Multi-billionaire Donald Trump has worn different hats. Most recently, as host of his NBC reality RPG/ survivor TV show, The Apprentice, Trump wears an unlikely hat as educator. Marketing, business and economics instructors show NBC’s The Apprentice in class. In an elimination style competition with tasks set for them, participants compete to earn the title of apprentice to Donald Trump. On The Apprentice, Trump takes contestants one by one into ‘the board room’ to rake over, ream out and occasionally applaud their performance on marketing tasks. Despite Trump’s lurid pumpkin-orange comb-over, Apprentice contestants hang on his every word, gambling on a chance to make a splash in business.
Educators, particularly those who teach marketing, business and macro economics classes, in high school an college are turning to Trump and The Apprentice TV show as a source of information and lesson design. Does a business man know anything about teaching and education? Perhaps not. But The Apprentice does demonstrate marketing and business theory in ‘real time’. The Apprentice gives business students good simulations, albeit vicariously in business models and practices.
Using The Apprentice elimination or ‘survivor’ style competition is in itself great simulation for the world of marketing and business. Analysts don’t call marketing a ‘dog eat dog’ world for nothing. Whether you are a pushcart vendor trying to outdo your neighbor pushcart for the customer’s hotdog dollar, or a CEO of a major company, business is competitive. The Apprentice is reality TV in the truest sense of the term.
Despite the ‘every man for himself’ mentality, business is ironically cooperative also. Marketing is people-centered. Business is consumer-driven but to succeed, people in a given organization must work together. Trump organizes contestants on The Apprentice into teams; he sets cooperative-competitive tasks for participants. In order to be The Apprentice, contestants must learn to work as a ‘we’ first. In many episodes of The Apprentice, contestants receive from one hand praise from Trump for their business finesse, but on the other hand, chastisement for failing to coordinate and cooperate. The Apprentice may be a maverick. She may not always be everyone’s best buddy. She may play her cards close to her chest, but The Apprentice never plays a lone hand. And the successful apprentice makes decisions that in the long run benefit not just one person but the team.
These are the life lessons and business lessons that students learn from watching Donald Trump’s The Apprentice. For The Apprentice program details, click here. For lesson plans and classroom connections, click here. Click here for a classroom unit on The Apprentice. Here are some free lesson plans from Trump University.