The Apprentice – in desperate need of designer input

Did anyone see the second episode of The Apprentice? I watched with great interest as it was the week of the ‘design’ challenge.

I just wish there had been a designer taking part – it would

have been a great example of how a designer’s mind can add value in the corporate world.

The challenge was to design a product that would appeal to dog owners, which the teams could sell wholesale to three retailers. It was incredible – as soon as the word ‘design’ had left Sir Alan Sugar’s mouth, the contestants stopped listening, their eyes glazed over and their minds raced. They got all creative, took off their ties, whipped out a flip chart, had a brainstorm and choked on every red herring Sugar threw their way in the pursuit of an amazing new invention that no pooch could do without.

Except that wasn’t the brief. The brief was: get more orders for your product than the other team. Oh, and by the way, the retailers are your target audience, not the dog owners, so I wouldn’t bother with the focus groups either.

It was a great example of how misunderstood the real value of design can be. Neither team needed a ‘new’ product. They needed clarity of thought and an ability to analyse and interrogate the brief.

I strongly believe that a real designer would have brought this to the team. And that their doggie product would have been dull. And that the retailers would have snapped it up. And that by the end of the show their team would be sipping champagne while the creatives in suits sweated over who was about to get fired.

It is this ability to break away from linear thinking with a creative approach to problem-solving that is rare in the corporate world. Don’t leave designers doing the business cards, get them in the boardroom.

Jack Starks, Brand and language manager, Orange UK, St Albans AL1 5HE

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