The OPPrentice - Episode 8

Posted 23 June 2011 by

In psychology, Confirmation Bias is "the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand".*

In Melody's case it means translating "c'est une bonne idée " into "meh, it's ok".

Wow. She really, really didn't like that car seat.

Let’s face it, Logic has never exactly been the dream team of the series, but in this episode Melody’s “bulldozer” demeanour, Natasha’s weak presentation skills and constant use of English vernacular when speaking to non-natives, yeah (and asking “parlay vou Ingles”), Tom’s milquetoast leadership and Leon’s abrogation of anything other than sipping coffee, eating croissants and looking lost, made it the stuff of nightmares.

A sample of a few (okay maybe a few dozen, if the editors were scissor-happy) Parisian commuters isn’t the best way to perform market research, but they had to start it somewhere – so they started there. However, it was clear nobody was actually taking any kind of record, and since only Melody could fully understand what the respondents were talking about, her biases were translating everything that came out of their mouths. Not only was the analysis unscientific, it was also coloured by her misguided gut feeling based on a brief phone call on the Eurostar. “Completely independent of your own personal thoughts,” was Tom’s instruction for the analysis. Fail. The team’s research was doomed from the start.

The choice of a €140 teapot lamp as the primary product was therefore a doozy. It is of no small credit to the contestants that they sold any at all. But when Tom haplessly acquiesced to Melody’s control of the appointments she made, then played ciseaux, papier, pierre with Natasha over who was to pitch, he ensured his place in the boardroom.

All of which added up to the biggest margin of loss in the history of the Apprentice. An annihilation, as Lord Sugar put it.

In the first episode Melody told us she was namedrop taught namedrop by the Dalai Lama namedrop. We remarked that he must have missed out the humility lesson. Now we learn that she taught herself six languages. And neither sarcasm nor modesty were among those. Lord Sugar said he admired her attitude, but could he really work with someone who is that full of themselves – and so un-self aware? As she continues in business Melody would really benefit from the kind of analysis provided by OPP's psychometric tools, which can probe beyond someone's self-perception and reveal the opportunities for development, as well as blind spots, that she currently doesn't appear to acknowledge.

Lack of intellectual curiosity also proved to be a massive hindrance in this kind of task. (And indeed in prior ones: remembering a Jewish contestant trying to buy kosher meat from a halal butcher in Morocco still makes us cringe.)

Susan’s admitted lack of knowledge about France started out as charmingly self-effacing. This soon dissolved into a (French) farce. “Do a lot of people drive in France?” “Are the French fond of their children?” “Ou est el boggo?” (OK we made that last one up.) While she is quite happy to point out that she is only twenty-one, it is no excuse, and quite incredible that what she knows about France could be written on the shell of an escargot. It's only 22 miles away. “Beyond stupid,” said Karen. We disagree. She isn’t stupid – she’s just lived all her life in Susieworld and her lack of wider awareness will eventually trip her up.

However, if you caught You’re Fired on BBC2, you would have learned of a morsel of ignorance that would have made your jaw drop even further. Leon, he of the plaintive “but I don’t speak French” muteness and avoidance of work, used to work for La Redoute! “I thought they just sold hats for old ladies,” he said. Sacre bleu! No wonder many interviewers’ first question is “what do you know about our company?”

We speculated earlier in the series whether Helen’s presence in every single winning team was down to her, just a fluke, or if she was a lucky charm. As team leader she demonstrated that it was almost certainly down to her. Our thoughts that Jim may be in with a chance have been well and truly knocked on the head by her performance which, while quietly but vanishingly competent at the beginning, has truly begun to shine. Nick remarked on her 'natural' psychology: "Helen reads people - she looks into their eyes. She realises the shifts in the room and adapts to them".

Whereas of Melody, Lord Sugar said: “she’s ruthless. That’s what I like about her really". Let’s hope that his own confirmation bias doesn’t blind him to her more irritating features. Helen’s calm, pleasant attitude and professional demeanour charmed her team and won the task, and show that you don’t need all that bravado or bluster to succeed – just intelligence and common sense.

*Nickerson, RS; Review of General Psychology 1998, Vol. 2, No. 2, 175-220