WHY SHOULD WE PARTICIPATE IN CASE COMPETITIONS (PRIZE MONEY AND PPI’s? DUH!)

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STRUCTURED THINKING IN AN UNSTRUCTURED WORLD

 We live in a world where computers can make decisions faster/cheaper than the human mind. Then why do companies pay big bucks to MBA’s from fancy B-Schools?

Due to one word – Uncertainty. (Ugh, not that word again) In an uncertain world, complex challenges are thrown at a company, daily. A government, in all its infinite wisdom, may pass a regulation rendering 25% of your unsold inventory legally unsellable. An important raw material may suddenly be unavailable due to a fire at the supplier’s plant, thus creating a bottleneck in your plant.

This is where we apply our MBA skills – both technical (think statistics, operations et al) and organizational (think OB, negotiation analysis) to steady the ship. No AI has been invented to do this – yet! (If it has, please write to me at shriram_jatar@isb.edu and I’d like to learn more)

This is where cases come in. We go into case competitions without any knowledge about the problem. We are forced to think on our feet, make instant, dynamic decisions and put on a “big picture lens”. We get a chance to act like CFO’s and CEO’s before even stepping out of our convocation halls!

 TEST OUT OUR ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR THEORIES IN REAL TIME

I’m sure our HR or Team Management classes have given us a flavor of group dynamics, but case competitions are the perfect way to experience it in a simulated environment and test out what works for you!

Find out how to overcome–

Default Biases – “Everyone’s chosen a particular case study, let’s not follow the herd and choose what actually interests us, however challenging it may be.”

The Self-similarity Principal (Tendency to work with others who have a similar background as us) – What better way to get to know colleagues who are not in your class or social circle? Just ask if they want to work with you on a competition! (I speak from personal experience, having made several friends by just working together on comps)

Personality Biases – Learn how to work with two people on the opposite end of the neuroticism spectrum (Can super calm and anxious people make a great team? What better way to find out!).

 In the future, all of us will go on to excel at our respective fields. However big our designation is, the CMO must still convince the CFO that there is sufficient market potential for a new product to be profitable. The CFO must ensure that there is enough working capital to fund the development of the product.

Case competitions simulate this very environment. You’ll sit next to a guy with 3 years of marketing experience, trying to work on an FMCG products go-to-market strategy. Or learn basic coding from a seasoned software engineer. Now you have enough knowledge to at least assess the problem and not be taken for a ride by an expert in the field.

PULSE OF THE INDUSTRY

This is my absolute favorite part of working in case competitions!

You’ll get a flavor of the hot topic in that industry – Whether it is subscription based models competing with the big guns in the shaving industry, P2P lending reshaping the microfinance industry or blockchain technology disrupting traditional insurance!

These are not just buzzwords, but highly relevant for us when we step into our jobs post B-school. If you want to shift into a particular industry, do as many case competitions as possible in that space, it’ll make great conversation fodder in your networking events, group discussions or interviews with future employers!

In short, the possibilities are endless, only bound by our imagination. The perfect time to begin our innovative thinking journey is NOW.

Last but not the least, how can I end my article without a shameless plug for ISB’s premier International Management Festival – Advaita?

This year, Advaita 2018 looks to further the exemplary vision and immaculate standards established over the last 5 editions, embracing the overarching theme of “Transforming Businesses”.

Be a part of this revolution – Envision. Transform. Inspire.

– Shriram Jatar                                                                                                                                       PGP, Class of 2019                                                                                                                               Indian School of Business (ISB)

 

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How to approach a case competition?

What excites a B-school student the most? Working on real-life business challenges, solving complex managerial problems, competing with the best brains and most importantly bringing some real tangible solutions on board.

Here are a few points to be taken care of while attempting a case competition.

How to form the right team?

Choosing the right people to work with becomes extremely important. It’s not just the experience, but common interests and goals that the team members bring to the table that makes them more cohesive as a team.

How important is team dynamics?

Extremely important and cannot be emphasized enough. Team dynamics is not just about constantly pushing and motivating each other, but supporting each other and accommodating meeting schedules to suit everyone.

Having good whiteboard discussions and healthy arguments can help uncover all perspectives. Appointing a devil’s advocate enforces better and intense brainstorming around a problem statement. Different perspectives add to a holistic view of the case at hand.

What makes the team standout?

  • Share common goal: Each team member should share a common interest in why (s)he wants to win the competition and what motivates us as a team. Identifying a common thread superimposes efforts put by each individual team member, thereby, harnessing superior outcomes.
  • Diverse experience: A team with a diverse professional and educational background, say, ranging from core sciences to engineering and consulting to product management brings a lot of experience to the table.

What are few things to be kept in mind while approaching a case?

  • Understanding the objective: The approach to problem-solving entirely depends on how well you understand and articulate the goals and the problem to be solved, the clarity of the objectives and status quo.
  • Getting as much information: The key difference between an academic case and a case competition is that the prior gives all the information related to the case, whereas case competitions give limited information. Backing up claims with data increases credibility and substantiates your approach to problem-solving
  • Content Planning: Insights supported by appropriate frameworks from course learning. Frameworks help structure thoughts while ensuring all key points around analysis are covered.
  • Exploring: Research, research, research! The amount of research done should be visible, both primary and secondary depending on the context.
  • Furnishing: The art of storyboarding keeps the evaluator engaged and maintains the flow of the solution and articulates what fits in where. This helps in making the presentation stand out.

For the final face-off:

  • Preparedness: Right from the presentation, the rehearsals, timing, content to be covered, questions that might come across, everything needs to be thought through. The right execution becomes the differentiator here.
  • Presence of mind: The impromptu situations and the response can be critical to those final brownie points
  • Performance to the best of the capacity: It becomes extremely important for each of the team members to perform at the best of their capacity.

– Eeha Ashok                                                                                                                                            PGP, Class of 2019                                                                                                                               Indian School of Business (ISB)

Inputs as shared by Chaitra Hebbar, winner of J&J (Nationals) case competition.

The Evolution of Business School Competitions

To almost every MBA aspirant today, B-school life is synonymous with the case competition. Companies, more than ever, are willing to throw open their challenges to solutions from students. Business schools themselves hold a multitude of events ranging from simulations to case writing competitions. But has management education always been that way? Has learning always been driven by technology and access to so much data? Has there always been so much prize money associated with winning a competition?

The practical component of the B-school experience primarily depended (and, to a great extent, still depends) on the case study – a format in which a richly-documented business situation is evaluated by applying classroom learnings. In the 1980s and 1990s, such evaluations were taken outside the classroom. Business situations were opened up to multiple participants and a winning solution was picked based on the jury’s criteria. However, the elements of rigor and challenge were still seen to be missing. To bridge this gap, the University of Texas held the inaugural “Moot Corp Competition” in 1984, a business plan competition which required participants to pitch a business venture rather than just evaluate a past situation. The “B-Plan” has since become the centerpiece of most business school competitions ever since.

Technology, too, has played its part in the growing popularity of these competitions. With increasing amounts of data and processing power being made accessible, competitions have become more sophisticated. Real-time evaluation of results, multiple simultaneous users, remote access and gamification have all augmented the authenticity. Pitching new business ideas seems to be growing in popularity, with Harvard’s New Venture Competition offering upto $170,000 in prize money.

We at ISB hope to make some of the finest business school students in the country battle it out against each other in an exciting mix of business plans, quizzes and simulations through our signature event Advaita.

-Abhishek Amar                                                                                                                                       PGP, Class of 2019                                                                                                                               Indian School of Business (ISB)

When MBA gives you lemons, make CONQUESTS out of them!

Life of an MBA student is an infinite loop of classes, assignments, projects, exams, quizzes and yes, more assignments! Most of us get entombed in what seems at times, an abyss of academic monotony. A friend once told me (during a week of 8 submissions and 4 exams), “Kill me in my sleep! At least that way I will get to sleep peacefully!” But just when you thought death is certain, there appear in the vicinity, oases in the desert.

What oases, you ask? They are none other than the ever so innovative, the ever so competitive, the ever so mentally stimulating “Business Games”! At least that is what I call them. They are strictly business alright, but they are more fun than bane.

Where else can you build your own business without worrying about losing real money? Where else can you debate on the topics of economic and political importance without being held accountable for them? Where else can you sell products on an e-commerce platform without actually having one? (This one is an ISB special!)

These Business Games aka College fests are one stop for all the above and more. They wake us out of our slumber, make sure we think out of the box, ensure we find a real implementation for “fundas” learnt in classes and the best part, they let us network and actually have some fun!

Among the plethora of these “Business Games” in India, stands tall and strong, ISB’s Advaita, one of the largest business fests of India. Held at an international level, Advaita is an amalgamation of the brightest minds from top B- schools around the world. Advaita witnesses massive registrations of 16000+ every year. That’s not all! This year, it is set to go bigger and better than ever! More on this in the days to come. Until then, I need to get back to (sigh) my assignments!

Until next time, guys!

-Rashmi Huilgol                                                                                                                                       PGP, Class of 2019                                                                                                                               Indian School of Business (ISB)