Teams, Judges and Industries
Blog Linkage :
That post above is what drives my thoughts below, which are my initial thoughts on reading 14 Secrets to a winning a case competition.
When it comes to "case competitions" I am now a "one day old", the objective being that I immerse myself in the modern students world of a competition type that I never engaged when I studied in England in the 80's. If I had, I now know that I certainly would have enjoyed the cut and thrust of case competitions, though I don't think I would have enjoyed the straight-jacket of thinking that one must operate from in order to win a case competition. Let us call that academic discipline, but the downside of prolonged exposure to the world of case competitions is probably turning into a case competition robot. So as I begin to study this area of competitive academics, I will keep my focus on its rich educational potential, rather than mire myself into the impetus that drives why a team would want to win a case competition.
Today I turn my attention to some students in Texas who in 2011 wrote a blog called "14 Secrets to Winning a Case Competition". The post linked is written by Tracey Mueller. It is my practice to focus on the individual mind that offers a perspective, rather than that groupthink mentality that is a tribal associates with an institution or a curator, so many people would miss the fact that that this post included the thinking of Stillman, Chang and Rubinson. Evokes Stills, Crosby and Nash doesn't it, and if it does, these three students become much more real.
The perspective these three students offer is about winning a case competition, and most writers will offer their views from this perspective, in the case of this post, Tracey Mueller points out a sterling track record of wins by the McCombs School of Business, so here I will indulge the human desire to be a part of winning team, even though my raison d'être is life-time education and not an achievement that for most will be a part of their history no sooner than the moment most studetns start their work-life in a full-time capacity.
The McCombs graduates split their perspectives into three categories or at least Tracey curates it that way :
Build a balanced team
Anticipate the judges' questions
Understand industry trends
Immediately I can draw in that this touches upon the three tripods of case competitions - the team, the judges who judge that team, the industry or background that the judges belong to.
No matter how well one lays out an argument, what comes out in practice is mostly far different to how we conceive it on paper. Here we should separate the academician from academics. The academician has the skills to research and build a great case, but a case competition is a practice, so it must undergo the process of the cutting room floor, whereas academics can be graded A+ but have very little practical use in the way we actually engage in the world.
As I learn more about case competitions here, my only reference point is the world I live in, rather than the prototypical setting of a case competition. In reality a case competition is a sports event, for if it was anything more than that, most employers would be putting their own employees through such case competition. Look at any graduate employer program and it is centered around sending the graduate into the field and getting a taste of different parts of the business. Why is there a difference in practice between the workplace modality and the business school modality? That is purely a rhetorical question for my own mind to ponder.
I can see why Tracey says competitions are often won in Q&A, this is no different to a fighter taking the last round because they know what will score points for the judges, hence case competition for the pursuit of victory is a sport.
For any case competition team, the blog post above is a succinct check-list of things to be mindful about but that does not mean that they will be practiced by students. That is the challenge that I heard from the Case Competition executive I met yesterday and as they formulate their approach, I serve them very little by replicating what it is they are doing right now. Instead I embrace this as a personal learning challenge. One of those challenges is mentioned in the article about Judges from Karson Chang
The disparity between what you think you know and what you actually know is often surprising, and it forces you to do extra research.
Where I am lucky is that in learning about case competitions, I am not under the pressure of justify every assumption presented to a judge. That is a real pressure to cooker to put any person in, let alone someone who has yet to experience the full potency of work life experiences. Karson does make really good points about judging and these points in turn I can use if one of these days I decide I might want to be a judge of a future case competition.
What I love about Alison Rubinson's response about industry trends, is actually her reiteration of the sheer scale of a case competition. She is a student in Texas, her school has to go to Los Angeles for regional and then the national competition in Connecticut. I would not be surprised that schools pick students that have no real intent in pursuing the competition further than their own backyard, so I can envisage leaders of case competitions dreaming of the academic version of the crane kick, only to find out that Daniel Son does not have the will to go past the first hurdle - but I am sure there are Case Competitors with that crane kick - but being so new to this sport, it will be my pleasure to find them in due course, and yes I am implying that judges might go for the knee of the case competitor team. I have a sweet spot for the mortal underdog. Just when we can dream, Rubinson reminds us that it also can come down to luck.