Mani Selvam, Two-Year MBA ’18

Oct 05 2016

Making the Case for Case Competitions

Mani Selvam, Two-Year MBA ’18

One major aspect of life in business school is competing in case competitions. In the current MBA environment, a candidate will never run of case competitions to participate in. Do you want one focused on high-tech innovation? The energy market? Latin America? The answer is “yes” for all. When a case competition begins, teams are provided with detailed information about a particular problem. After that, they have have an allotted amount of time to come up with a suitable recommendation for the business problem.

Before getting into business school, I couldn’t understand the purpose of case competitions. Why should we work for a grueling four to eight hours and bring about a solution to business problem that can’t possibly have a perfect solution? After competing in the SC Johnson Case Competition as part of the Marketing Management core curriculum, I realized how case competitions complement your MBA experience. The competition definitely showed me some of the skills and behaviors that I need to develop in myself.

Here are the top three things a case competition experience will provide you.

Insights into team dynamics

A successful team is a group of many hands and one combined mind. After competing in one or two competitions, everyone will start realizing the importance of team dynamics. Even a team of brilliant minds may fail in the competition if they don’t work well with each other. Understanding the strengths of each team member and leveraging that to the advantage of the team will bring in victories. If all you do is dominate the case without any compromise, you will end where you began in the competition: with no solution. So remember, the goal is to ideate, compromise, and progress.

You’ll be given lessons from your peers

My team (Patrick Jones, Jie Zhu, Chelsea Turner, and Sebastian Weiner, all Class of 2018) didn’t win the SC Johnson Case Competition. But we learned more from the experience than we expected. During a case competition, you will understand why the MBA program is about learning from your peers. The case solutions that other teams present demonstrate what’s expected in the current business environment and showcase the skills you need to be successful. They make you think about what you may have missed, and they bring about another perspective. Among your peers, you’ll always be able to find a better team, a better solution, and a better story. Try to use this opportunity to learn what makes them better and then find ways improve yourself and your team.

Story matters

Even with all the data that worries MBA students, a great story is still the lifeline of the case solution. Don’t get me wrong here. A sound strategy, precise financial analysis, and clear implementation roadmap are all still very important for an ideal answer. In fact, without these, reaching the last step of the competition is not guaranteed. A story that clearly ties everything together will assure the gold for the winning team.

So after taking my first steps in business school, I can gladly say that the SC Johnson Case Competition (and all case competitions to follow) is not about testing your strengths. It is about preparing and shaping you for the challenging business world ahead.


From left: Patrick Jones, Jie Zhu, Manikandan Selvam, Chelsea Turner and Sebastian Weiner (MBA Class of 2018) — Team 49 aka The Niners

From left: Patrick Jones, Jie Zhu, Manikandan Selvam, Chelsea Turner and Sebastian Weiner (MBA Class of 2018) — Team 49 aka “The Niners”

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