The Apprentice 2012, Episode 2: First Commitment

by Mike Clayton  - March 28, 2012

For what it�s worth, I was distinctly underwhelmed by what I saw tonight.� I�m finding it hard to see any glimmers of who might emerge from the ruins of 12 weeks of tasks as a worthy winner.� For my money, only one person tonight even started to impress me, and they were a long way from having me convinced.

Tonight�s episode saw Azhar Siddique step forward to lead the all male team, Phoenix, while at Sterling, two women put themselves forward: Jane McEvoy and last week�s reprievee, Katie Wright, no doubt keen to prove she can step forward.� (Yes, I do know that I have made up that word.)� Some awkward body language betrayed a real lack of trust among the women� of � or maybe even dislike for � Katie, so Jane took the helm.

The teams� task was to design a new product concept for a household gadget and pitch the prototype to two retailers.� The team with fewest orders would lose.

The Concept

What transpired in both teams was well signposted for Phoenix and came, after the editing process, out of the blue for Sterling.

Azhar quickly seized on Duane Bryan�s concept for a compacting waste unit for reducing the volume of your waste.� I�m sure I heard him refer to recycling, but it morphed at some stage into composting.� Ideal, one focus group member said, if you don�t have a garden.� Really?� Where is he going to put the compacted food waste?

The women had two ideas (actually, they struggled to get any and ended up with two � we infer the men had a wider choice and narrowed it down to one).� Fortunately, the focus group liked one (a bit) and hated the other, so job done and off to the design studio.

Meanwhile, in Phoenix-car 2, half the team had a new idea.� Well, actually, it was Adam Corbally.� His idea was for a pair of rubber washing up gloves (marigolds to you and me) with plastic scourers attached to the palms and finger tips.� Genius or madness?� To my horror, most of the focus group liked it � although one soul echoed my immediate thought � �I�d rather just use a sponge.�� So a split decision, which the group interpreted as favouring the scourergolds.� If only the other research team had data to help.� �We asked and there are other products just like it on the market� said team leader Azhar.� �Well no, we didn�t� chimed a colleague.� In fact Azhar lied to team mates to try and justify a decision he�d already made.� He had committed to the first product and could not be persuaded to properly entertain the alternative.

As it happens, I think that the mariscourers were a bad idea and the compacting bin a better one, but the key point here is that Azhar failed to stay flexible in his thinking.� There is a time to shut out new ideas as a distraction from deliver, but that wasn�t it.� When Adam�s idea emerged, both halves of the team had time to do some objective research before making their selection.

So what happened with the women of team Sterling?� Back in the studio, one half of the team were talking fabrics for the bizarre tap cosy.� I�m with Hugh Dennis who, in the You�re Fired follow-up show commented that you don�t lean on the taps.� But the idea was so novel it was either insane or inspired.� The other half, led by team leader Jane was elsewhere when Jane made her unilateral decision � she didn�t like the tap cosy one little bit.� She selected the brief-defying kiddie bath shield that none of the mums in the focus group liked. In fact the only mum to back it was the idea�s proponent, Laura Hogg.

The Pitches

How many times do we have to see evidence that twenty- and thirty-something business people cannot handle basic figures?� You would think that all 15 of them would have seen last year�s episodes a dozen times and internalised the key lessons.� I�d like to think that they might even have read a few well-chosen blogs that pointed out those lessons.� But no: team Sterling was singularly unable to raise the financial debate above the level of car wreck.� The buyers at Amazon looked distinctly unimpressed, although, with a market as big as theirs and the clout to negotiate the figures they need, they did buy.

Spoiler Alert

Here are the teams� results in units ordered.









Total Order



Yes, the men won and got dinner in a private room at The Ivy.� It was back to the caff for the women.

In the Boardroom

I think we saw some poor leadership tonight.� Azhar�s team turned on him and at dinner, he made no headway in his attempts to claim credit for the victory. He failed to listen, was trapped by his own prejudice, and treated team members poorly.

Jane was likewise didactic and showed a petulant streak that I found unappealing.� It looked for a moment as if Lord Sugar might fire her.� She heaped a lot of blame on Katie, but failed to bring her back into the boardroom.� Perhaps she sensed, as I did that Katie did okay (no better) tonight, or maybe she realised it would have been a bad tactic.� Lord Sugar deprecates bringing back people just because they looked badly wounded the week before and he would also doubtless have given her credit for volunteering to lead and for pushing the tap cosy idea quite firmly.� Instead, she went for Maria O�Coonor and Jenna Whittingham.� Laura, who might have been in the running, performed very well in the first round of the boardroom, and impressed me with her style.

Jenna, along with Gabrielle Omar, was in the frame for the financial figures fiasco.� Gabrielle kept quiet and escaped a return engagement.� In the boardroom, Maria looked every bit the teenager that she was very recently (she was 20 at the time of filming).� Having contributed little, Lord Sugar made little fuss about firing her.� He also threatened a second firing and I felt Jane was lucky to go back to the house.� She is clearly a forceful personality, but showed little adroitness tonight.� All in all, it was a disappointing show.

Only one person looked good: Duane.� Think what you like about his idea, but it was a winner and it did fit the brief.� He also promoted it to his colleagues and to the buyers in an articulate and confident manner.� That is a long way short of the breadth of talents needed to win the show, but Duane, I�m watching you.


Creativity in The Apprentice

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