There are two reasons to watch reality T.V. - one is to regale with laughter at how little of it resembles reality in any form and the other is to cringe during the bits that are all too real. As a general rule the bits that are all too real are those where the contestants or protagonists are put under pressure and respond in very human ways. Masterchef Australia is a master of puting its contestants under pressure and their response is eerily similar to the way many corporates and their executives respond when they are put under pressure. In short, everyone stops thinking, makes really bad decisions and then blames those decisions on either unforseen factors or a failure to take something into account. The truth is that when pressure is brought to bear far too many people just panic, latch on to the first possible solution they can think of and then try to rationalise the process later.
The Masterchef contestants are ostensibly in a cooking competition but hardly anyone is ever knocked out for poor cooking. What gets them everytime is poor decision-making. For example, the challenge is to cook for 200 people on a farm using an open fire and a contestant decides to attempt gnocchi. When was the last time you had gnocchi at a BBQ? The challenge is to create a low salt, low carb burger so a contestant adds a sprinkle of salt to the burger to enhance flavour. Why would you add an ingredient you have been asked to avoid? The challenge is to produce a sweet dish in 30 minutes so a contestant decides to poach a pear which will take 30-40 minutes to cook properly. Why would you choose a dish that takes longer than the time available? The answer to all these questions is they did so because they didn't think at all and the examples of this in the corporate world make Masterchef look like a cooking competition.
For example, Coca Cola were feeling some competitive pressure from rival Pepsi and, even though they were still the market leader by quite some distance, decided to abandon everyones favourite Cola recipe and bring New Coke to the market. The result? Unmitigated disaster.
We all know companies that have made people redundant only to discover no one else could do their job and have to re-hire them as consultants to train someone else. We all know of businesses renown for their innovation and creativity only to themselves be blindsided by someone elses innovation and creativity. We all know smart, rational people who have succumbed to the dumbest, most irrational behaviour.
What is most concerning is that in Masterchef, as in life, the contestants usually know they are making a mistake but persist anyway. It is the most frightening example of the triumph of hope over experience... and the less recognised, but more common, triumph of experience over reality.