In this issue of Management Today : Never mind humankind, I’m finding too much reality hard to bear these days. Reality TV is a pretty poor way of telling us the truth about anything. Just as Benefits Street had little that was edifying to contribute to the debate about welfare, so The Undateables is merely content to provide a cheap, voyeuristic snigger at someone with Down’s or autism. The sound-and-fury-filled columns of the Daily Mail – the organ on which the producers of these programmes all fix their sights – is not where rational consideration of anything takes place. The problem is that, in the desperation to provide the vital jeopardy – the fake cliffhangers that are the sine qua non of modern television – nothing gets considered with much intelligence, or is properly analysed. That would be too dull. Dragons’ Den has the same problem. Its format – an elevator pitch – was only ever supposed to be the first of many conversations. But due diligence is not the sort of raw material that made Othello or Citizen Kane. I can think of few things more drawn out and potentially tedious to observe than an early-stage SME in search of finance. The one thing it will provide keen entrepreneurs with is publicity. Imagine how fast Levi Roots got an appointment with the jerk sauce buyer at Sainsbury’s after his three minutes of fame on the box. And good luck to the guy – he is a rare example of someone not
emerging as a victim. Dragons’ Den may have started as a blend of reality and entertainment, but it’s now simply the latter. It’s a chance for the preening Dragons to ratchet up their profiles, increase their speaker fees into the plump five-figure bracket and make use of the Branson method of doing business where it’s just the name they bring to the party. The BBC will tire of it before long, and it’ll find a nice home just before Ice Road Truckers on Channel 5. There’s probably an interesting documentary to be made about the rise and fall of the Co-op. Those Rochdale pioneers were stern types, with an unbending view of what they were in business for – to help their customers – which contrasts markedly with today’s rather more heterogeneous world. I very much hope the Co-op can sort out its governance problems and survive this hideous mess. There remain many who would rather trust the Co-op with their money than Bob Diamond or Tesco. It’s not the concept of mutuality that’s the problem, rather the Co-op’s ham-fisted execution. Matthew Gwyther, MT Editor
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