The Apprentice 3, Analysis of a Win: I Can't Believe It's Not Clutter!by Angela Dalecki -- 04/28/2005
We saw cracks begin to show in Magna’s exterior last week - Craig and Kendra didn’t seem to agree on much, and Tana and Craig both refused to pull all-nighters, leaving Kendra to finish the project on her own. They still won, but it’s clear that a good deal of resentment and bitterness exists between the three team members - and especially between Craig and Kendra.
Craig decided to step up and offer to be Project Manager for this week, and the friction between Kendra and himself began to spark almost immediately. Craig mentioned in an interview that Kendra was Magna’s “biggest obstacle right now,” and that since she’d had her chance to lead last week, he hoped that she would respect his leadership this week. I’m not sure why he thinks he deserves her respect, since he pretty much insulted Kendra’s leadership skills and bailed on her before the task was completed, but there you go.
In what was probably the most nonproductive brainstorming session of all time, Craig instructed his teammates to write down any ideas they had for this product they needed to create, and they could all share their ideas later. When Kendra tried to mention an idea out loud, Craig told her to “write it down,” because they all had ideas and he figured getting them all in writing was the best way to go. I understand where he’s coming from, sort of, but it seems to me that the most positive brainstorming sessions involve everyone tossing out - out loud - any idea that comes to mind, no matter how wacky or unrealistic, and one person writes all those ideas down. During the actual “brainstorming” part of it, no one should automatically shoot down an idea or say, “No, that won’t work,” - they can determine which ideas are feasible and which are not after the idea-generating session. Trying to do otherwise stifles creativity, and annoys the people who have had their ideas rejected (and those people tend to not offer any more suggestions). And that’s exactly what seemed to happen here - after Kendra and Craig’s exchange, Kendra interviewed that Magna would be a lot more productive if she “just kept her mouth shut.”
After the “brainstorming” session, the team met with the Staples executives - which turned out to be a very smart move. Staples’ slogan (“That was easy”) told them that they just needed to find a way to make dealing with clutter easier for the average office worker. Another benefit from the meeting was that the executives told them flat-out that they didn’t need to reinvent the wheel with this product - they just needed to find something that already existed and improve on it.
It wasn’t until the team began shopping at Staples for supplies to go into their prototype at the presentation that things really began to unravel. Kendra felt strongly that they should include file folders, but Tana and Craig felt they were unnecessary since the product had vertical files instead of horizontal ones. Craig, especially, felt that their organizer was meant to hold mainly loose papers, but Kendra thought that they would be misrepresenting the client if they didn’t include an office essential like file folders. Now, a difference of opinion amongst co-workers or teammates is one thing. But the way these guys handled it is something else entirely. When Kendra argued that they should include file folders in their presentation, Craig began his response with: “I’ll say this slowly so that you can understand me.” I don’t know how he thinks a response like that is appropriate - especially coming from a manager. It puts the other person on the defensive and immediately goes from being a simple difference of opinion to a personal attack, and it’s really not the best way to deal with the people you’re working with.
The feuding continued when the team began to work on their prototype. When more disagreements cropped up, Craig used the fact that he was older (and by his definition, “more experienced”) to dismiss Kendra’s arguments. When she complained that he was talking to her like she was a child, he responded, “Well, that’s how I talk to my kids when I have to repeat things to them.” And then he delivered the Unforgettable Line of the Night: “I’ve given you respect that you don’t even deserve, young lady.” Okay, first of all: Young lady? Young lady? That level of condescension was completely uncalled for in this situation. Second of all, when has he ever shown her one iota of respect? The two of them have been at each other’s throats at least since the Domino’s task, and I’m not seeing a whole lot of respect on either side. But all Craig did with his “young lady” comment was cement the fact that he has absolutely no intention of showing Kendra any respect, whether she deserves it or not.
In the end, even though Kendra and Craig had their differences, they agreed on one important thing: they both wanted to win. And they did, for the eighth week in a row. The Staples execs liked Magna’s lazy Susan organizer much better than Net Worth’s clunky… extra desk, and solidified Tana and Craig’s place in the final four. (Kendra was already guaranteed that spot due to her exemption.)
But why did Magna win? They didn’t work well together, and in my opinion they didn’t make that great of a product. Their organizer was awfully big and bulky, and while it might work in a larger office, it probably won’t help the cubicle-bound workers organize their stuff any better. (Especially if there’s no place for horizontal files.) Perhaps if Net Worth had come up with a product that wasn’t so ridiculously awful, they might have had breakfast with Carolyn and George instead of Magna.
Magna made a better product than Net Worth because they actually researched before designing their creation. Magna: 1) actually met with the Staples executives (a step Alex felt unnecessary); and 2) asked actual office managers in the Staples store what they thought would be helpful (Bren and Alex’s “focus group” was a haphazard series of phone calls to random numbers in the Yellow Pages, and we never did see if they actually got through to anyone). The result was that Magna produced an item that, while not spectacular, was at least functional and practical—and it stood in stark contrast to Net Worth’s impractical extra piece of filing furniture.
Magna is made up of three very smart, talented people. However, in the case of this task, I feel that they got very lucky. If Net Worth had displayed the same amount of common sense that Magna did, they could have come up with a much better product and the results might have been very different. I think that this week, Magna’s main reason for winning was Net Worth’s utter lack of common sense and creative thinking.
One task remains for the final four. One member of Magna will join Alex to try and bring Net Worth to its first victory in over two months. They may keep pulling out wins, but team Magna is really dysfunctional at this point in the game. They’re really going to have to pull it together if they want to give Magna that final win.
Angela Dalecki is a part-time freelance writer based in Wilmington, DE. Her work can also be seen a tNights & Weekends and Suite 101. She pays her bills by working at TV Guide. You can email Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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