Smart Plus: Lessons from Trump's Apprentice

As a family, we've been watching Trump's business reality show The Apprentice (season 1, on DVD), and lots of lessons learned. One big lesson: there's a lot in the real world that you never get taught in school.

The first season contestants beat out over 200,000 people to be on the first show, and they seem to be quite accomplished in their own ways.

As the show progresses, though it becomes clear that very elite education and prior successful job is not a guarantee that you'll do well with the new task in front of you. Front and center in The Apprentice is how well a person could work as a group - sharing responsibilities as well as delegating to others, balancing personal as well as group ambition, being able to read the motivations, temperaments, and social cues of other team members, and taking decisive action (as well as decisive corrections) when necessary. Successful apprentices managed to get through a gauntlet of challenges that required good communication with clients and customers, an ability to negotiate, an ability to use of good resources, and finally, an ability to make sure that all things that needed to happen got done. Last, but not least, was the skill of taking responsibility for failure and also being able to justify one's actions in the boardroom. Hey, is any of that taught in school? Not much.

This show has generated a lot of discussion over our dinner table at home, I highly recommend it for tweens, teens, and probably even older. My top 5 uses for The Apprentice as a jump starter for conversations about group dynamics and social psychology, real leadership, real -orld problem solving, business in general, and the importance of initiative and informed risk taking.

Not surprisingly, many Business Schools and colleges have set up copy-cat Apprentice challenges or courses (Stanford Apprentice is underway). This overseas business teacher pointed out several 'hidden problems' that were discovered in his 'apprentices':

1. academically brilliant students often more aloof, pull down group
2. passing the buck / hogging work
3. overlooking fundamental facts
4. not listening to other team members
5. taking a stand or not taking enough
6. witholding information
7. cannot evaluate flaws
8. not finishing work
9. political intrigues
10. conflict-seeking behavior.

Seems like there's a lot to learn in The Apprentice.

1 comment:

  1. Fundamentally, working in a group is a skill and one that takes time to develop. I discuss this at length in my book, "The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development," ( and I've also discussed it in some seminars I've conducted for Davidson.

    Once you start to understand organizational dynamics and group behavior, none of the discussed apprentice behaviors are surprising.

    You can find articles I've written on the topic at, or my blog,