“Cut me and I bleed ambition.” Do your colleagues talk like that? Neither do mine. But that is the way contestants talk on the BBC reality TV show credited with reviving Britain’s entrepreneurial spirit. It may even be true that the show had that impact. Watching a 19-year-old ‘brand ambassador’ declare “Millions isn’t enough for me, I need billions for the lifestyle I want” could convince anybody that this business malarkey can’t be as tough as it’s cracked up to be.
After 15 series – the sixteenth will air in early 2022 – it seems opportune to ask if The Apprentice has really taught us much about business. The programme makers are convinced it has, insisting it “does highlight and thoroughly test such key business skills as leadership, teamwork, dedication and strategic thinking”.
If you’re wondering about the ‘strategic thinking’, you’ve obviously forgotten that moment in series nine when team leader goes awry because he can’t work the microwave. One attendee advises him: “Try the big button!” which, to be fair, is the kind of strategic insight you just don’t get from Warren Buffett.