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The Donald, wrong? Say it isn’t so

Trump credo on communication proves false on ‘The Apprentice.’ By Andy Dehnart
/ Source: contributor

During our weekly "Apprentice" lesson, after we quieted down with our juice boxes and peanut butter crackers, Mr. Trump wrote "Sell Your Ideas" on the chalkboard.

Then he turned to us. "In life, you can have a great idea, but if you can't get those ideas across, it's never, ever going to work," he said. Then, speaking from experience, Mr. Trump gave us a generic but definitive example. "I know so many people who have great ideas but they can't sell the ideas. Guess what? They're not successful."

We took copious notes and gazed at him with awe.

But within less than an hour, we learned that our teacher was completely wrong. Because this week on "The Apprentice 3," the most ineffective communicator had the best project, and his team easily won the task despite his inability to communicate.

Ultimately, Donald Trump's advice proved useless, as the ability to sell an idea just didn't matter.

The beauty of the boxShilling for this week's sponsor, Home Depot, the teams had to create a do-it-yourself project to demonstrate at a store.

Magna's team leader Craig decided that they would demonstrate how to build a toy chest. Or, as everyone else referred to it, a box.

Craig gave it various names, like when he called it a "space-saver trunk," but really, it was a wooden box, and it was not very exciting.

A sign at the Home Depot announced other "How-To" Clinics:

  • "You can install a thermostat"
  • "You can install easy flooring solutions."
  • "You can install tile with TrafficMaster grout"

Had someone from Home Depot added Magna's project to the list, it would have read, "You may put our customers into mild comas with The Box, but we're just thankful that you're not involving a cucumber in your demonstration."

Craig's team hated the idea. Alex said, "I think Craig's toy chest idea … just seems boring. Would you want to go to a clinic on making a box? I mean, that rocks, huh? No." Tana was less sarcastic, but told Craig, "I love it, but it's not creative enough." Despite his team's reluctance, Craig moved forward. Even as they stood outside complaining, he worked to build box after box.

But then the customers showed up, and Craig's idea took shape.

Children and their parents flocked to the demonstration. Magna team members spread paint on their hands and kids stamped their handprints onto the wood. Others decorated pre-painted boxes with chalk. Adults added pieces to partially-constructed boxes.

Everyone was thrilled.

Over at Net Worth, things were literally falling apart as they tried to demonstrate how to assemble a rolling kitchen island.

The Home Depot executives were ecstatic about The Box demonstration, and with the customers it pulled in. One of them said, "I have never seen a clinic ... where you get the parents involved, as well as the children." Thus, the team won easily, despite Craig's complete inability to sell the idea to his team.

Never say neverAnd thus the episode's events directly contradicted Donald Trump's advice. Perhaps Trump brought this on himself with his tendency to be superlative, as he said definitively that a poorly communicated idea was "never, ever going to work" and added that those poor communicators he knows are "not successful," period.

Clearly, that wasn't the case. Still, the entire episode was constructed around Trump's insistence that an inability to communicate would categorically equal failure.

The artistry of "The Apprentice" — and its dirtier older sibling "Survivor" — comes from the way each episode is crafted into a narrative. On "American Idol," we're essentially watching a talent show led by a wind-up doll with a microphone; on "The Apprentice," we watch a story unfold. "Survivor" first introduced elements of foreshadowing through interstitial images; footage of animals devouring each other, or of lightening tearing through the sky, gave clues about what was to come from the human characters. When "The Apprentice" was introduced, its second-segment "lessons" from Donald Trump set the episode's focus.

With hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of footage to edit into a single episode, and with logos to show and products to whore relentlessly, there's barely time to give a summary. Thus, the footage chosen by the editors shows us what's important; like writers, they include only what matters to the story they're telling. So when we heard Mr. Trump's lesson, and then saw Craig's teammates complaining vociferously about his communication problems, we could see the direction the story was taking. Craig was history, or at the very least his team was going to fail.

But the evidence didn't match the thesis, and viewers were left doubting Donald Trump, whose television show has become required viewing in some business and leadership courses. Essentially, Donald Trump was arguing that it's the wrapping paper and bow, not the present, that matters. Give someone an ugly gift, and they're going to stomp off crying without ever opening it.

‘Wild man’ lives to face another dayTrump definitely believes this, even though it's clearly not always true. If his lesson wasn't example enough, his belief in this idea became clear late in the episode and set the stage for a soon-to-be-classic boardroom moment. Deflecting attention from criticism about her performance, Net Worth's Erin noted that, besides scaring every living creature on earth besides newborn midges, Chris also chews tobacco and swears a lot.

Trump first commented that Chris is "just a wild man" who is "probably insignificant." But then, engaging Chris about his habit, Trump said, "I don't want a guy who works for me who chews tobacco." And he wasn't kidding. "I can't see a guy working for me that's chewing tobacco, and I really mean it." While Chris has no chance of making it to the end of "The Apprentice 3," Trump's reason for not wanting to hire him was curious. Trump did not say, "I don't want a guy who explodes faster than fireworks on a bonfire" or "I don't want a guy who might make me wet my pants when he orders lunch."

Instead, Donald Trump focused on the external, the wrapping paper, the ability to communicate the idea rather than the idea itself. Clearly, he believes that what's inside is irrelevant unless the outside projects the image he wants — even if that means losing something incredible or successful.

is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.