The first year of any MBA program can be grueling. But members of this winning Merage School team explain why it’s so important to get involved beyond the classroom.
Now in its fourth year, the Nespresso Challenge engages MBA students around the world to deliver ideas for the Nestlé Nespresso shared values strategy program. In partnership with the Sustainable Markets Intelligence Center (CIMS) and INCAE Business School in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, the challenge spans a quick timeframe: student teams have four weeks to prepare and submit proposals based on a case study challenge. In Spring 2016, with 86 teams from business schools around the globe participating, the Merage School team was one of only five U.S. schools to make it to the semifinals. “This is a highly competitive case study competition,” says Luyi Gui, Assistant Professor, Operations and Decisions Technologies. “The performance of our team is a remarkable achievement.”
The Merage School team included full time MBAs Laura Wang, Paul Nichols, Melanie Henderson, and Tony (Tsuyoshi) Nojima. Completing their proposal in their first year of the program, with no sustainability experience was a challenge in itself, but Nichols says the learning experience was irreplaceable. “In an MBA program, 50 percent of what you learn is in the classroom. The other 50 percent is what you make of it. Sure, the first year is overwhelming, but it’s important to go out and work with people. You’ll learn from each other and equally important, you learn how to communicate your ideas.”
He notes that for the team, winning was important, but not everything. “The high point came when we were nearing the end. The general consensus was that we had a top-notch deliverable. Even if we didn’t move on to the next level, we were satisfied with what we had created.”
The team is quick to credit their advisor, Professor Gui for their success. “We gave her three drafts of our proposal,” Wang says. “Each time, she read it line by line and gave us helpful comments. And, she was very skillful in helping us discover the answers for ourselves rather than just telling us how it should be done.”
Wang also points out that the challenge gave them the opportunity to generate new ideas and practice skills, especially working together as a team. “In that short timeframe there were a lot of late nights,” she says. “We’d say, ‘we’ll be finished in an hour,’ but five hours later we were still at it. All in all, we had a great time. ”
Entries in the 2016 Business Plan Competition reflected a variety of consumer, life science, information technology and social entrepreneurship business ideas. Click here for a full list of winners.