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Editorial: Lessons Learned

Sure, I was disappointed that Kwame (not only an HBS alum, but also a fellow, albeit former, member of Section A) will not be ‘The Apprentice’, but all in all, I was surprised and impressed with the strong ‘reality’ element of the show. Throughout the fourteen week competition, contestants were exposed to some very real business issues. In the same way that we use the case method to learn from others’ experiences, ‘The Apprentice’ taught many valuable lessons. Here’s what I got from the season (besides an excuse to postpone writing this column):

1. Early on, as the teams competed to sell the work of a selected artist, Kwame’s team chose an artist whose work didn’t appeal to anyone on the team, except for the fact that the artist’s price points were higher than other artists the team interviewed. After losing this task, Trump drilled the team in the boardroom for trying to sell an expensive product rather than one that in which they believed. Not unlike the consulting/investment banking/hedge fund versus great company/non-profit/social enterprise career decision that many of us face.

2. She whined after a small piece of plaster hit her head, attempted to use the ‘injury’ as excuse for poor performance, and then allegedly threatened to sue Donald Trump over the incident after she was fired. But Omarosa proved to be even more dangerous when brought back for the final episodes.

Confident and poised, she not only lied through her teeth (on camera), but also found excuses to justify her behavior. Without her, Kwame may have actually won. Lesson two: Beware the Omarosas of this world. Oftentimes, they are hard to spot, but if you don’t discover and remove them, they can, and most likely will, destroy you.

3. I lost count of the number of times Kwame was criticized for being too ‘textbook’. Textbook? Who at HBS uses textbooks? Granted, Kwame did follow a fairly typical MBA career path into investment management, but I’m still not sure he would have been characterized as ‘book’ rather than ‘street’ smart had he not had an MBA. It would have been interesting to see a contestant with both an entrepreneurial background and an MBA – would he/she have been stereotyped in the same way? Undeniably, an MBA (and HBS in particular) opens doors, but this advantage also carries with it a number of preconceived notions that can be a handicap in the market.

Sure, Bill will be making $250 K a year, but he will be working hard for it, and how likely is it that the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago will be a success? Or that the project will get finished? Luckily, if the winners curse proves to hold, Bill will have his cigar business to fall back on. But in the meantime, Kwame will be able to live off TV appearances and product endorsements. Not a bad gig.

Who knew that reality TV could prove so enlightening?

Anne Ristau
Editor In Chief

April 20, 2004
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