Case Competitions in Business Schools
Before joining a B-school, I had read somewhere (probably on this forum itself) that B-school competitions are tough to crack and people ought to respect those who do. Not fully understanding the nuances of the statement, it was last December that I got into a team of three and participated in what was to become the first of many case study competitions. And today I can proudly say that these competitions have been much more than an integral part of my two years of pursuing an MBA degree. If I were to enumerate the benefits that I have received from participating in these case studies, then they would be as follows:-
• Most of the cases that the companies float as competitions are real-world problems that either they are currently facing or have faced in the past and think that they might recur again. So attempting to solve these cases, gives you an understanding the industry, the firm, its business model, its revenue model, who its competitors are, etc. Most of the times, the cases contain information that is otherwise classified and not available on public forums, and hence, serve as invaluable insights into the company. But care must be taken that such information should not be used loosely.
• Management education has a lot to do with peer-learning. It is not possible to learn all that you can only in the classes and on top of that, the duration of the programme is a mere two years. Hence, these case competitions serve as excellent means of learning from students from other B-schools. It might often happen that when some other team is presenting their analysis, you chance upon a model or a framework that might be helpful going forward – or they might have analysed the case in a completely different yet logical manner and you gain a different perspective altogether.
• Generally, these competitions require the participants to submit their solutions either in the form of a Powerpoint presentation or a report or both. Therefore, the more you participate, the more adept you become in making slides and/or reports in Microsoft Word. The research that one does simply to gain insights into how consultants and the likes make their slides, becomes extremely helpful going forward. You can also develop your signature style of making presentation decks. It also gives you an excellent opportunity to learn the different tools and techniques in Microsoft Office.
• It might so happen that your expertise lies in Marketing, while others in your team might have their focus areas as Finance or Operations. Now since the solutions to the cases more often than not entails concepts from different disciplines of management, you get to learn from them as much as they get to learn from you – and all this happens without requiring any of you to pore over big bulky books or go through open-ended Internet sources. The secret to success here is to maximise the overall output of the team as a whole because you would not be judged as individuals.
• Once you are in a B-school, you are bound to be bitten by the placement bug – be it your Summer Internships or your Final Placements. CVs are the primary keys to shortlists and string resume points are quintessential in order to make you stand out from the rest. These case competitions are one of the best ways to fill up your CVs. Not only are most of them sponsored by well-known companies (many of which actually turn up in your campuses for recruitment), but also they are conducted on a national level which makes them all the more prestigious. But the only disclaimer is that you need to either come 1st, 2nd. Or 3rd in them in order to create the impact that you intend to. Merely participating in them might fall flat on your resumes. However, unless you participate, there is no chance that you can win – hence, enthusiasm is what matters!
• Lastly, almost all B-school case study competitions are well-funded and have quite a bounty up for grabs if you crack them successfully. And who on this beautiful planet does not love to earn a little extra while still pursuing an education! This serves as a wonderful motivation for putting on our thinking caps and coming up with break-through recommendations in order to resolve the companies’ issues!
I am not saying that this list is exhaustive. Many others might perceive these competitions differently, while there might also be people who consider them to be nothing more than distractions in their MBA life. There is nothing right or wrong about them. But people who have voluntarily participated in such competitions and have enjoyed them, would identify with the high that you get while presenting your analysis before a panel comprising the company’s top management. It does not take much to form a team of three, register, and give it a shot – at the end of the day, there is truly nothing to lose!