Monday, November 22, 2010

In Case You Hadn't Heard

This week marked our first case competition in the best two year MBA program, which also marked the first time I’ve missed both my MBA program blog entries on a timely basis. But when you’re holed up in one room for four days straight, averaging 13 hours of work a day, sometimes you’ve got to prioritize.

Each year, the first-year students participate in the case competition, a nearly six-day head-to-head battle of the consultants. The competition is always sponsored by an organization; this year was Whirlpool, which poses a question to the student teams. The teams then may use any resources they like, not including professors, second-years, or anyone connected to the sponsoring organization to conduct research and present the best-possible recommendation for the company’s problem. This comes in the form of a 30-minute presentation, 15-minutes of PowerPoint and presentation and 15 minutes of Q&A from the judges (which are made up of professors and second-years).

This year, Whirlpool divided our class into three sections and asked each of us how to penetrate the filtered water market in either Mexico, India or the United States. We were given only one page of data, four days to work, and sent on our way. The presentation was charged with Beach Boys music, sun glasses and surf boards, bottled water and a barrage of Whirlpool water droplet stress balls. Charged with taking on Mexico, my team of Green 11 hit the books running at one of the top ranked MBA colleges.

The next four days were fascinating – I’ve got to tell you, I never thought I’d ever learn so much about the Mexican water situation or the science behind water filters. Our group bounced all sorts of ideas off each other, from massive central filtration devices, to under the sink water filters, to bottled water. In fact, each day that we finished our work, we left a phony solution drawn on the whiteboard to misguide competing teams, out of fun: these included filtered hot tubs and sourcing filters from Alaska using Sarah Palin as a spokeswoman…..

In the end, we recommended penetrating the luxury hotel market in Mexico with a faucet-attached water filter in each room. This seems so simple, but keep in mind more than 48 hours contributed to creating the sound financials, marketing plan, economic analysis and supply chain calculations. We were proud of our idea, I still am, but the judges were more akin to bottle-less water coolers in office spaces.

It’s easy to say this now, but maybe not in the thick of things – I really loved the experience. We got to apply everything we’ve learned in the last 10 weeks from all of our classes to try and solve a real-world problem. In addition, you learn so much about four people when you’re trapped in a project for so long. I’ve got a team mix of marketers who include a Texan who modeled, a Cleveland HIV tester originally from Nigeria, a family man from Japan who used to be a conductor, and another gentleman with his eyes set on bettering the healthcare industry. And who am I?

I’m the guy installing water filters in Mexico City’s Hilton hotels.

Come be a part of the practical applications that multi-billion dollar companies take your recommendations and ideas and change the world.

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