared goal.

Every member was thoroughly behind the idea, too, and because of this they showed a strong drive to achieve results. And, with the exception of ladies' man Vincent, who floundered painfully until rescued by the unflappable Jim during the business pitch, the ability to cope well under pressure, even when dressed as farmers.

Despite being a cohesive team, however, not all members were equal: for us, in this episode as well as the previous one, Jim was the standout performer. Partly due to his flexible approach, partly his ability to cope and respond well to change and pressure, and partly his sang froid. He also possesses an almost supernatural ability to influence others.

These influencing skills may stem from the 16PF traits of 'Dominance' and 'Social Boldness', crucially balanced with a high level of 'Warmth' towards others, which enables him to get people on side and bring them round to his decision making. Either that or his parents may have taken him to kiss the Blarney Stone when he was younger (yes, we can do stereotypes too!). Either way, he has a seemingly invincible gift of the gab: whether or not this will last, and whether or not he can be trusted, remains to be seen.

Whichever, talking his way out of the boardroom firing squad by 'suggesting' that Leon bring back "weaker members" of the team was a stroke of uncanny, butt-saving brilliance.

Meanwhile, over on the girls' team: "having considered all your strengths and limitations, I have decided that the best person to lead the pitch is…


Edna's presentation was a slow-motion car crash. And what was with those gloves?

Older readers may remember the children's cartoon of the 80s, Willo the Wisp. It would be cruel of us to allude to that programme's witch character, but her behaviour certainly doesn't represent the business psychology community as we know it. Her management, integrity and respect for others was poor, possibly stemming from a high level of 16PF 'dominance' combined with little 'warmth' or 'sensitivity' towards others. She was certainly decisive in putting herself up for the task of Project Manager, showing strong, if misguided, confidence in her abilities to lead the team. While this led to the team getting the job done, she showed a distinct lack of collaborative teamwork and failed to consult others before making decisions.

Then again, look what she had to deal with: "Imagine you are you, and I'm me… and we want to know where we are…" Susan began, before her sentence floated off to live with the fairies. Whether there was an idea there or not, Edna certainly cast it out of her. While it's interesting to speculate on how many great ideas are missed because of the inability to string a series of words together in a comprehensible manner, we suspect we might have too. Susan will definitely need to work on her lack of clear communication and develop more of a presence within the team in order to be a serious contender.

Unsurprisingly we haven't mentioned the Invisible Man yet.

Sorry, we mean Alex. This is a man who takes no prisoners. This is a hard, hard man. He does not suffer fools gladly. At least according to his cringemaking spiel before the series started.

Why then did he fade into the background for a second time? What is clear is that he failed to learn from feedback given to him after the first task about his 'sheep-like' status in the team, and again avoided taking on any kind of responsibility. Alex was indeed a forgettable contestant so far in this series, something he conceded after the show was his "strategy". Unless Lord Sugar is looking for a "passenger" and bread-cutter-cum-cleaner, then the firing was a reasonable choice.

Sorry, who were we talking about again?

The overall failure of the boys in this task was in not recognising the lack of global appeal in the product. As a team they quickly became fixed on the one idea, all buying in to the concept, and dismissing feedback from client representatives as merely a difference of opinion. As we have shown in our article on brainstorming, it is very important to take many different points of view into account when coming up with ideas.

Did the best app win? In the field of very low standards with which we were dealing, one would probably have to answer 'no'. Did the right app win? Regrettably, we have to conclude that it did – the task was to get it downloaded; Ambi-Apps responded to that task by being universal and appealing to a global audience (of masochists, presumably). Whereas the boys did everything better, except for the crucial bit of taking the market into account.

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