Last weekend, first year Master of Human Resource Management (MHRM) students underwent a kind of “rite of passage”: the annual MHRM Internal Case Competition.
The competition was sponsored by PepsiCo this year, and real executives from PepsiCo as well as other companies that recruit heavily on campus—Marathon, The Wendy’s Company, Ford, Rolls Royce to name a few—were on the judging panels. At 8 AM Friday, we were briefed on the case (a real problem that PepsiCo HR professionals were currently facing), and after a 20-minute Q&A, we broke off into respective 4-person teams to begin our work. We had until the following morning at 8 AM to conceive a solution and figure out a way to sell it to the judges in 20 minutes. If you ever participated in some sort of “lock-in” at your church or school, then that’s a good starting point for understanding. We spent 15 hours in Gerlach Hall that day—or as I like to call it now—my second home.
My team’s day consisted of some serious brainstorming, followed by changing our minds several times, and finally settling on a simple and practical solution to the problem. Was it too simple? Had we thought through all the details? What if they throw us a curveball? These were the questions rattling in my brain all day. But we were in a time crunch (yes, that’s on purpose), so we had to roll with it.
Fast forward past lunch, dinner, laughing, crying, sleeping (there was not actually any crying) to the next morning. We arrived back at Gerlach Hall the following Saturday morning at 7 AM and received our presentation room and time slot. At that point, we scurried back to our room to hammer out the last few details and practice, over and over…and over…and over………………………and over.
We had a tough room—the judges are trained to interrupt you and throw you off to challenge your ideas and assumptions. Now seems like an appropriate time to introduce the idea of Type II Fun:
“Something that is fun only after you have stopped doing it”
– Type II Fun
At the end of a nerve-wracking and intense Q&A session, we left our room to debrief how we thought it went. What was most difficult for me was not having anyone to compare ourselves to. We were not permitted to collaborate with other teams, nor see their presentations. So, it was difficult to know how competitive our idea was. Situations like this definitely challenge my discomfort with ambiguity.
At the end of deliberations and a delicious lunch provided by the Fisher College of Business, the results were in. I am proud to say that my team won our room, which is especially exciting considering we were strangers just a few days before. It is so satisfying to be able to come together and leverage our strengths as a team so quickly and effectively. And I feel lucky to have made some new friends along the way!