Portugal’s University of Porto Business School was declared the winner of the John Molson International MBA Case Competition on Saturday, taking home both the Concordia Cup and the $10,000 cash prize.
The faceoff between the three finalists, rounded out by Kaiserslautern and Queen’s University, concluded the five-day event, which attracted teams from 36 universities around the globe to the Fairmont Hotel Queen Elizabeth. Concordia’s John Molson team did not make it past the semi-finals.
The event can best be described as similar to competitions such as Model United Nations. The case competition is to the professional world as Model UN is to the United Nations: it acts as a microcosm of the type of decisions that are made every day.
“This is exactly how they would probably solve business problems in real life,” said spokeswoman Natasha Schneider. “They’re given some information and they’re asked to come up with a solution, basically they have to first identify the problems, the alternatives, and make a recommendation to their superiors.” Schneider is one of three members of the 2011 organizing team and is an MBA student at Concordia.
Once given a case, the five-member squads have three hours to develop their strategy. They then present it to a panel of judges, after which they are assigned a score according to the quality of their presentation. Above all, the competition tests the participants’ ability to prepare a solid case under time pressure. “They are writing and preparing those slides right up until the very last minute, right up until the three hours are up, so there is a tremendous amount of stress,” said Dickson Jay, who has coached the John Molson team for the past two years, and picks the team from the students in a class on cases and strategy he teaches in the fall semester.
Despite the competition’s premise ? that the skills honed throughout the week translate to the real world ? school is never far from the mind. Case in point: on the convention floor, a long hallway lined by conference rooms on each side, the team hosts sit outside the rooms like invigilators as the teams deliberate. Team members are not permitted to leave without accompaniment for the three hours they are allotted to prepare their case, even for a bathroom break.
The competition also has a strong networking and social component, with various events organized throughout the week. This year, the organizers decided to switch things up. The previous incarnation of the Friday night event had been a costume party. This year however, the slot was filled by a black and white ball. “It’s like a prom at the end of a long year of school, a graduation dance,” Schneider explained.
The competition is not-for-profit, with proceeds being donated to Lights for Life, an organization which furnishes rechargeable lights to children, with the goal of aiding their education.
Schneider hopes that in coming years the competition will grow to include universities from every continent.
This year marks the 30th edition of the competition, making it the oldest of its kind in the world. The organizing team commemorated the anniversary by making rings for the participants. The idea, said Schneider, was “to provide them with a piece of memorabilia, sort of like going to the Olympics and keeping one of the medals.”