ALTI's Apprentice Boardroom Report For 3/25/05 (Episode #10)

Practical Lessons From The Apprentice
Do You Always Need The Best Ideas?

After a week off, (the 9th episode was a recap) the 10th episode of The Apprentice television show tasked the candidates to create a "Do It Yourself", (DIY) clinic for Home Depot which does $70 billion in sales each year.

Allan's 2
Why Erin's Fired
running time 3:15

Game Analysis
Strategies for Episode Eleven
running time 4:52
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Both teams were judged on originality, involvement with the product and participation with the consumer.

Here are some practical lessons pulled straight from tonight's episode that you can apply to your business today:

Storage Chest Versus Mobile Kitchen Island?
Does a good idea insure certain success? Absolutely not! In fact, while a good idea can help, often mediocre or uncreative ideas can become overwhelmingly successful. This is possible because what usually determines success in the marketplace is the execution of an idea, any idea can suffice. A good idea alone, lacking effective execution can never be triumphant.


What do you think? 
Can you cite an example of a mediocre idea well executed that rivals a better idea that was poorly executed?  
I'd like to hear your feedback. Just call the Apprentice Feedback voice mail line (800) 598-1338 ext. 9915 or email
If you make a good point you could be featured in this newsletter. 

Craig Williams, 37, now on Magna Corp. offered his team a mediocre and "uncreative" idea. Despite his teams initial lack of support, they actually managed, as a team, to execute on the day of the competition to deliver a simple, yet effective twist to building a box - building a storage chest with clever exterior finishes to engage the entire family in the project. This twist to a plain idea fostered positive product and brand experiences while bringing the family closer together. You could see it in the execution, every team member worked with the customers to involve them and their family in the entire process.

Angie Harper, 41, project manager for Net Worth Corp. offered her team what might have been a "better" idea in the mobile kitchen island. Lacking sufficient preparation, the idea proved too complex, and Angie failed to demonstrate to the judges the required interactivity needed to win the task. Knowing her team was short a person and somewhat "hobbled" by Erin Elmore's, ignorance of home improvement, Angie would have been better off to error on the side of a more simplistic idea that her team could execute with high product and consumer involvement. 

--- SIDEBAR ---
Listen to my audio analysis of why Erin was fired along with additional tips on how to be a more effective negotiator.

I see it all the time, "idea" people (and I consider myself an idea person), tend to think ideas inherently are valuable. I can remember when I was starting my first couple businesses, being so offended when I was told "ideas are a dime a dozen - and there is no real value in an idea alone". But now find myself reciting these statements verbatim to young upstart entrepreneurs who get too hung up with a single idea.  

Further, just being an idea person is a very difficult way to achieve success lacking the ability to actually create anything. Thomas Edison, perhaps one of the greatest idea people ever, knew the importance beyond the idea alone and knew he must execute the idea to prove its viability.  As a result, I site here in a well illuminated room writing this article, thanks Tom!

Take Microsoft for example. Many argue that the original Windows operating system was a poor idea and an inferior product to Apple's operating system which was a far superior product (fueled largely by better ideas in user interface design and programming fundamentals that made it a much more stable and easy to use operating system).  

However, Apple clung to its principals of being the only company to manufacture the Apple computer hardware, which prevented the commoditization of the raw building and manufacturing materials.  Microsoft executed a radically different strategy and sought to license its operating software to every licensed original equipment manufacturer of IBM's personal computing hardware. Since a computer really only needed one operating system, Microsoft essentially orchestrated an exclusive distribution channel that has to this very day prevented competitors from threatening the giant in Redmond. 

Simply put, Bill Gates and his team at Microsoft chose a better execution strategy that lead to rapid market adoption of an inferior product.

To this very day, I see much better ideas originating from Steve Jobs team at Apple.  It seems that around 5 years ago, the team at Apple realized that execution was critical, and as such, the common household term for personal MP3 players are now called "iPods" - regardless of the manufacturer. Congratulations Steve for recognizing the importance of a sound execution strategy.

So, how can you go from "Idea Guy" to "Master Executioner"? 
I can share what has worked for me. I had to learn to completely re-adjust the way I think of and value my own ideas.

Catalog - I am typically never at a loss for ideas, so I keep a master file where I document and catalog them for future reference. This is helpful as some ideas are too far ahead of their time, and others will just never prove they have all the right stuff.

Segment - I try to break my ideas into their fundamental parts to create "building blocks" of mini-ideas. This process typically reveals a development path of viable opportunities for further consideration.

Analyze - I closely scrutinize each building block to determine its viability. Is there a potential market, will the market pay for it, is there a similar product lifecycle than can be leveraged or replicated? Can the building block stand alone in the marketplace? (There are entire books written on the subject of evaluating a marketable idea - so, for brevity sake, I will not go down that tangent here.)

Prioritize - I examine all my idea's building blocks, and assess the resources, and expertise that are required to bring a component to the marketplace, my passion for that component, and the timing of market readiness and acceptance of such an idea. I then arrive at a top priority opportunity for execution.

Sequence - I then break a single "top priority" building block that I intend to execute into its most basic fundamental pieces and organize it into an ordered list of tasks. 

Action Steps - I associate every task with its appropriate action steps and set timelines and goals to insure that I am always making forward progress to execute my ideas at their most basic & fundamental level.

Focus - I resist every temptation to chase new ideas, distractions and tangents that threaten to slow or prevent me from forging ahead. Sure, some ideas that rise from implementing an existing idea may actually improve the end product, but, before allowing them to take me off course, I run them through an expedited version of this process above to insure they really do add significant value and do not threaten to derail the completion of the project. 

Remember, its often better to complete a mediocre idea than to never complete a great one. 

Shameless Plug: 
Are you swimming in a sea of "great ideas" but have yet to get any of them off the ground?

ALTI Consulting and our team of specialists can work with you to develop a tactical action plan so you can execute your visions and make your dreams a reality. To get started give us a call or shoot us an e-mail for ONE free hour of complimentary consultation. (206) 984-9560 or

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