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Lessons from the 25th Annual BCG Case Competition

  • Communications
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  • Oct 30, 2020
Lessons from the 25th Annual BCG Case Competition

The winning team with the BCG judges.

For Ivey’s HBA1 students, the real-world learnings came in spades. Working in small groups, they were challenged to analyze cases, prepare their position, and pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, while also learning to work on a virtual team. It was all part of the 25th Annual Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Case Competition, which began on Oct. 27 and wrapped up today.

With only a few hours to prepare for each round of presentations, the student teams tackled three separate cases during the competition. Eight teams were then selected to show their elevator pitch videos to a panel of judges in the finalist round today.

HBA1 student Zach Train said there was never a dull moment and the pressure of tight deadlines only added to the excitement – and the learnings.

“The high-paced environment and the short work periods motivated my team members and me to work faster than any other case competitions we've been a part of. This element really adds a level of excitement to the projects,” he said. “I think a lot of us are learning how to combat procrastination, while also understanding more about our own strengths and weaknesses while under pressure.”

The competition is designed to enable students to apply concepts and skills learned in HBA1 to real-world situations. BCG judges gave advice from the consulting process and some even shared memories from their HBA experience. This year, nine of the 12 BCG judges are Ivey alumni and some competed in the same case competition when they were HBA students.

Learning virtual team dynamics

Traditionally an in-person event, the competition pivoted to virtual format this year due to COVID-19. This allowed the students to experience the challenges and benefits of working on virtual teams, which is an important learning, says faculty judge Martha Maznevski, PhD ’94.

“Working virtually can help individuals work more effectively by being in an environment that suits them. On the other hand, if the team has some underlying challenges, the virtual mode will multiply those,” said Maznevski, who is a professor of Organizational Behaviour and Faculty Director for Executive Education at Ivey. “All of this is part of the real life of teams in organizations, so it’s helpful that our students experience that.”

Even before COVID-19, Maznevski said businesses were working more and more with virtual teams. Companies take advantage of the flexibility in membership that this provides, but virtual teams are not often used in educational settings.

“The students who are fortunate to be in this kind of learning environment now are on the leading edge of being able to explore the possibilities and become comfortable with the practices needed. Even when we can go back to working face-to-face, these skills will be more important than they were before,” she said. “It’s great to see our students learning to present well virtually. This is going to be a key skill for them in the future, COVID-19 or not.”

Other takeaways from the BCG Case Competition

Here are just a few of the many lessons learned by students:

Harleen Cheema, Section 8

“I have learned that these quick turnarounds require high adaptability. We have been taught for so long to try and make everything as perfect as possible, but, with tight deadlines, you just have to roll with the punches and make the best out of what you have.”

Umang Bhatara, Section 4

“The competition has provided me with insight into the subtle nuances that are in the consulting world. The competition is thought-provoking and involves the entire skill set of our business acumen.”

Karina Forth, Section 2

“I was initially attracted to Ivey due to the emphasis on experiential learning. The BCG Case Competition has highlighted the benefits of learning in that way. Although rigorous, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of creating a quality presentation under tight time constraints. This increased pressure has shown me the importance of leveraging the skill set of each individual team member.” 

The winning teams

First Place: Team 6 (Section 6) Jack Burton, Edmond Ha, Danyaal Irfan, Mina MacNeil, Kate San, Eric Senatore, Sunny Wang, and Serena Zhao;

Second Place: Team 8 (Section 4) Coco Cao, Kristin Fang, Emily Huang, Jack Ma, Bailey Newton, Nathan Pogue, Jacob Zhang, and Allan Zhou; and,

Third Place: Team 2 (Section 3) Andy Chiang, Alvina Lin, Jack McCay, Alex Nelson, Alisa Si, Mathew Vanderhoeff, and Lareina Wei.