News Flash: This fall you can get a double dose of TV's "The Apprentice," Wednesdays with Martha Stewart and Thursdays with Donald Trump.
The most popular TV business program of all time, "The Apprentice" adds a second night this fall as Martha "Electronic Anklet" Stewart takes the reins on Wednesday evenings while Donald "Chapter 11" Trump continues to oversee Thursdays.
Has it really come to this? The best guides for teaching business today are a woman who just got her home confinement sentence extended because, once again, she was unable to stay on the right side of the law? And the guy who despite his bravado always seems to be just a stone's throw away from his next bankruptcy filing?
Sure, tabloid staples like Martha and Donald make compelling TV, even if for many of us it's more like rubbernecking at an accident than actually getting insight about how to survive the daily grind. The problem is that I've overheard people on the street, in meetings and on airplanes actually talking about the show as if it were the holy grail of business do's and don'ts. And there are MBA programs that have actually worked "The Apprentice" into their curriculum. This not only makes me sad, it makes me even more cynical about the future of business.
Former executive David Sarnoff once said, "Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people." And this is my biggest gripe with the Donald's "Apprentice." In the name of capitalism, he creates an every-person-for-himself ego-fest. The amount of backstabbing and brown-nosing is beyond "Desperate Housewives," the gold standard on TV for such things.
Think I'm being too harsh on "The Apprentice"? Then let me say one word: Omarosa. I rest my case.
Business is much more about collaboration and cooperation than competition. It's about making the people you work with look good. It's also much more of a marathon than a sprint. The strategies and philosophy that are at the heart of "The Apprentice" are exactly what we need less of in business -- a hyper-focus on short-term results.
"The Apprentice" is all about parties (for the winning team), and pointing fingers (for the losing team). This counters the last 40 years of learning about continuous improvement, throwing such noble sentiment right in the proverbial ditch. Rather than jetting off for a fancy meal or looking for victims to defeat, leading corporations today have learned that the best way to face both victory and defeat is by asking hard questions and exploring how to do an even better job next time.
Ironically, "The Apprentice" does have one major thing going for it: its name. I looked it up in the dictionary and part of its definition is "a beginner." And that's why I believe it's so aptly named, because if you really think Martha and Donald are the best role models for business success, you are a babe in the woods.
Quote of the week:
"When I build something for somebody, I always add $50 million or $60 million onto the price. My guys come in, they say it's going to cost $75 million. I say it's going to cost $125 million, and I build it for $100 million." -- Donald Trump, addressing the 1984 meeting of U.S. Football League owners
Weekly book excerpt:
From "Out of the Crisis" W. Edwards Demming (MIT, 1986)