For this assignment we decided to choose an episode from the American TV series, The Apprentice; season 5, episode 11: “Back to School”. In this episode there are two groups of contestants; all competing against each other for a chance of obtaining a job at Trump Industries. These teams must work together each week in order to complete an assignment. The team that loses the assignment must defend their arguments and strategies to the “board” during the boardroom session. At the end of the boardroom session, one of the contestants is fired. In this particular episode, the teams consist of men (Team Gold Rush) vs. women (Team Synergy). Their objective for the week was to create two tailgate parties for the Outback Steakhouse at the Rutgers University’s football game Navy-Rutgers. Each team would be located at different parking lots, each with an Outback Steakhouse tent. The goal of the event was to earn as much money at the event as possible; the team with the most revenue at the end of the event would win.
What we concluded from each other’s personal analysis, was that we had all reached the same conclusions. The two teams Gold Rush (men) and Synergy (women) depicted in this program, were quite different in their execution of promoting their product. We all recognized the different dynamics in the two teams. Our initial impressions of the two teams were as such:
- Women: took a different approach to the preparation of the assignment. They decided to go to an Outback Steakhouse restaurant to collect information on the product offerings. They wanted to know the products and understand what they were selling. The team members all had similar personalities, which lead to a more relaxed environment.
- Men: from the start they were overconfident in their abilities. They were confident that they had an advantage; given they were men. They were quick at coming up with a concept and were confident that they were going to win. They were full of energy and excitement, and that energy level was maintained throughout the episode as well as at the actual tailgate event.
All of our group members agreed that the men had an elaborate marketing plan to draw people to their Outback Steakhouse tent; they created an event around their product. They had a food eating contest, a money pit and to top it all off, had exclusively contracted the Rutgers University cheerleading squad in order to draw the crowds to their tent. The women, on the other hand, had a more straightforward approach; they were purely focusing on the food, and less on creating an event. The women stuck to the assignment; focused on sales, they were creative and they were able to add value for their customers by creating a “car side” delivery; going to their customers, rather than having the customers come to their tent. The men were going for the ultimate event, but they ultimately didn’t sell as much as they could have because some of their “events”, such as the “eating contest” were counter productive to their sales (why buy food, when you can eat it for free). Many of their activities created distractions rather than revenue. They lost their focus on the ultimate goal; sales generation.
Throughout the show we saw changes in the work dynamics of the men due to their different personalities, age and point-of-views. These impressions were based on the interaction of the teammates with each other as well as their final execution of the assignment. Team Gold Rush ultimately lost the competition to Team Synergy. We could then see that the men went from being overconfident, positive that their concept was the best and convinced of victory; to feeling like they had been doomed from the start. Once the victory had been lost, the individual team members expressed hindsight bias. They were all pushing the blame onto the other teammates; claiming that they knew from the beginning that this or that was wrong. During the episode, we could see cracks forming in the group; for example the two older members were openly skeptical of the “freshly out of university” team leader, Lee. They continually tried to undermine his authority and abilities. Likewise, Lee and Shawn were not always able to understand Michael’s point-of-views. In the men’s team there was evidence of ageism, as well as stereotyping. They firmly believed that being men they would know how to sell steak by using cheerleaders. They believed that having testosterone would be enough to win over the women. The men’s lack of teamwork was blatant in contrast to the easy flowing and smooth running dynamics between the women. The women also had some overconfidence, in the sense that their team had won the last 7 assignments. They, however, did not undermine the men’s abilities.
To conclude the weaknesses and strength of these two groups:
Weaknesses: The women seemed to have a very slow start. While the women were eating and “getting to know the product”, the men were getting their concept together and made calls to arrange the cheerleaders. When the women finally meet together with the cheerleading coach; they were not able to book the group because the men had cleverly booked them on an exclusive basis. This was also the case with the flyers; the women weren’t able to get them printed on time. What these women might have lacked in preparation and timeliness, they were able to compensate with their smooth execution and remaining focused at all times on the task of creating revenue.
Strengths: This team was a group of highly motivated women, who were able to recognize each other’s strengths in order to optimize teamwork. They had similar personalities and work ethics. They all had a common goal to prove the power of women and their abilities. Their greatest strength, in our opinion, was that they created and maintained a friendly “girlfriend” atmosphere and this atmosphere of camaraderie reflected positively in the execution of the assignment and lead to their victory. The women worked efficiently, everyone seemed to understand their tasks and where they needed to be when. The spontaneous creativity that Allie had of delivering their product to their customer was what got them the necessary money to win. They used their femininity to win the competition. To make up for having lost the cheerleaders the team members decided to dress as cheerleaders.
- Gold Rush
Weaknesses: The men were so confident with their initial concept that they clouded the goals of the assignment. They were concentrating more on the event and less on the goal of creating sales revenues. The event seemed to eclipse the actual idea of why the stand was there. They were overconfident and relying too much on their “manliness” in order to boost sales; believing themselves to have a natural advantage over the women.
Strengths: These men were very creative and quick thinking. By deciding to book the cheerleader exclusively, they were able to prevent the women from getting a unique Rutgers attraction. They seemed to always be ahead of the women in their campaign and created an event that was far more interesting that the women’s event. The women did not think of creating and event and therefore it appeared, for a while, that the men had a huge creative advantage, and that this creativity would ultimately give them a competitive edge.
If our team was called in to help improve the performance of the men’s group, Gold Rush, we would have to point out that the group dynamics was the underlining problem. To expect a group to always be on the same page and share the same opinions is impossible. However, by having a project manager (in this case Lee), these problems of different ideas and expectations could have been smoothed out. The group seemed to have a lack of leadership from their project manager. The project manager was not keeping them focused on the goal; to make as much money as possible. The project manager should also have kept the egos in line, by keeping the group more focused. The tree team members all had different personalities, strong and determined personalities. If the project manager had been more neutral, as well as being able to give input, then everyone would have been heard and maybe the flaws in the event planning could have been sought out before it had gotten out of hand. There was excitement in the group, but they needed more team spirit, they needed the feeling that they were doing this as a group for a collective goal rather than focusing on their individual goals of winning the position at Trump Industries. The strategies that the project manager could use to get the most potential out of himself and his team members, is to repeat and continually keep up the team spirit by reassuring his team members that they are doing a good job. If he sees an area where someone should put more emphasis on, he should have pointed it out. One example of this was during the event; Michael was concentrating too much on the flow of the event instead of noticing that his teammates needed help with the selling. The project manager should have delegated more and told Michel that he should have, for example, promoted the product in order to get more people to buy food. There should have been better communication between the members of the team.
This episode was also interesting because of the portrayal of the battle of the sexes. This portrayal was full of stereotyping. Much time was spent on proving their strength (the men) and their abilities (the women). It was interesting to see the stereotypical approaches in task execution and to see who was more focused on achieving the goal of making the most money. In our group, there was no stereotyping used when analyzing this episode. There was no prejudice against men or women and we seemed to be able to spot the same issues and agree on identifying the various problems.