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Guest Blogger: Eric White - Case Competitions

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Hello everyone! My name is Eric White and I'm a junior here at the Carlson School. The blog post I'm writing today is about business case competitions. These case competitions are a unique opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and skills they've gained in college to a real-world scenario. Now, you might be wondering, "What is a case competition?" Well, in essence, it is a competition where teams from different universities come together and try to find the best solution to a real-world business case. These cases can be focused on problems a company or industry encountered in the past, or current challenge that a company faces today. To keep it interesting, these cases generally don't spell out the central problem for you. You must dig into the case, do outside research, and form opinions on the best course of action that the company should take to overcome the challenges it faces. The cool thing is there's no right answer, just like in the real world. After forming recommendations you must present your recommendations with justification to a panel of judges who assess the caliber of your presentation, arguments, and rationale. Then they follow up by asking questions about your methods of analysis or your reasoning and force you to defend your recommendations. Carlson holds various case competitions throughout the year. In the spring, a few fortunate teams get to travel to different universities to compete with schools around the nation, and sometimes around the globe. Generally, these are teams qualify by placing 1st or 2nd in a Carlson-sponsored case competition in the fall. My three teammates and I (who are all excellent friends) had the privilege to attend two case competitions this spring, one at Indiana University, and another at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. The competition for Indiana University was focused on diversity and the case revolved around finding a way for Target Corporation to reach out more effectively to its multicultural guests. We received the case about 3 weeks in advance so we would have ample time to gather information about the problem and prepare our recommendations. Throughout the weekend of the competition, we ended up meeting many different students from universities all across the Midwest (and a few from the east coast), talking with recruiters from the sponsoring organizations, meeting faculty from the business school, and learning about the importance of diversity in the business world. We had a lot of fun that weekend and ended up placing 4th of 21 teams which we were very proud of. The Madison competition was a very different but equally enjoyable experience. We spent the first evening of the competition socializing with other teams from other Big Ten universities and eating a great barbeque dinner. In the morning we were presented with a case on a business unit of Pfizer (a large pharmaceutical company). This competition was much more crunched for time as we only had 3 hours to read the case, form our recommendations, put together our presentation and practice. The time constraints definitely added another layer of complexity, but my team handled it well and we ended up placing 3rd in the competition. I'm amazed at how much I have learned from participating in these case competitions. I have been challenged to think of creative and feasible solutions to tough problems and I have been forced to brainstorm quickly, tolerate ambiguity, defend my opinions, and present a complex topic in an understandable way. Most importantly of all, I've learned how important trust and teamwork are in succeeding in the business world. If you decide to attend the Carlson School, I sincerely hope you take advantage of all the amazing opportunities here, including participating in case competitions. Opportunities like these are what truly shape your four years of college into a challenging and rewarding experience.

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