Lord Alan Sugar reckons he knows why The Apprentice succeeds where other reality shows fail, saying: “If it’s not broke, don’t try and fix it!”

At the launch of the 11th series of The Apprentice – which returns to BBC1 next Wednesday – the entrepreneur was asked why he felt the business challenge series had continued to enjoy steady viewing figures, while shows like The X Factor – with its format shake-ups and ever-changing judging panel – has struggled in the ratings.

Lord Sugar revealed what he believed is the secret to the show’s success. “I’ll tell you what it is, it’s very, very simple,” he said. “It’s that the BBC, the production company and myself are not interested in gimmicks and trying to change things. If it’s not broke, don’t try and fix it.”

The new series of The Apprentice sees 18 candidates compete to become Lord Sugar’s business partner and win a £250,000 investment. His most feared aide, Claude Littner, will join Karren Brady, keeping a watchful eye on the contestants throughout the process.

Lord Sugar said: “It is the consistency of keeping things the same, with slight tweaks like mixing the teams up [in this series’ first task], which we wouldn’t normally do. But in my opinion – and I say this respectfully to The X Factor – gimmicks don’t seem to work. It in fact, in my opinion, led to the demise of what they call the ‘civilian’ version of The Apprentice in the US. They just started doing all silly things and, in the end, the audience saw through it.

“So, what’s good about The Apprentice and why we keep the ratings is very simple: I’m the same – getting a bit older I suppose – but what’s not the same are the candidates. It is those candidates, which is the compelling viewing. It’s the different candidates and it’s the uncertainty of what they’re going to say and do, which makes it the great programme that it is.”

When asked if he had any advice for X Factor bigwig Simon Cowell, Lord Sugar replied: “He wouldn’t listen to me. But he could shave the beard off for a start!”

The Apprentice returns with a double-bill on Wednesday October 14 and Thursday October 15 at 9pm on BBC1.