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Why I’m dreading Junior Apprentice

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I’ve always had a real problem with The Apprentice (and Junior Apprentice certainly doesn’t look much better). It’s just not an accurate reflection of the “real” business world.

I’d struggled to articulate my loathing of The Apprentice until I read the excellent book Animal Spirits. The book shows how corruption and bad faith play a large role in precipitating recessions.

How true. Enron saw accountants being caught behaving in the most appalling manner – and this led to a loss of faith in how big corporates publish their results. No wonder investors withdrew from the market, leading to contractions in the economy. Similarly, the last big crash was essentially caused by the fact that banks no longer trusted the value of the assets they had bought.

None of the people involved in these waves started off as crooks. But behaviours and conduct are learned from the culture around you. “Team bonuses” depend on targets being hit – and suddenly rules are being bent for the “greater good”. And then, one day, you’re engaging in criminal behaviour.

You can see this process happening in The Apprentice. You find the group willing to engage in ever more dubious practices – always for the good of the team, of course. We’ve seen teams offering kisses for money, dressing semi-naked while serving food, bullying, and, of course, downright lie. I dread to think what levels teenagers will stoop to on Junior Apprentice.

Some of the watching public will see the behaviour on The Apprentice not only as acceptable but desirable to succeed in business. It lowers the “decency level” expected throughout business.

The Apprentice doesn’t do the business world any favours at all. And I doubt Junior Apprentice will make me change my mind.

Permjot Valia is a business angel and co-founder of Flight and Partners, a London-based FSA fund manager. Permjot blogs at www.businessangelblog.com

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