Business School Case Tournaments: Why You Should Compete

The global team that won Foster's 2014 Global Business Case Competition. Photo courtesy of Foster School of Business

The global team that won Foster’s 2014 Global Business Case Competition. Photo courtesy of Foster School of Business

GROWTH THROUGH THE PROCESS

Even students who fail to make the team gain. While there’s no junior varsity squad in these tournaments, there is great value in being put in a high-stress, high-stakes competition arena and getting evaluated. Fieldler says a lot of the students who don’t make the team the first time at Carlson take the feedback, improve and make the team the next year.

“Even the tryouts are such a great opportunity to put yourself into a pressure situation,” says Charles Henke who was a member of Carlson’s 2011 international team. “The process will tell you a lot about yourself. It is definitely a great way to evaluate your ability and interests and what you want to do in the future.”

Matthew Hashim, a professor at the University of Arizona’s Eller School of Management regularly sends competitive teams to Carlson’s student-run CoMIS competition, says feedback from the trial process can also help with classroom presentation experiences.

INTEGRATION FROM THE CLASSROOM TO A REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE

The classroom is not the meeting room. It is an obvious but often overlooked fact. Case competitions force students to think with a problem-solving brain.

“Students focus in their specific areas like accounting or marketing and that is how it can be in the real world sometimes as well,” Glassman says. “Teams are put together with students from different disciplines and are forced to learn how to interact with each other.”

Fielder says she watches students transform from “blabbering about MIS stuff” to speaking and presenting like professionals. And it is the feedback and coaching from outside of the classroom that gets the students there.

Jane Hershman, who organizes the teams and trips for case competitions at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, says participating students truly have an opportunity to engage in messy business problems that they would probably not otherwise see.

RECRUITING AND JOBS

Perhaps the greatest value of competing in one of these case challenges is the chance to be in front of senior leaders from large corporations. There are, after all, few opportunities for undergraduate students to do a presentation in front of senior execs from Starbucks or other highly influential companies.

Foster’s Aoyama says she often asks corporate executives to followup to ask for resumes of presenting students. Glassman notes that  the value of being able to speak about a competition in a job interview is unmatched. The tournaments not only open the eyes of students to other employers, but also opens they eyes of employers to new talent. And it doesn’t hurt to strike connections with peers that often are used for traveling as well as global jobs.

IT DOESN’T TAKE ROCKET SCIENCE—JUST PRACTICE

Coaches and students say the best way to make a team at your school is to practice. Aspiring case competitors can gain a lot by doing online searches for previous cases. Many are published or at least presentations are placed on YouTube. Most case competitions are relatively similar.

Being able to communicate and think strategically are also pieces of advice from former participants. Practicing presentation and research skills will vastly improve the likelihood of success.

“Talk to people who have done it before,” advises Rudisel. “You can find really good examples of what a top-notch presentation should look like online and can model those. Being able to learn quickly and efficiently is essential.”

Try it. That was the advice given by Deme Xenos who was on Foster’s team at the 2014 Global Business Case Competition. “Even if you think it is not for you,” says Xenos. “Get a team together and just go for it. Even if you don’t win the case, you’ll win by learning about yourself. It as an opportunity to meet and work with people you would have never met before.”

PROMINENT CASE COMPETITIONS

Case Competition Host school Recent Participating Schools Date
 CaseIT MIS Case CompetitionBeedi School of Business (Canada)Concordia University, Indiana University, University of Minnesota, University of Vermont, San Diego State UniversityFeb. 11-14, 2015
 CBS Case CompetitionCopenhagen Business School (Denmark)University of Pennsylvania, University of North Carolina, Georgetown University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Southern CaliforniaFeb. 2015
 CITI Case CompetitionHKUST Business School (Hong Kong)University of California-Berkeley, University of Florida, University of South Carolina, University of Southern CaliforniaOct. 26-31, 2014
 Global Business Case CompetitionUniversity of Washington (Foster)Florida State University, Western Washington University, University of North Carolina, Seattle University, University of PennsylvaniaApril, 2015
 McGill Management Case CompetitionMcGill University (Canada)University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Washington, University of South Carolina, University of FlordiaMarch, 2015
 CoMIS Case CompetitionUniversity of Minnesota (Carlson)University of Texas-Austin, University of Arizona, Emory University, Georgia Tech University, Michigan State UniversityApril, 2015
 The Champions TrophyUniversity of Auckland (New Zealand)University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington, University of Southern California, University of California-BerkeleyJan., 2015
 APEX Biz-IT Global Case ChallengeSingapore Management University (Singapore)University of Minnesota, Colorado State University, Simon Frasier University, University of Florida, Texas A&M UniversityMay, 2015
 John Molson Undergraduate Case CompetitionConcordia University (Canada)Georgetown University, University of Florida, University of South Carolina, University of Southern Indiana, University of VermontFeb. 22-28, 2015
 Midwest Diversity Case CompetitionIndiana University (Kelley)University of Illinois, Ohio State University, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Iowa, Purdue UniversityJan., 2015

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