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HR Insights - Extra 
Over the next few weeks and whilst The Apprentice is being shown on the BBC, we will be running a special blog, concentrating on the programme and the candidates... *** Spoiler Alert*** - the following blog will reveal the results of the week's episode. 

14th & 15th October 2014 ~ We're Off! 
“He is an irritant, there's no question about that.” Lord Sugar Episode 1 
 
As the familiar music of Prokofiev’s ‘Montagues and Capulets’ rang out on Tuesday and Wednesday evening this week, so the boardroom battle of 2014 commenced and this year’s Apprentice is back! Again, Lord Sugar is looking for a business partner with whom he can invest £250,000 and then sit back and reap the rewards as his new business partner works hard to make this investment grow. The first surprise of the new series was the introduction of more candidates into the mix, whilst keeping the process over the same period of time; meaning that we can expect to see multiple firings in any one show and for those who have yet to watch the first couple of episodes – look away now – as Lord Sugar proved he meant business with 3-candidates fired in the first two episodes!! 
The 'class of 2014'; but who will still be in the Boardroom in 12-weeks time? 
 
As is customary with the opening tasks, the teams were divided by gender with the boys calling their company “Summit“ and the girls coming up with the wholly unsuitable “Decadence” as they quaffed back a glass of champagne; not one of 10 girls actually knowing what the word meant!!! To help them out and as defined by the Collins English Dictionary ~ “a decline in morality or culture ~ as characterised by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury”. Understandably, this was changed by the second episode to “Tenacity”… 
 
For the first task, the teams were charged with selling every item that had previously been sold on earlier series of the Apprentice; including lemons, luxury sausages, t-shirts, coffee, potatoes and flowers. The girls nominated Sarah Dales as their first Project Manager and her first direction to the team in this role was to tell the girls that they ‘must wear short skirts, high-heels and lots of make-up’ as this was what was needed to be able to sell products… Not one mention of selling skills, including understanding the market and price-points! 
 
I have to say that I am very torn on Sarah; whilst I want to comment on her absolute lack of PM skills as being down to her being a PA/Hypnotherapist with no mention of management experience, I am loathed to attribute it to this background. I know so many excellent PA’s, who run their ‘manager/director’s’ lives with such devastating efficiency that if they needed to, they would be able to seamlessly take over the running of the business in a heartbeat. Sarah’s view that the only way girls can sell anything is to adopt a persona of ‘totty’ and her ill-conceived approach of dividing the team into two – by splitting it straight down the middle with little regard to their skills, suggests that her own definition of being a ‘PA’ differs from what most understand a PA to be and is perhaps more akin with a stereotypical ‘secretary’ from the reruns of a mediocre 70’s television programme. 
 
Nurun didn’t fare much better on episode 2; having been nominated as PM for the ‘wearable technology’ task, on the basis of her selling fashion accessories including scarves, to a predominantly Asian market. Again, we witnessed her muddling through the process and unfortunately her desire to ‘people-please’, meant that she tried to deliver a jacket that was ‘all things to all ‘women’’ and which in effect was a bit of a throw-back to the 80’s with the addition of ‘solar panels’ slapped on the shoulders… 
 
However, despite the naïve and somewhat disorganised approach to project management, the girls managed to ‘triumph’ over the boys on both tasks, meaning that both Sarah and Nurun live to fight another day… 
Neither Sarah nor Nurun made a good impression as Project Manager, but the girls went on to scrape a win in both tasks and so the two live to fight another 'Boardroom Blitz'! 
So what of ‘Team Summit’ ~ aside from the name unsurprisingly being viewed by Lord Sugar as being ‘street-speak’ as opposed to being the ‘peak’ that it was intended to be; they too appeared to suffer from some poor project management skills. Though with the boys, it was more down to ‘petulant child syndrome’ than anything else; with Felipe hanging up on Chiles, his nominated leader for team 2 on task one and Scott ‘sulking’ and immediately setting up his ‘pass the buck’ excuses when his idea for a ‘wearable technology’ item was dismissed by the team. 
 
Most notable through the first two tasks though was Robert and not just because he was 6’7” and wore loafers without socks!! During task one, Felipe accepted Robert’s suggestion that they should turn the ‘luxury sausages’ into ‘luxury hot-dogs’, adding high-end ingredients such as fancy cheese and guacamole and selling them for lunch to the ‘Shoreditch Set’… Sadly, after spending over an hour and a half buying the ingredients, by the time they actually had some hot-dogs to sell for lunch, the main lunch-time rush had passed! 
 
His second big mistake was to ‘ignore’ the suggestion by Lord Sugar that ‘he should think about stepping up as PM for task 2’. You would think that after ten series of The Apprentice, candidates would know by now that where a ‘suggestion’ is made by Lord Sugar, this should not be taken as such, but should be assumed that it is a direct instruction (remember Dr Leah Totten in series nine trying to dismiss Lord Sugar’s ‘suggestion’ for her business name having been told that she had just won…!!!). 
 
So having left Scott to take on the PM role, the boys idea of ‘wearable technology’ was to design a ‘grey sweatshirt’ with a video camera embedded in the front. As if this idea wasn’t dire enough, they then came up with the bright idea of linking the camera to a row of lights spelling out ‘On Air’, so that people would know they were being filmed. 
The idea was so bad, that it led to all manner of poor judgement being exercised by the candidates as they attempted to pitch their idea to the retailers; with Daniel stating that he wouldn’t wear it in public and Robert proclaiming that ‘Privacy is History’!!!  
 
Understandably, JD Sports, John Lewis and the online fashion retailer didn’t like the product and consequently, didn’t place any orders at all. I suspect though that the boys might have got a very different outcome had they been pitching to some specialist retailer dealing in dubious items for voyeurism!!! 
 
Back in the Boardroom and having fired Chiles following the boy’s failure in task one, the boys were once again back in the frame for a second firing… This came somewhat quicker than usual; when it was evident that the team were going to point the finger entirely at Robert for the failure of the task, Lord Sugar took the unusual step of beating them to it and firing him before they even went to the café to discuss their failure…  
 
Kudos though to Lord Sugar who built up the moment; appearing as though he was about to send Robert straight back to the house and safety from the firing line of his teammates, before uttering the immortal words – “You’re Fired” ~ the look on Robert's face; priceless!!! 
 
Having already lost two members from the team, the third firing of the week came with PM Scott being fired for failing to deliver on the task. So twenty candidates soon became 17. 
Chiles, Robert and Scott the three boys gone already; will the home fragrance task in the next episode see one of the girls leave the competition or will another of the boys 'bite the dust?? 
I notice on Twitter that Lord Sugar is defending the candidates; who on first sight appear to be the most dire bunch ever selected to take part in the process and presumably he can do this with the benefit of having completed the process already, knowing that they must have improved over time and clearly knowing who his new business partner is… 
 
But what struck me most though about all of the candidates so far in this year’s process is their abject failure to understand the role of Project Manager; as Karren Brady pointed out, ‘if they are waiting to be Project Manager for a task which matches their skills exactly, they will be waiting a very long-time’. The skill of a PM is to be able to manage a project that is outside of their own remit and understanding and to fully utilise the skills, knowledge and experience of their team members to ensure the success of the project… It's to be hoped they catch on to this concept sooner rather than later, otherwise and in the words of Craig Revel-Horwood; it will be a 'dis-sas-ster'!!! 
 
Next week, the teams are making home fragrances; let’s hope their sense of smell is more evident than their ‘common sense’ which does so far appear to be sadly lacking!!! 
 
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