Last week I was lucky enough to represent QUT at my fourth and sadly, (as I am graduating this semester), final international case competition. The QUT International Case Competitions team attends around 12 a year, and this particular one was held at the National University of Singapore (NUS). I was selected to attend along with Angus Mitchell, Fergus McKinnon and Justin Riley.
Generally at a case competition, students expect to do a few short cases (3-5 hours) and one long case (24-40 hours). NUS, however, prides itself on its ‘mystery’ format that it reveals just before the competition begins each year. This year and last, NUS decided to shake things up a bit by giving students two cases simultaneously. We had 31.5 hours to solve both cases, and the prioritisation was up to us – Case A was a knockout round, so if it was not good enough you wouldn’t get through to semi-finals. But if you didn’t focus enough on Case B, then even if you did get to semi-finals you were unlikely to do well. If I were to state a theme for the competition, it would be ‘torturous suspense’ – you were always on the edge of your toes (but in a good way).
Case A was on a Singaporean start-up company, ‘Novelsys’, offering a B2B tech product called ‘Juice’. Novelsys needed to decide which of two potential product designs would best serve the market and how to target those business customers.
Case B was on Bath and Body Works, which has over 1,500 stores in the US but needed to grow awareness in the Singaporean and Thai markets.
At the end of 31.5 hours of solving and two days of presenting, QUT was honoured to receive first place!
The most tangible learning outcome of the competition is unarguably from solving these real-world business cases. You learn how to define, simplify and articulate complex business problems, and to then design a meaningful solution and present it with conviction. But in the process, you also learn a lot about what challenges businesses are facing in general, and the depth of criteria they use to determine if a strategy will actually work (from legalities and operational issues, to testing the validity and defensibility of the core value the business offers its consumers).
Outside the competition element itself, I’ve also benefited from so many broader lessons. From where Australia sits on the world stage, to the differences in cultural contexts and how that actually translates to the way people do business – the interaction with other teams affords a global perspective that can only be ‘learnt’ through experience. In the past I had competed in Montreal, Hong Kong and Belgrade and the way of life that I witnessed in each of those cities, was so different for every one.
Perhaps the best part is that the experience you share is so full-on, that by the end of the week you forge amazing friendships, and become part of a mini global ‘community’.
I joined the QUT International Case Competitions team in my second semester at uni, and can truly say it has been the most challenging and rewarding aspect of my university experience. It has given me not only lifelong friendships and an insane amount of business acumen, but is also responsible for helping me to realise my passion and future career aspirations.
I cannot thank BALI enough (Bill, Andrew, Larry and Ingrid), our advisors who do all the hard work behind the scenes. QUT, of all the universities in Australia, has the highest involvement in international case competitions by a long way. If you like strategy, I cannot urge you enough to apply – an email is sent at the beginning of each semester. I promise it will be the best thing you ever do.