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Nanyang MBA team wins prestigious John Molson Case Competition

Published on: 25-Jan-2019

Congratulations to Nanyang MBA 2018 participants, Victor Han, Daniela Pillhofer, Vishnu Prasad and Liao Minghao, for winning the Concordia Cup 2019!

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The team brought home a trophy and prize of $10,000.

Open to top business schools worldwide, and recognised as the largest case competition of its kind, the John Molson MBA International Case Competition aims to bridge the gap between corporate and academic worlds to enrich both students and executives alike.

The competition consisted of seven unpublished business cases as well as a live case presentation by a major company facing a real-life business challenge. The team from NBS beat 36 other teams representing universities from 20 different countries to emerge as winners.

We spoke with the team about their experiences.

What motivated you to join this case competition?
It started with Prof. Vijay Sethi’s sharing of the competition in class. We all felt that participating in this case competition would be a great opportunity to test our skills in an intense environment and a great learning experience. 

For Minghao, it was also tempting to test whether he could succeed in a business competition despite coming from a military background. We certainly loved a good challenge at a global scope and envisioned the competition as a platform to build on essential employment skills, such as thinking on one’s feet, presentation skills and case analysis. These skills are a must-have for a consulting career, which Victor envisions to take on.

What were some of the challenges you faced during this competition?
The time constraints were certainly a big challenge. Not only did we have limited time to familiarise ourselves with our respective work styles, we also had limited time to solve each case and prepare our recommendations. 

Teamwork was key and understanding everyone’s strengths as well as weak points, was crucial. By the third case, we agreed that defining everyone’s roles clearly was the way forward. We would brainstorm and decide on the problems underlying the case and the solutions. From there, each of us took up a role: Daniela took the lead on the presentation and risk management; Minghao and Victor focused on our strategies’ implementation plan and Vishnu “owned” the financials. 

As we progressed to the semi-finals, fatigue began to set in and pushing through the exhaustion posed a great challenge as well. Through maintaining constant communication as a team and trusting each other’s skills, we managed to improve from case to case. Finally, our respective value propositions, which neatly complemented another, fully shone through.

What were some lessons learnt from taking part in the competition?
The sum is always greater than its parts. While all of us are from different backgrounds and nationalities, we understood that through transparent communication and understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, implicit barriers for cooperation can be overcome. We turned our challenging diversity into a strength – coming up with more ideas, opinions, working styles and stories. Diversity is key to success. 

Also, it is very important to believe in yourself – it doesn’t matter if you are already excelling in a skill or if you are just making your first steps in a particular area. The right attitude can make a big difference. 

How did the Nanyang MBA programme benefit you in this competition?
Our leadership classes were crucial to turning us into a winning team. Before we started working together, we were already sensitive to different working styles and cultures and were mentally prepared to adapt and compromise. 

Our Technology & E-business classes with Prof Vijay Sethi, where we were constantly encouraged to think outside of the box, were particularly helpful as the guiding theme of this year’s John Molson case competition was “disruption”.

Any tips for fellow MBA participants who are interested in taking part in this competition in the future?
The John Molson case competition certainly is a once in a lifetime opportunity to test one’s skills on a global, very competitive stage. We were very impressed by the quality of teams there and having managed to take the victory home to Singapore, is a great boost for our confidence. 

That said, anyone willing to take part in this competition should know that it is a very time-intensive commitment and one only gets as much out of it, as one is willing to put into it. 

If you decide to take part, approach it with an open mind and always be receptive to pivoting your ideas, guided by your team. Prepare early and prepare consistently. Embrace this opportunity and give it your all. Bond with your team and understand how you tick during time pressure. You cannot plan out everything, but you need to be ready to plan for everything – on the spot. 

Above all, enjoy it and share the John Molson spirit!

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