The OPPrentice - the final

Posted 19 July 2011 by

So after 12 weeks of gruelling tasks and challenges, Tom is crowned winner of The Apprentice 2011, and the first candidate to become Lord Sugar’s business partner.

In the final task, the four candidates received a grilling on their business plans in the infamous interview round. While making for great TV, these interview tactics are enough to make any HR practitioner run for the hills.

In this task, Tom showed exactly why he was the deserved winner of the series. His idea for the chair to prevent back pain taps in to a potentially massive market. Given that HSE figures for 2009/10 suggest that 9.3 million working days were lost in this year as a result of musculoskeletal problems caused at work, you can see the widespread potential for Tom’s idea becoming a very viable business proposition.

Given the economic climate, business ideas need to be truly innovative to have weight in the current market – and, whereas Tom’s idea couldn’t be described as TRULY innovative, he was the strongest candidate in this regard. However, whether this idea will be the one ultimately taken forward for investment by Lord Sugar will remain to be seen.

Despite being the strongest candidate statistically, (winning 10 out 11 tasks), Helen fell down on her lack of creative flair, which had been largely untested throughout the process. This raises the question of whether the selection process used throughout the weeks leading up to the final was a fair assessment of the skills needed for the job. With Tom winning only three of the 11 tasks, and therefore being the statistically poorest performer of the finalists, it leads us to question the validity of the selection tools used. Do they measure what they claim to be measuring? It also suggests a selection bias on the part of the producers – did they identify Tom as the strongest candidate and manipulate the selection decisions to keep him in, despite his poor performance in many of the tasks?

This issue demonstrates the importance for organisations of conducting a thorough job analysis prior to the design of any selection process. However, despite this there is no doubt the process itself makes for entertaining TV and certainly left us with at least three strong finalists (with the exception of Jim who may have been left in the process for TV value.)

Helen showed many great strengths throughout the process, not least her exceptional organisational skills, her strong task focus, and a keen attention to detail. She demonstrated a resilience and determination in the face of setbacks, showing a clear ability to bounce back with a Plan B when her first business idea was universally panned by the interviewers. However her business ideas weren’t strong enough to make her stand out from the other candidates in terms of entrepreneurial abilities. If Lord Sugar had been looking for a business leader then Helen would have been a very worthy winner and could undoubtedly turn her hand to most challenges thrown at her.

When comparing these Helen and Tom you can instantly see the value of diversity within teams, and this is why they made such an effective partnership in the previous task, as they both contributed different strengths. Use of the MBTI instrument in team building can help show the value of having a range of different MBTI preferences within teams.

Helen demonstrated behaviours typically associated with a ‘Sensing’ preference (a focus on practicalities and details, preference for information that is factual and concrete) whereas Tom displayed behaviours more consistent with an ‘Intuitive’ preference (a preference for looking at the big picture, focus on future possibilities and abstract thinking.) This provides evidence of how they made such an effective team when these different approaches worked together.

Susan again showed her entrepreneurial flair when quizzed about her skincare company. Having set up the business from a young age, after spotting an opportunity from her days running a market stall, she showed that she has clear business acumen and certainly a massive amount of drive and tenacity. However, her business plan rather fell apart after many holes in the financials were exposed. She is definitely a strong candidate who, with the right guidance, could go on to achieve great things. It was perhaps her lack of attention to the details and relative naivety that let her down at the final hurdle.

Jim for many weeks now has raised the question: is he just a great sales person or does he have what it takes to be a potential business partner? When probed it became clear he had done no market research into his business proposal and he showed an arrogance that suggested he truly believed he could talk his way around anything without doing the necessary research. Despite this he is clearly an outstanding salesman and negotiator but demonstrates that the tactic of ‘impression management’ in selection can only go so far!

All in all, Tom was a worthy winner, as predicted by us last week, and we feel that Lord Sugar made the right choice of business partner! And luckily for us we won’t have to face the humiliation, and likely associated pain, of having to eat a curved nail file should we have been proved wrong.

Posted in