Case competitions: the MBA sport of choice

This weekend a couple dozen of the first year students participated in the P&G Case Competition. I’m proud to say that one of my mentees was on the winning team. Congrats to the uber-talented Shay Merritté and his teammates, Nancy, Brian and Prasant!

Case competitions have become the varsity sport of MBA programs all over the world. Teams practice for weeks or months, travel to the competition site, and engage in intense competition with teams from other top MBA programs. In most competitions the teams only have 24 or 36 hours to read the case, form their strategy, perform the necessary analysis, come up with solid recommendations, create their presentation and get a couple hours of sleep before presenting the next day. The experience is second to none.

Each year, the Fisher College has an internal case competition for the first year students. Faculty, alumni and friends of the Fisher College volunteer their time to serve as guest judges. The winners of each room make up a pool from which the college chooses the best students to represent Fisher at the national case competitions such as the Big 10 Case Competition and the CIBER MBA Case Competition.

Last year I had the pleasure of competing in three case competitions. My respective teams placed 2nd in the Get Green Business Case Competition, 1st place in our room at the Fisher College Internal Case Competition and 2nd place at the Big 10 Case Competition. This year a group of us are applying to compete at the Wake Forest MBA Marketing Summit, one of the most prestigious case competitions in the country with a $50,000 prize. We sent a Fisher team last year, so I’m hoping that we make the cutoff of eight teams once again.

For the first years at Fisher, I strongly encourage you to participate in the internal case competition. It’s the closest you’ll get to presenting to the board until you get back out into the real world. And you know what they say, “practice makes perfect.” I think we had around 80% of our class participate last year, so it would be nice to see your class raise the bar even higher. Unless you’re getting married or getting surgery that weekend, I expect to see you there.

And for the few students who get chosen to be on the Big 10 and CIBER teams, you are in luck. Professor Marc Ankerman is great in the classroom, but he is even better one-on-one. Being part of the Big 10 team last year was like having a personal public speaking coach. I learned so much about preparing and delivering effective presentations, which served me well when I presented my recommendations to the HR executive team this summer at Deutsche Post DHL. Ankerman is the real deal and the Fisher College is lucky to have him to give us a little polish before we re-enter the workforce.

Now I find myself on the other side, teaching presentation skills to a classroom of 40 undergraduate students twice a week. I don’t know what I would do had I not participated in the case competitions last year. When my students ask me a question, I just think, W.W.A.D.?

Mike ^_^

2009 CIBER MBA Case Competition Champions (Seth, Annie, Ryan and Chad)