What possesses a (relatively) sane rational human being to wake up at 6am on a Saturday to go to university?
Bleary eyed and somewhat sleep deprived, I forced my relatively comatose body to shift out of bed and get ready for a full day of learning and doing something that I’ve never done before; solving a case! Whilst cursing myself for thinking this would be a great idea when booking, I was definitely more than a little excited about the day ahead at Warwick Business School.
The consulting case is all about solving problems in a logical manner, using the information available and making reasonable assumptions. The day would involve analysing data, developing a launch and market entry strategy into the Canadian market, and presenting our findings to the board of a fictional confectionary company. Working in richly diverse teams, not only were we working other MBA and MSc students, we were working with MBA students from Sauder Business School (who had come over to the UK from Canada). It was fascinating seeing how people from very different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences came together to solve a problem. Each group was also supervised throughout the day by a couple of consultants who generously volunteered their time.
For me, this was the first time I’d ever worked on a case. The volume and variety of data meant that it’s all too easy to easy to give straight into the analysis and lose track of the bigger picture. Fortunately our mentors were there to guide, challenge and give us an idea to best practice. The main takeaway was the importance of having a structure in place and constantly revisiting the purpose of the case. Having the mentors also gave us a unique opportunity to see how consultants think and operate. For example, instead of everybody reading the same material and then bringing their own conclusions together, it was advised that we should read individual sections and bring our learning together, thus saving precious time. It might seem simple enough, but believe me when I say that, at the time, it wasn’t immediately apparent!
Working with students from around the world, with all of their unique experiences was amazing. Having to manage individual working styles, communication differences, cultural norms, and experience bases, bought into sharp focus some of the challenges of international team work. After defining the structure, splitting the tasks, bringing our individual analysis together, we were racing against the clock to put the presentation together and run through it. I’m sure my group would agree that we felt underprepared even as we delivered the presentation. That being said, it was massively educational to see how the other groups presented, what analysis they carried out, and the kind of querying carried out by the board (consultants). After the presentations, we had a short Q&A session with the consultants and were free to ask questions around careers and the life of a consultant.
After we were ushered into the large lecture theatre where the final winners would be announced. Our group were pleasantly surprised to learn that we were one of the winners! We were each given a signed copy of Harvard Business Review’s ‘Building the Business Case’ book. The entire experience also added value to my current role, it enabled me to breakdown larger issues and solve it in a methodical manner, and helped improve my understanding of strategic collaboration and to look at the wider picture when assessing impact. Needless to say I was very happy with the whole day. Not only had I picked up crucial consulting skills, experienced a live case environment, learned an incredible amount, and connected with some truly exceptional people, I also got a book (those who know me will appreciate that I would probably swap out a kidney for a good book)!!!
I guess that’s what possessed me to get out of bed at 6am on a Saturday and go to university.
P.S. A huge thanks to WBS for arranging everything, and all the consultants (particularly Stocker Partnership for creating the case) who kindly gave up their time, I learnt so much in a day!