- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2005

The college grads of Magna may have diplomas, but their self-esteem has sunk lower than a snake’s belly. Fortunately, this week’s task, because it required more analytical thinking than actual work, gave the “book smart” gang a glimmer of hope. Both teams, Magna and the “street smart” kids of NetWorth, were to create a giant graffiti-style ad for the Sony Playstation 2’s new GT4 video game, painted on the wall of a New York City building. Top Sony Playstation Executives would choose the winning ad based on based on the results from a focus group.

The new PS2 video game, the Apprentices were told, appeals mostly to young males from 18 to 34, and therefore their creations should hit on themes attractive to this fickle demographic group. The two project managers, Alex for Magna and Tara for NetWorth, each picked a graffiti artist to translate the team’s creative direction into reality. Magna’s Alex cast the master stroke with an impromptu focus group of his own among young neighborhood males. NetWorth’s Tara, by contrast, trusted only her own instincts, and created a “mean streets of New York” ad which depicted the attitude of the local community but bored the Sony focus group to tears.

In the Board Room, losing NetWorth project manager Tara tried to wriggle free of responsibility for the loss. But because she had so completely controlled the creative process herself, The Donald sent Tara from the suite to the street with two famous words, “You’re Fired!”

Episode Update.

At the outset, Magna’s self-doubt weighed heavy. Magna project manager Alex criticized his team for over-thinking. NetWorth’s confidence, by contrast, was high and too feflon for their own good. NetWorth project manager Tara gladly accepted the lead role, convincing her confident teammates that she knew the target audience so well that her vision would win the day.

But NetWorth’s attitude gradually turned from power to sour as her team saw Tara unable to contain her inner control-freak. She shut out all outside input in pursuing her vision. A skirmish broke out, with NetWorth’s Audrey accusing Craig of being over-bearing. But because Tara had excluded her teammates from this task, in the Board Room she was unable to finger either of the skirmishers with the loss, and she got the axe herself.

Ironically, Magna’s Alex was convinced his team’s losing streak would continue when Donald Trump simply did a “drive-by,” not even emerging from his car to see their graffiti art in progress. Fortunately though, Alex listened hard to the direction from the Sony executives, his teammates, and an ad hoc group of local kids in the target audience. Alex, by including themes such as “rated E for everyone,” (the Sony PS2 tagline) and “the drive of your life,” steered Magna’s “urban jungle” ad straight into the winner’s circle. And for its sharp hearing, the winning Magna team won even a portrait photo session with famous fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier.

Lessons Learned.

Lesson 1.

Shut up and listen. As any true Trumpologist knows, a recurring theme from “listen to your client.” Trump prides himself on hearing what people want, and giving it to them. By listening and grasping the ideas and purpose of the Sony executives and the potential buyers with his ad hoc focus group, Alex tore a page right from Trump’s book.

Lesson 2.

The real judge of any business contest is the customer. The Donald has made a billions placing ultimate faith in his customers. When Trump failed to stop his car to see Magna’s ad, he was saying, “it doesn’t matter what I think, it only matters what the customers think.” Alex’s demonstrated his understanding of this lesson by approaching the locales and getting their ideas— the fist full of money was the result of their input - and clearly made the difference when presented to the Sony focus group.

Lesson 3.

What you create, you own. Tara sealed her fate by being solely responsible for her team’s losing ad. In fact, her ownership was so complete that she was unable to escape its deadly grip in the Board Room. Tara had nobody to point a finger at. She completely owned her team’s loss.

With only 11 Apprentices left for next week’s contest, team Magna is now down only 1 player to the high school grads of NetWorth. A tighter match means more great lessons. Stay tuned.

Jay Whitehead is America’s most-read, most-watched and most-listened-to expert on workstyles and careers. Email your questions and comments to [email protected]

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