Young Apprentice – Future business brains?

From the title, you might think I’m about to rip into the contestants, but you’d be absolutely wrong. I’ve disappointed you there, I can sense it.

I used to enjoy The Apprentice, and I’ve blogged before about the show’s questionable moral points and prize. Partly as I’ve been busy, but partly as I think I’d find it really annoying, I’ve not really been watching this series of Young Apprentice. However, I was half-watching something else last night, and switched over mid-way through the episode, to discover they’re still doing that fucking stupid task with the Yellow Pages directories. Does Sugar have shares in them or what?

The task goes like this:

  1. Sugar gives out a list of unrelated items with names the contestants will never have heard of.
  2. The contestants have to try and buy these things (on foot/by car, in a day, in London).
  3. They have to haggle to pay less.
  4. Team who gets most items and spends the least wins. (The way this is worked out has got more complicated each series, but I’ll spare you the boring details.)

I’ve got no problem with the concept really. Give them a list of things to purchase – by all means. See if they can haggle… perhaps. It’ll be cringeworthy but passable. The team who pays the least is about squeezing the independent retailers of all their profit, in return for giving them free airtime on national BBC television. Fine, I get that. (Although in the real world, I’d like to believe that if a group of school kids came in and asked for a discount on a Morphy Richards toaster because their grandad had told them they had to get it cheaper than the advertised price, they’d tell them to fuck off.)

What I have issue with is that they’re all using Internet-enabled smartphones during the episodes to talk to each other, yet they are not allowed to use the Internet to find these products. Why not?

Sugar said in the boardroom that they couldn’t use Google Earth? I think he meant Google Maps, but what for? They’re chauffeur-driven everywhere by people who presumably already know where they’re going? Google Earth won’t help you find a random list of items. Isn’t he meant to know the technology sector?

So anyway – they’ve got to use possibly the only remaining Yellow Pages directories still in use anywhere in the UK, to find products they’ve never heard of. Consequently, you know what’s going to happen. They’re going to end up in traffic jams, driving around London asking random strangers if they know what the objects are, because it’s a realised fact in modern society that the Yellow Pages isn’t very good. That’s why we use Google and social media, to find people with expertise in areas in which we lack knowledge ourselves.

Isn’t this show meant to be a test of future business brains? In the real world, in a business, if someone in your company needs a faux-leather-coated hatstand for some reason, you’d be straight on the Internet, wouldn’t you? Unless you knew someone who made such items (or knew someone who might know someone, etc.), to do anything else would be a complete waste of business time, and show a general lack of problem-solving ability.

And if, for example, your Internet was down, I might (and people have called me for this before) phone a friend and ask them to Google it for me. Failing that, 118118’s service where they claim to answer any question, would be utilised. It’d cost more (which would definitely be frowned upon in the business world), but it’s the BBC’s phone bill, after all.

Apparently someone suggested going to a library last night to look up something. While they could have done this quite easily in the real world, the arbitrary time constraints imposed by the show made this somewhat difficult. I guess they could have gone to a branch of WHSmiths/Waterstones and looked some of the items up in a dictionary. But in what real-world circumstances would you have to resort to that, these days?

What is the lesson meant to be from this show? Exactly what sort of business lesson starts by making you use the wrong tool for the job, to buy products you have no knowledge of?

In next week’s episode, Lord Sugar makes the candidates eat soup with a fork.