Business musings

Articles and thoughts about Our News

30
Sep
Introducing Erick Ratamero

Today, we’d like to introduce Erick Ratamero. Erick is a PhD student with the Marie Curie Centre for Analytical Science Innovative Doctoral Programme (Marie Curie CAS-IDP), with which we are involved as an industrial partner. It is our pleasure to offer an industrial secondment to Erick and we’re thrilled to share with you his experiences at PyCon UK.

Photo of Erick Ratamero standing in front of his academic poster at PyCon. Erick is wearing glasses, a blue shirt and a red lanyard. The poster is white, with a blue border, and is entitled 'A multi-layered approach to cultural Dynamics (with Python!); it includes an abstract, background, details of our model and future work.

2015 was the first time PyCon UK, a well-established community conference for Python developers in the UK, added a Science track to its schedule. As it was happening here in Coventry, I have decided to join them and present the work I have been developing with my supervisor at the University of Warwick, Matthew Turner, and Matt and Debbie Stocker.

We have been working on a model for studying the two-way interactions between populations and “broadcasters”, that is, agents that can influence the opinions of a whole population. With small adaptations, broadcasters can come to represent media, advertisers, political parties, innovators and so on. It’s not finished and there is a fair amount of work to be done, but it’s interesting and we have some preliminary results, so we decided to show it to the world!

PyCon itself was a great experience. I am used to academic conferences, so going to an event where most people are in industry was a welcome change of pace. I was amazed by how strong the sense of community was! Everyone seemed completely comfortable striking conversations with anyone else, no matter how ‘important’ they were. I think there is a lot more both industry and academia could be learning from each other when it comes to software.

The poster session was really interesting. I realized how much I have come to rely on jargon to explain my work, and having to describe what I do to people who are very clever but who do not share the same vocabulary was a great challenge (that I hope to have overcome). There seemed to be a lot of interest for the work I have been doing, with lots of people asking to take pictures of the poster to read the references later and some great discussions with academics and developers alike. I will certainly attend again in 2016!

22
May
Posted by Debbie Stocker, stored in: Innovation  Our News  

Earlier in the year, we ran an innovation masterclass at the Coventry Growth Hub for the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce. It was great to see everyone getting their heads around innovation and what it means for their business. The event has been featured in C&W in Business and we thought you’d like to see the article.

Participants explore how to become more innovative during the Chamber’s January Masterclass run by strategic innovation consultancy Stocker Partnership

It’s looking like 2015 will be the year of innovation…

For the 30 businesses that attended the Chamber’s Innovation Masterclass run by Stocker Partnership, it’s looking like 2015 will be the year of innovation.

The well-attended event was relocated to the conferencing facilities at Cheylesmore House due to high demand from business professionals wanting to learn how to apply innovation in their businesses.

Innovation specialists Matt and Debbie Stocker from strategic innovation consultancy Stocker Partnership challenged participants to think differently about their businesses and to step beyond their everyday experiences.

They opened the group’s eyes to the fact that it is possible to innovate anything and everything within a business, rather than innovation being limited to the creation of new products alone.

Sarah Hickman from Public Marketing Communications said, “Innovation can seem like a daunting subject that doesn’t necessarily apply to your business on a day to day basis. When you think about innovation you tend to think of organisations like Apple. You might think, ‘I could never aspire to be an organisation like that.’

“The Masterclass has been useful because we’ve learnt ways that you can actually apply innovation to your business. Even if you’re a small business or a sole trader, you can still innovate and there are practical steps you can take to introduce innovation.”

The Masterclass covered a number of powerful innovation tools, from disruptive thinking that challenges accepted norms in your marketplace or company, to using the power of silent crowdsourcing to generate ideas and solve problems through BrainSwarming.

It also looked at how approaches from another industry can be introduced to expand thinking and unlock new ideas as the latest Software as a Service revenue models were applied to create new income streams. Participants worked hard throughout the morning to develop practical ideas that they could implement as soon as they got back to the office.

Matt Stocker, Director of Stocker Partnership, shared, “It was great to see everyone beginning to view themselves as innovators and starting to understand the value of innovation in their businesses at a deeper level. Innovation is a hugely powerful tool that can be used to drive revenue growth, reduce costs, solve complex challenges and differentiate businesses from the competition. I’m excited to see how the great ideas that everyone came up with will be applied in their respective businesses over the coming year and the impact that this will have.”

This article originally appeared in the May/June edition of C&W In Business, Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber’s official magazine.

16
Mar
Posted by Matt Stocker, stored in: Innovation  Our News  

Introducing our Stocker Partnership video! Filmed and edited by the talented Nico Turner, it gives you a short introduction to who we are, what we do and how we do it. If you like what you see and wish to explore working together, do get in touch!

 

Continue reading for the full video transcript

Coventry MakerSpace
A couple of months ago, Coventry MakerSpace opened for business at the Koco Community Resource Centre in Spon End, Coventry. A really exciting addition to the local community, there are already some great projects underway, including MakerKids and a hand built Arcade Machine. If you fancy joining, membership is just £25 per month for unlimited access.

Back to my design roots

Debbie spotted Coventry MakerSpace via MeetUp a little while ago, and having persuaded me to go along to one of their Maker Open Nights (held every Thursday), I got the design itch again. In the last month or so, I finally made the leap to join.

Before my Management Sciences degree at Warwick, my original intention was to be an Industrial Product Designer and I completed the first year of an M/Des BSc in Industrial Product Design at Coventry University before transferring to Warwick. I don’t regret my degree or career change in the slightest, but I do still love design.

I love the way design trains you to think. How it teaches you to visualise ideas and bring them to life practically; to prototype, test, scrap stuff and start again. I love the constant learning as you challenge yourself to fuse ideas and concepts together into a cohesive whole. Once you’ve learnt to think that way, I don’t think it ever leaves you.

So having decided to join MakerSpace, all I needed was something to design and make! Given that we work with a lot of technology and software businesses, I wanted to choose a challenge that would be relevant, that would develop my skills and understanding, and that would, of course, be fun.

My other requirement was that I wanted to write a series of articles both on the project itself and on some of my thoughts about the design/creation process. I’d like to include some of the interesting technologies I come across along the way too.

A good excuse for a Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi (portrait)Having been hankering after a Raspberry Pi for a while, I decided to base whatever I designed around that. In some ways it feels like a cliché—make something, use a Raspberry Pi, post it on Instructables. Even so, I loved the potential flexibility of the Pi—it is essentially a blank canvas, albeit with certain constraints. With the arrival of the Pi—the new B+ revision with 512MB RAM and micro SD card—at the Stocker Partnership offices, I really had no excuse!

Given that the main reason I was drawn to the Pi was its flexibility, I wanted to create something that didn’t hinder this and that stayed true to the blank canvas approach. The issue with failing to narrow the scope adequately, of course, is you can end up with something that does nothing very well—not unlike the new F-35 Fighter Jet, although my project is admittedly significantly less expensive! A Frankenstein of design, if you like.

In narrowing the scope, I did know that I wanted whatever I made to be audio focused and to have a touchscreen interface. I also knew I didn’t want it to look like spaghetti junction with wires sprawling in all directions, unlike most of the Pi creations I’d seen. I knew I wanted the project to be my own creation and that I didn’t want to just follow someone else’s instructions—ideally, I’d like to do something a bit unique. Finally, I wanted to 3D print, and potentially laser cut, the case to explore these technologies in a product design/prototyping context.

So I wouldn’t say the above counts as a ‘clear brief’ as such. More, a creative direction in which to explore further. This outline was certainly good enough for me—and given that I am both the client and the designer, I’m pretty confident that I can clarify more further down the line when I know more about what’s actually feasible!

Watch this space for more updates as I work on the project…

MakerSpaces are creative spaces in which people can gather to create, invent, design and learn. Typically, these community spaces provide access to opportunities and technologies, such as 3D printers, computer-aided design (CAD) software and wood working tools, that would otherwise be inaccessible or unaffordable for many. 

Coventry MakerSpace has been set up to support the makers, engineers, designers, artists, programmers, computer scientists, modellers and all the other people who like being creative in Coventry. It’s an organisation run by members for members in a relaxed and safe environment. To find out more about Coventry MakerSpace, visit @CovMakerSpace
Facebook Coventry MakerSpace
Meetup www.meetup.com/CoventryMakerspace
Wiki Coventry MakerSpace Wiki

Not only has Debbie’s work been published on one of Hong Kong’s leading education websites but Matt’s opinions have now reached as far afield as Australia. In September, we received a rather surprise email from the editor of Tasmanian Business Access asking if it would be possible to feature Matt’s review of one of the best selling business books of all time, Good to Great by Jim Collins. Of course, we were delighted to say yes.

Tasmanian Business Access connects with the people and businesses of Tasmania, one of Australia’s most dynamic regions. Each month, 20,000 copies are distributed direct to businesses, networking groups and selected residential areas throughout Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and Devonport.

Matt’s review was featured alongside the thoughts of Iain Bayly, Editor and Publisher of Tasmanian Business Access. For this article and others, including insights on creating a learning culture, why sales doesn’t have to be a necessary evil, and when business failure is not business failure, download the full publication.

Header of the Tasmanian Business Access October 2014 edition

Tasmanian Business Access - Good to Great Book Review

16
Sep
Posted by Debbie Stocker, stored in: Our News  

Photo of Matt sitting in front of a radio microphone and wearing headphonesEarlier this summer, one of our good friends, Adair Richards, invited Matt to appear on Radio Plus.

On Monday evenings, Adair presents a drive time show, in which he invites local and global stars to the studio for some honest chat.

In a short interview, Matt and Adair chatted all things business. Highlights included the motivation behind setting up a business, what it’s like to work with a business partner who also happens to be your wife, thoughts on consultancy, and ideas about how to solve the England football team’s crisis in the World Cup!

Listen to the full interview below (approximately 12.5 minutes). You can also check out Adair’s show every Monday between 5pm to 7pm on Radio Plus, 101.5FM.
 

 
Continue reading for the full interview transcript

12
Sep
Posted by Debbie Stocker, stored in: Innovation  Our News  Strategic Planning  

Our Agile Strategy Planner is a brand new tool that enables you to create a dynamic strategy. We’ve been using it in our work with clients for just over a year now and thought that it was about time to release it into the wild!

The Planner acts as a bridge between strategic intent—that is, your vision, strategic priorities and core objectives—and detailed implementation. It allows you to take your intentions and to rapidly prototype what these might look like in reality. As you visualise how one objective impacts another, you’ll quickly be able to see whether your strategy is realistic and if you need to scale back your plans or can in fact afford to be even more ambitious.

Well documented strategic plans are important but there’s a danger that they become a weighty tome sitting on a shelf gathering dust. Their relevance can also be fleeting for those firms that operate in fast-moving, unpredictable markets. We wanted to create an approach that was different. As a tool, the Agile Strategy Planner is flexible, collaborative, transparent, easy to use and visual. It’s also suitable for all kinds of organisations—from software to services, corporates to charities, and everything in-between.

We’ve released the Agile Strategy Planner under Creative Commons so it’s free to use and adapt, even commercially. The only requirements are that you share alike under the same license and that you give appropriate credit to us, the Planner’s original creators.

We’ll be sharing more of the thinking behind the design of the Agile Strategy Planner soon but in the meantime, find out more by viewing the SlideShare below—the short guide has all the lowdown you need to get started. Free downloads for both the 3-year and 5-year planner are also included or simply download now.


 
If you use the Agile Strategy Planner in your organisation, if you have thoughts, feedback or ideas that you’d like to share, or if you progress our work under creative commons, we’d love to hear all about it! Do drop us a line and feel free to share on Twitter #AgileStrategyPlan

Earlier this year, we were busy researching, writing and designing the challenge for the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition.

Held on 25-26 April by Warwick Business School, the competition brought together multi-disciplinary teams from 12 university-based business schools across Europe. In a close-run contest, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford emerged victorious, walking away with both the title and the £4,000 prize.

Sponsored by global providers of transformational medical technologies and services, GE Healthcare, and global business and technology leader, IBM, the competition was focused on a big data solution designed to both stimulate progress in clinical neuroscience and improve outcomes for those with a neurological disorder.

Taking up the challenge to recommend a scaleable business model for this digital product were teams from Aston Business School, Cranfield School of Management, ESADE (Spain), HEC Paris (France), IE Business School (Spain), Lancaster University Management School, Manchester Business School, Mannheim Business School (Germany), SDA Bocconi (Italy), University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, and Warwick Business School.

Photo and Twitter collage from the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition showing the welcome icebreaker event on Friday night, the kick off of the competition day itself, and case materials.

On hand to act as a sounding board for participants as teams developed their ideas were experts from GE Healthcare, IBM, KPMG, the NHS Health & Social Care Integration Centre, University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire, Warwick Medical School, and WebMD.

Adding another invaluable perspective were Ken Howard and Dorothy Hall, to whom we were introduced by client and changemaker, Gill Phillips, creator of the award-winning Whose Shoes? approach.

Ken describes himself as an old biker, sci-fi fan, granddad, music lover and free thinker. He was diagnosed with dementia around 8 years ago but has been living with its effects for much longer. Although little can be done medically, Ken is determined to fight dementia every day by challenging himself and staying involved as much as he can.

I am conscious that I have a short shelf-life. It makes me impatient and frustrated that progress is so slow. I am trying to achieve as much as I can. There is life after diagnosis.

Dorothy is an Independent Social Worker and Practice Educator. Like Ken, and having had personal experience herself caring for a close relative with dementia, she is passionate about increasing awareness. Dorothy is also an advocate for flexible, personalised, imaginative care arrangements.

Together, experts and advocates prompted participants to an awareness of multiple perspectives and the vast array of complex challenges involved. Neurological conditions include not only Alzheimer’s disease and dementia but also stroke, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and more. Collectively, such conditions are estimated to affect up to one billion people worldwide and the World Health Organization believes these disorders represent one of the greatest threats to public health today.

Photo and Twitter collage from the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition showing participants meeting with experts, teams working on the challenge and a team as they presented.

Not only was it timely to focus on neurological conditions but big data solutions to global health challenges are extremely current. Enterprises of all sizes are grappling with demanding technological, regulatory and market challenges, and the business models required continue to be disruptive. Neither the participants nor the judges had an easy task ahead!

In a twist on last year’s format, teams were judged over two rounds. Mannheim Business School, ESADE and Saïd Business School, University of Oxford emerged as semi-finalists, after which the three teams were given one final challenge to reconcile against the clock.

Photo and Twitter collage from the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition showing  the three semi-finalists (Mannheim Business School, ESADE and Said Business School, University of Oxford) in action.

After much deliberation by a judging panel that included senior industry experts and leading academics, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford were pronounced the winning team.

With combined experience in medicine, pharmaceuticals, neuroscience and computer science, the team not only delivered a strong presentation but were able to answer all the judges’ questions with persuasive reasoning and supporting evidence. Together, Grace Lam, Yen Nyugen, Marco Pimentel, and Sindhura Varanasi presented a well thought out approach to a tough challenge.

And although there could only be one winner, all were worthy contestants.

Photo and Twitter collage from the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition showing the winner's announcement, judging in action, and experts, judges and the WBS Executive Team..

Once again, feedback on the day was incredibly positive, and as Warwick MBA student and competition organiser, Corinne Montefort, said: “The competition was a great success.”

As always, it has been our absolute pleasure to be involved. The work of both WBS staff and the Case Competition’s student Executive Team was outstanding and we’ve been privileged to work alongside such an array of great people, from sponsors to experts and judges. Thanks must go to all.

Looking forward to next year and watching the competition grow once again!

In the meantime, we leave you with kind words from two members of the final judging panel…

Debbie and Matt of Stocker Partnership prepared the case study which formed the basis of the Warwick Business School International Healthcare Case Competition 2014. The quality of their preparation and investigation was impeccable and the case set up a highly engaging and challenging scenario on which the whole competition revolved. I’d have no hesitation in recommending Stocker Partnership for this or related specialist support and I’d be delighted to work with their team again!

Dr Jagdeesh Singh Dhaliwal
Medical Advisor, Healthcare Technology & Innovation, Global Government & Health
BT Global Services

I really enjoyed the case presentation, and given the time constraints, the scope was judged very well. Complex and with sufficient detail, the literature review, ambiguous data, overview of the environment, and the setting of some true and false trails for the students all worked well. If the participants worked well as a team, with the right experts – as Oxford did – then they could make a very good showing.

Alan Davies
Medical Director, Global Medical Affairs
GE Healthcare

Coverage elsewhere around the web

Warwick Business School: Said win £4,000 and WBS Case Competition

University of Oxford: CDT in Healthcare Innovation student Marco Pimentel and team from Said win WBS International Healthcare Case Competition

Mannheim Business School: MBS participants succeed at renowned Warwick Business School Case Competition

16
Jun
Posted by Debbie Stocker, stored in: Innovation  Our News  

We love all things innovation and are thrilled to be involved with the Marie Curie Centre for Analytical Science Innovative Doctoral Programme (Marie Curie CAS-IDP) as an industrial partner. Based at the University of Warwick, the programme has been funded by the EU under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) Marie Curie Actions to train an international group of early stage researchers (ESRs) to carry out world-leading analytical science research under two multi-disciplinary themes:

  • Predictive modelling of bacterial cell division
  • ‘Quality by Design’ of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products

With an integrated approach that blends sectors, disciplines and nationalities, the programme seeks to produce new ways to solve problems innovatively and efficiently, and to train scientists who think creatively, innovatively, critically and practically. We were delighted when we were asked to be involved and it is our pleasure to offer an industrial secondment to one of the students, Erick Ratamero.

Erick is Brazilian, and in his words, he “studies interesting things”. His primary interest is in Mathematical Modelling and he’s bringing this to bear in both his research project and his work with us. In the last couple of years, he has worked with Evolutionary Game Theory, Innovation Theory, and has even done a bit of modelling for Sports Science. With diverse interests, Erick’s research project is focused on understanding the FtsZ protein and its effects on membrane remodelling in bacteria, whilst in his work with us he will be using mathematical modelling to understand social network effects. It’s early days yet as both projects take shape but we’re hoping for some exciting results.

Collaboration in the most beautiful city in the world

Famous for its cultural heritage, Venice is certainly thought to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world—a sentiment that I cannot disagree with. It is also home to much creativity and innovation. Somewhat of a fitting location for the most recent Marie Curie CAS-IDP Networking Meeting.

As part of the programme, regular meetings are held for students, academic supervisors and industrial partners to review progress, share training, further develop cooperative relationships, and to benefit from knowledge creation and sharing. We have just returned from such a session held at Warwick in Venice, a University of Warwick teaching premises housed in the 15th century Venetian Palazzo Pesaro-Papafava.

Collection of photos from the Marie Curie CAS-IDP Networking Meeting, May 2014. Clockwise from top left: whole group of researchers, supervisors and industrial partners standing outside on the balcony of Palazzo Pesaro-Papafava, Warwick in Venice; small group of ESRs mid-discussion in a training workshop; ESR talking to an academic member of staff about the poster describing her research; small group of ESRs mid-discussion during a training workshop; group of ESRs standing around a poster, pointing to its contents and mid-discussion; supervisors and industrial partners discussing the outcome of ESRs training sessions.

During the two day session, many interesting conversations were had, good scientific progress was made and collaborations flourished. Putting into practice some of the frameworks we love, Matt and I delivered two training sessions to the ESRs focused on creating great relationships with supervisors and industry liaisons. Together, we encouraged researchers to step into their supervisors’ shoes and explored ideas for how to manage well across projects, time, meetings and people.

 Collection of photos from the Marie Curie CAS-IDP Networking Meeting, May 2014. Clockwise from top left: close up of Matt smiling with Burano in the background; view of Santa Maria della Salute from the water of the Grand Canal; canal side view from the balcony of Palazzo Persaro-Papafava, Warwick in Venice; view from the Rialto Bridge at night time with lights glistening across the Grand Canal; Debbie writing on a flip chart during facilitation of a training session; view of a Venetian street with washing strung across the street.

We throughly enjoyed the whole experience and have certainly learned a lot ourselves. In addition to the scientific focus, one of the most notable features of the experience for us was the quality of conversations and the breadth of topics explored, from the chemistry of confectionery to a love of fiction, beekeeping to a shared passion for cars, biology to pilates. Such shared experiences build relationships and can also be the spark for new ideas. We ourselves have come away with food for thought and are looking to develop some of these ideas further in coming months.

Image credits

Collection One
Top left: Naomi Grew, 2014; used with kind permission.
All others: Alvin Teo, 2014; used with kind permission.

Collection Two
Bottom centre: Alvin Teo, 2014; used with kind permission.
All others: Matt Stocker & Debbie Stocker, 2014.

17
Apr
Posted by Debbie Stocker, stored in: Our News  

One of the common questions posed to Matt and myself about the case studies we have written is: “Did the case work out as you were expecting?” Our usual answer is: “We didn’t know what to expect.” Although each case scenario has solutions that are more desirable, feasible and viable than others, the beauty of a live market case study is that there is no single right answer. We do not write a case with a given solution in mind, and as in real world consulting, a number of different avenues will be available, each with its own merits and risks. We ourselves learn in watching the development of solutions and I especially love it when participants uncover a gem of information or a potential solution that even we had not anticipated.

That said, there are a number of competences that underpin success in both case-based assessments and real world consulting engagements. With the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition now only days away and the first part of the case having been sent out to participants, here are our top tips.

1. Impress with your research

Proud winners of the WBS Case Competition 2013, the Lancaster MBA team were nonetheless the first to admit that none of them had a background in healthcare or related industries: to others who had seen them in action, this came as a surprise. One of the standout features of Lancaster’s presentation was the level of preparation the team had undertaken. Not only had they followed the trail laid down by the case study but they had actively sought out expertise and insight by meeting with Lancaster academics from other, relevant disciplines.

In a consulting engagement, such research demonstrates knowledge and expertise. It also shows that you are actively interested in the client. Typically, a client employs a consultant to gain access to insight beyond that of their own: showing a client that you can truly offer this service is important.

The same is true of case-based assessments and competitions. Those who stand out are the teams and individuals who have gone the extra mile: those who know that little bit more; who understand and correctly use relevant terminology; and who share up-to-the-minute knowledge that others might have missed.

2. Show your working

“Show your working!”  The mantra of every maths teacher up and down the country at GCSE, A-level and beyond.  Who’d have thought it was also relevant to case competitions and consulting?

Through a number of case-based events, Matt and I have been privileged to observe firsthand the creative process as teams develop their solutions. Some teams are fiery, others are thoughtful, but whatever the team’s style, one can almost guarantee intelligent, insightful conversations and some truly brilliant ideas.

When the time arrives to present or to share recommendations with the client however, we are often surprised by how many of these ideas have been lost. Had we not been witness to conversations earlier in the day, we would never have known the ideas existed.

“Show your working,” is the mantra of many teachers because it ensures that even if a student’s final answer is wrong, the pupil will nonetheless be given credit for their working. A similar principle exists in case-based assessments and consulting. A client, assessor or judge may not agree with your final recommendation but if they can see the path you have taken to arrive at your conclusion, this provides a firm basis for further discussion.

Similarly, it is often as helpful to share the solutions you have discounted as the ones you have chosen. Understanding that, “Solutions A, B and C are not viable because… Therefore we recommend Solutions X, Y and Z,” enables a client or judge to grasp the full picture. It also shows that you have done your job comprehensively and any client should feel that they are in a safe pair of hands.

3. Always ensure you meet the brief

In a consulting engagement, failing to meet your brief will likely guarantee that you end up with an unhappy client. Clients request those things that are important to them. If they make a request, it matters.

The same is true of case-based assessments. If something is asked for in the brief, it is there for a reason and you will be assessed on it. We were surprised during the WBS Case Competition 2013 that many teams did not directly address the issue raised by the last minute newscast. In a real world engagement, to ignore breaking news that has direct relevance to the client’s situation and your recommendations may just prove disastrous.

4. Get to the heart of the issue

On the flip side of meeting the brief, it is also vital that you are able to take a step back from the client’s perspective and to become objective. Both clients and cases present information from a particular viewpoint and often with a particular agenda. Sometimes that perspective is accurate. Other times information is missing or erroneous judgements may have been made. Occasionally, information or the viewpoint held by a client might just be wrong.

Case-based assessments require that you are able to synthesis knowledge in a complex environment and that you can analyse this knowledge from multiple perspectives. Benchmarked against the competition, is the company performing as well as the client thinks it is? How desirable is the product or service to potential customers? Looking at the market as a whole, are there future shifts that could prove game changing? How does the situation appear when viewed from multiple stakeholder perspectives?

Be prepared to challenge the assumptions that have been made to date. Ultimately, clients, assessors and judges are looking for solutions and recommendations that work, that deliver real return on investment, and that have value. Rarely is someone looking for a yes man. Finding the heart of the issue—whatever that may be and regardless of whether it is an easy pill to swallow—is key.

5. Have the courage of your convictions

Once you are sure that you have arrived at a solution of merit, that you can back up your recommendations with accurate data, and you are confident that your ideas will deliver, hold fast to your convictions. Similarly, as you are developing your recommendations, dare to trust your instincts.

In last year’s Case Competition, although Xceletra—the pharmaceutical company around which the case was based—had already undertaken its own research into a particular avenue, the brief itself was open. Those teams that stood out, including Lancaster, were the ones who dared to step outside the box. Teams who, despite a weighty suggestion to focus on a given area, had the courage to assess the bigger picture and presented solutions that were bang on the money but broader than the client may have been expecting.

Unsurprisingly, this tip does not however come without a caveat. To stick to your guns, you must be confident that you are right. If you’re presented with information that suggests otherwise, you also need to have the courage to hold up your hands, back down and rethink. Continuing to hold fast to a misguided belief or conviction will spell trouble for both you and the client.

Ultimately, great consultants are able to combine their insights with a deep understanding of their client. The same is true of competition winners: teams and individuals who combine creativity and insight with a deep understanding of the case. These individuals are able to empathise and understand but they also have the ability to lead judges and clients on a journey: “We understand that ‘A’ was your favoured option but have you considered ‘K’?”  This is not said at anyone’s expense nor in ignorance of valid concerns, but rather, with conviction that the answer has the best interests of all stakeholders in mind.