Simon Duffy: inside The Apprentice

I'm a long time fan of The Apprentice. For the last series I blogged about every episode for Smarta and for this current one it was a thrill to be asked to join the show for last night's episode about affordable luxury.

I was with the candidates during two key parts of their task. Our location in Wapping was non-descript from the outside but a hive of activity inside. Initially I visited the pop-up stores as a mystery shopper. I had the opportunity to chat with most of the candidates and enjoyed a wet shave and a few too many chocolates on my rounds. No matter what you make of the final concepts, just to get everything in place in a couple of days shows great levels of industry and persistence from both teams.

Later I accompanied the other experts for the candidates' presentations and then joined Lord Sugar, Nick Hewer and Karren Brady, for a discussion on their strengths and weaknesses. I asked a few questions during these sessions and was pleased that one made the final cut.

I had the chance to speak with Lord Sugar's advisor Nick. He was particularly nice, showed a keen interest in Bulldog's progress, and asked all sorts of questions about the business of skincare and the attitude and ability of the candidates. It is certainly a process that everyone takes very seriously.

For most of us, being a candidate on The Apprentice would probably be terrifying. A skilled editor will always be able to build a story, and it was interesting to see this dynamic playing out on TV last night.

Personally I found all the candidates to be impressive, confident and focused. I particularly warmed to Ricky - he really went for it when required but was approachable, funny and came across as a genuine character.

I'm sure that all of the candidates we saw last night would have the potential to excel in careers outside The Apprentice. The show's tasks are brilliant mini business challenges and I think they are well thought through across the season to test the candidates'competence in a variety of areas.

It's the competition dynamic in The Apprentice format that both energises the programme and also ensures that we never really see what the candidates might be able to offer to a bigger organisation in the real world.

Games can bring out a ruthless streak in all of us - Risk or Monopoly lovers can attest to this. Successful business people need to find their own balance between leadership, collaboration and pragmatism. These contestants are focused on getting their peers fired because they want to win. In a regular business environment and facing different challenges, I'm sure they could all work well within a team and make a valuable contribution.

I wouldn't want to bet against any of them now, but I will be hoping for a victory for Ricky.

To read more about Bulldog click here, www.meetthebulldog.com.

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