A major source of learning in MBAs is through case study competitions. It lets you do some of your most meaningful work. Solving real life business problems for Mahindra, ITC, Phillips or HUL gives you a great rush. There is also great motivation of huge prize money and PPO/PPI. Here is a list of things that help you get cracking at competitions.
A Structure: Even the most spectacular ideas will fail to make it if they lack a proper structure. Things should always be logically connected and backed by empirical evidence. It is imperative to explain why out of so many alternatives you choose a particular solution.
Innovative Idea: At the end of the day, this is where the buck stops but it is good to limit the boundaries in going out of the box. Sometimes in our endeavour to be innovative we come up with something impractical and impossible for the company to implement.
The Team: Almost all competitions need you to work in teams. So you cannot afford a one man show here. Diversity in the group is also important. It helps to have people with different skill sets in the team so that while one takes care of financials, other does your analytics.
The Presentation: Most of the competitions will also need you to submit your solution as a PowerPoint presentation. So your PPT making skills would be very important. Proper alignment, efficient use of space and the overall look and feel of your presentation is what will finally make or break your case.
A Differentiator: When everybody works on the same case there is bound to be some overlap in the ideas. This is why you require a differentiator in you final presentation. A unique video, animation, some new model etc. is required to separate you from the lot.
Learning from Mistakes: It is very difficult to find mistakes in your own baby and while working on these cases your solution becomes your baby. Although it is difficult to accept faults in your solution in case of defeat. It is a good practice to look out for shortcomings and learn from them.
The Fudging: Analytics and consumer insights is a lot about how good you fudge your data. It is almost impossible to come with effective market research at our levels but one is expected to do it. So, a lot will boil down to how effectively you manipulate your data to validate all your insights.
The Art of Copying: Copying is an art which serves one well (look at Pritam!). But it requires a lot of effort. If you are an avid reader who keeps eyes and ears open then you will come across a lot of successful campaigns from around the world that are simply mind blowing. If you are able to borrow from these with an Indian twist then you have a killer solution.
The Luck: Yeah that b***h again!! It is impossible to win a competition if you don’t have luck on your side due to the subjective nature of the judgement. You can only increase you probability of winning by participating in more and more competitions.
PS: This advisory comes from someone who has won absolutely nothing but has been a keen observer. So if you think there is a set process to success, there is none.
Ishan Arora is a student from IIFT who has had a very regular life- an engineer, an IT professional and now an MBA student. He is very passionate about writing and writes on a personal blog A Vent in the Delirium. He is also in love with music and plays on internet radio in his college.
You can Follow me on InsideIIM at Ishan@insideiim.com