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The Apprentice's Stagnation Shows How Far Innovation Has Come

With the show withering, it shows that new ideas in business trump the old

20Nov

The Apprentice originally aired in the US in 2004. It's since become a hit worldwide, with spin offs in the UK and Brazil, in particular, proving highly successful. For some, it's comparable to the X-Factor and Big Brother. For others, it offers a short glimpse into the world of a billionaire businessman.

Donald Trump was the US version's longtime host, but barring the show's recent celebrity editions, its original format - involving unknown, aspiring entrepreneurs - fizzled out after its tenth installment.

Unlike Trump, the UK's host, Alan Sugar, did build his empire from nothing. And its that rags to riches story - Sugar was brought up in a council flat in East London - which made him the perfect protagonist for the reality show. Both Trump and Sugar, however, have come in for criticism. Are they really the type of entrepreneur today's hopefuls should be trying to impress?

It's an interesting debate. The same personality traits needed to build a business are as relevant today as they were in 1972 when Trump turned his $500,000 investment in Swifton Village into $6.75 millon. The most successful entrepreneurs always possess the ability to spot a gap in the market, as well as the drive to bring their ideas to life.

The US version's demise in 2010 came when the country was deep in recession. It was also a time when people started to think differently about business. Trump is undeniably part of the old school. On the show, you will never see him, his employees, or the contestants, in anything but a pristine suit. In contrast, the tech industry's young CEOs are normally seen wearing baggy jeans and novelty t-shirts. As a distinction it's more pertinent than you would think. For Trump, work is work. For the up and coming entrepreneur, the aim to intertwine work and free time, or at least make the distinction harder to see. There might be a place for new Donald Trump in today's marketplace, but there's definitely more room for another Mark Zuckerberg or Evan Spiegel.

It also marks a change in the way companies approach their people. The whole concept of the show's catchphrase 'you're fired!' reeks of a management style based around belittlement, not empowerment. The environment the program portrayed, especially for Millennials, was so far removed from they're used to that it became irrelevant.

The Apprentice is, first and foremost, a television show and its producers want it to be as entertaining as possible. In that sense, it was a success story. It spawned an equally popular shows all around the world. If it's to make a comeback, however, it needs to take the current business climate into consideration, and base the contestants tasks around that.

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