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Subcategories from this category: Apprentice

Some could think of nothing better, happy amongst a torrent of cat photos and hastily photoshopped memes; others see only hair-brained comment, miniscule attention spans and dumbing down. Social media has swelled to the population and influence level of a major continent, but are we happy with the role it plays in our lives – and if not, is it possible to change now? 

On Tuesday night, Charlie Beckett of LSE's media think tank, Polis, chaired a panel debate, hosted by ei and Weber Shandwick, on that very question - joined by some of the most influential figures in the world of social media. Rather than bolting the stable door after the behemoth of Twitter, the discussion raised some fundamental questions about self-identity in the age of the selfie.

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The modern PR and Comms. Department can have something of a love-hate relationship with social media. It’s one of the most powerful tools for building employer brands and reaching a wider audience but when it goes wrong, it tends to do so spectacularly. Now a new social media startup threatens to strike fear into the heart of even the most skilled and authentic corporate PR machines. is the network designed for people to communicate with the world in complete anonymity – as the site puts it, to ‘share anything they’re thinking and feeling with their friends without judgment’.

The recently launched site came to wider prominence in April as the news that Nike were to close their hardware division was broken on by a less than happy employee. The user pointed the finger at senior executives for mismanagement, forcing Nike CEO, Mark Parker, to confirm the rumours that the team are to disband.

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The Apprentice

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The final

It’s all over – and there’s so much to talk about from last night that I’m going to divide this post in to two parts, come back later this week for some more general thoughts.  For now I’m going to resist the temptation to launch into a review of the series as a whole and Lord Sugar as a role model, as today it’s only fair that we focus on the winner - congratulations Tom!

So, the nice guy with the worst challenge record came from behind to scoop the prize.  I’m glad this year’s winner was someone who steered clear of the usual Apprentice patter (Jim!), and wonder whether this means we might have a few more ‘down to earth’ contestants next year?

But if I were Lord Sugar I’d also be a bit worried – this issue of Tom having moved on to the next idea before maximising the profit in the nail file could become a real problem.  In the interview afterwards you could almost see the disappointment in Tom’s eyes when they discussed expanding on the nail file’s success.  I would guess that the last thing Tom wanted to do with his exciting new business...was his old business.  That’s because he’s more interested in the idea and its creation than the selling process – something we’ve seen time and time again in the tasks.

Admittedly, running a business doesn’t mean he’ll have to do all the selling (although they do say that the CEO should be out front as chief salesperson even if that is not an official part of their role).  But £250k essentially means a small start up, so he will only have a couple of sales people at best and he’ll need to keep them motivated.  Someone more interested in the product than the sale is unlikely to apply enough pressure to the sales process to make it a success (unless Jim is in the sales team!).  And there’s a risk that if left to his own devices Tom will dilute the pressure through a filter of ‘niceness’ before it reaches the salespeople.

To make it work he will therefore be relying on channelling the pressure from Lord Sugar on this front.  Karen Brady supported Tom on this basis, as she felt he would benefit most from the direction his new partner could provide, but how much will he see of the great man?

In fact, I think there are a lot of questions about how their relationship will play out.  At the end of the show Tom made reference to both of them being on the same page, but will this actually be the case?  Lord Sugar went on to joke about ‘always being right’, and if this is actually quite close to the truth it won’t make for a true partnership dynamic - which would seem to defeat the point of the new prize.  I think it will depend partly on whether Tom will be able to inspire his respect, and generate the very different atmosphere that filled the boardroom when it was a meeting of experts rather than grovelling candidates.

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The Apprentice guest blog - Matt Smeed

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Episode twelve

With a programme like The Apprentice, where contestants open themselves up to criticism, it can be easy to focus on the negatives and the mistakes that we tell ourselves we wouldn’t make if we were in their position.  But if we were in the thick of it – rather than on our sofas! – we wouldn't be immune to a few slip-ups ourselves.

That's why this week I’d like to praise the candidates for their resilience – and their ability to cope with the immense pressure that they have been under for 11 weeks.  For a start, I thought last nights’ task was genuinely difficult!  To create a fast food restaurant from scratch in 48 hours would be hard for any restaurateur, never mind a group of novices.  And whilst the Caracas idea left a little to be desired, MyPy was a really decent effort.

What I find most interesting to see is that people ‘revert to type’ to get themselves through these final stages.  There’s ‘Jedi’ Jim and his unerring self-confidence, and Susan  with her immense sense of drive and purpose.  Then there’s the person who has had his resilience tested more than any other - Tom.  He has taken more knocks than David Haye in a title fight.  But unlike his sporting counterpart, Tom has not given excuses – he has adapted to the situation, taken himself out of his comfort zone, and bounced back on every occasion.  And judging by last nights’ performance, Tom can now be seen as a genuine contender.

It was a failure to draw on her personal traits that finally spelled the end for plucky Natasha.  Throughout the competition her biggest strength has been her irrepressible levels of energy.  However, perhaps there is only so long that someone can carry on at this pace, and it felt like Natasha burnt-out last night.  Her energy levels finally faded, and other candidates did their best to point this out.

The final word must go to the one person in this process who has come through relatively unscathed, Helen.  Cool, calm and collected in her approach, perhaps by luck some weeks, but often by skill – Helen has coasted into the final.  For me, she is still the one to beat.

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The Apprentice guest blog - Sophie Armond

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Episode ten

In what seemed like the easiest task so far, both team leaders managed to get it completely wrong!  Despite some fairly explicit instruction from Lord Sugar, the list of errors includes not restocking, buying untested products, trying to sell £25 watches to a pound shop and a four hour round trip for a potential profit of £90 (that wasn’t even realised!).  We also saw an interesting Apprentice first, with Helen trying to usurp Melody as project leader part way through the task.  On the positive side, Jim showed he can charm anything that moves, Tom stepped up and did some selling and Susan had a good idea with the bracelet sales.

It’s this last point that I’d like hone in on, as it was a bold display of initiative – that elusive but desirable trait; one of those things that lots of people claim to have on CVs, in cover letters and during interviews.  It seems to be part of the ‘standard skill set’, usually accompanied with ‘ability to work independently’, while the flip side is covered by ‘also works well as part of a team’.

Presumably this is something Lord Sugar is keen on, particularly as he’s looking for a business partner rather than an employee.  But is it always a good quality?  Had Susan’s plan backfired I’m sure Natasha would have had a lot to say about it!

In the real world the practicality and desirability of initiative will obviously depend on the particular sector, industry and situation you are in.  On an operational level you may not always want staff going off on a tangent and following their own agenda.  But strategically, initiative can be encouraged in every workplace.  This doesn’t mean just making decisions without consultation, I’m referring more to an alertness that results in employees recognising a better way of doing things and acting on it.

Inspiring this sort of effort requires a foundation of sustainable engagement, a supportive ideas culture and an effective communication strategy between management and front line staff - not something that can be generated overnight!  But if you can get it right it will lead to a positively reinforcing trend, impacting on both individuals and the organisation.  Employees who see their ideas come to fruition, and receive recognition for them, will in turn feel more engaged, motivated and committed.  The organisation benefits from the idea itself, but also from the aggregation of this positive feeling among the workforce.

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Cary CooperGood Day at Work®

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MD of Cary Cooper's business psychology firm, Robertson Cooper - for all things wellbeing, engagement and resilience at work.

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Professor Cary Cooper, Director and Founder of Robertson Cooper Ltd, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School.

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