Business musings

Articles and thoughts about case competition

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


Last year, we co-created and wrote the challenge for Warwick Business School’s inaugural Case Competition. This year the competition is back, it’s going international, and we’re thrilled to be involved once again!


Building upon last year’s resounding success, the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition will bring together the finest minds from university-based business schools across the world. With a focus on fostering creative solutions to complex problems, the competition is an opportunity for multi-disciplinary teams of students to once again bring their talents to bear on a contemporary healthcare issue.

We’re delighted that we’ve been commissioned to develop and write the challenge, working in partnership with both Warwick Business School and GE Healthcare, kind sponsors of the 2014 Competition and global providers of transformational medical technologies and services.

The event itself will take place on 25-26 April 2014, with a prize of £4,000 being awarded to the winning team. To find out more or to register (applications must be submitted no later than 5pm GMT on 21 February 2014), visit

Update 5 March 2014

From an overwhelming number of applications, 12 teams have now been selected to compete. Taking up the challenge on the day are teams from Aston Business School, Cranfield School of Management, ESADE, HEC Paris, IE Business School, Lancaster University Management School, Manchester Business School, Mannheim Business School, SDA Bocconi, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, and Warwick Business School. Let the competition begin!

Posted by Matt & Debbie Stocker, stored in: Our News  

Last week, we took a behind the scenes peek at how we went about creating the case study for Warwick Business School’s inaugural Case Competition. Today, we’re following this up with a look at the day of the competition itself. Alongside Tornar Yang (MBA student and official photographer), Matt acted as an unofficial photographer, so we’ve put together a brief snapshot to give you a flavour of the day.

Let the competition begin!

The day started at 8.30am with students arriving at WBS from all over the country—some had a very early start! Participants had received Part One of the briefing one week before but they had no idea about the second part of the challenge or what surprises the day had in store.

A selection of photos showing the students arriving at the WBS Case Competition and being briefed before the day starts.

Intense teamwork

The challenge itself had been designed so that it was difficult but achievable. Teams worked together to understand and balance the conflicting and competing demands of the case, while at the same time ensuring they kept the brief in mind and achieved the required objectives. Experts were on hand to answer any questions but teams were required to schedule meetings and to weigh the advice they were given. We were privileged to sit in on a number of discussions throughout the day and were extremely impressed by both individual and team insights—there was certainly no shortage of either brain power or enthusiasm!

Selection of photos of students working intensely as they discuss the non-adherence and digital healthcare challenge

Time to present

In just a few short hours, the time to present had arrived. Gathered together once again and with an audience of experts and judges, each team anxiously awaited their turn.

Overall, the standard of presentations was very high. Each team had taken their own distinct approach to the challenge and it was clear that a huge amount of work had gone into each solution. Several judges even observed that many of the insights and several of the presentations would not have been out of context in a professional, client-facing setting.

At the end of the day however, there could only be one winner and, in 2013, Lancaster University Management School’s team stole the day.

Students make their final presentations as judges score their performance and content.

Behind the scenes

The day itself, and indeed the whole competition, wouldn’t have happened without the incredible drive and dedication of both WBS staff and the Case Competition’s student Executive Team. Thanks must also go to WBS and University alumni who provided significant expertise and who judged the presentations, along with IMS Health, partner and sponsor of the competition. We certainly felt privileged to have been involved and, as always, it was a pleasure working with all.

Photos of just some of the people that made the WBS Case Competition day happen including sponsors, experts and WBS staff

We very much look forward to watching the Competition continue and grow in 2014.  We know that WBS hopes the event will grow to be one of the most prestigious global case competitions in the MBA calendar and become a must for all MBAs aspiring to a career in consulting or the healthcare sector, so we are excited to see it evolve.

Posted by Matt & Debbie Stocker, stored in: Our News  

Earlier this year, we were privileged to co-create the case challenge for Warwick Business School’s inaugural Case Competition. The event was the first of its kind for the pharmaceutical, life sciences and healthcare sectors, and was designed to engage the finest talent from top, university-based business schools in the UK.

Today’s healthcare sector faces some very real and prevalent challenges for which intelligent solutions are needed. The sector is also a significant recruiter of management graduates and, according to a recent survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), a high proportion of job offers have already been secured by the Class of 2013.

The Case Competition thus brought together teams from Warwick, Lancaster, Cranfield and Manchester Business Schools with experts and judges who offered experience across organisations such as GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, UCB Pharma, Novartis, University of Oxford’s Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU), Quintiles, Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca.

IMS Health, a leading provider of information, services and technology for the healthcare industry, kindly sponsored the competition and partnered in both judging final presentations and providing expertise to student participants on the day.

Allow us to give you a behind the scenes tour to our own involvement and an insight into creation of the case itself…

Creating a credible challenge

Following a detailed brief, we worked closely with Sue Thorn (Director of  WBS CareersPlus), Kev Robinson (WBS Case Competition Lead), and members of the student Executive Team to co-create the competition challenge. From proposal to finished article, this was an iterative process of research, sharing of ideas, writing, design and development.


Comprehensive research

Realistic case studies require in-depth research. Although the company at the heart of the case was fictitious, the market in which it was set was real life and current. It was therefore critical that everything in the case reflected deep, accurate and up-to-the-minute market knowledge.

Debbie is our researcher extraordinaire, with Google and Evernote being her research tools of choice. Over the course of the development process, she captured (and read!) 479 news articles, opinion pieces, research papers, annual reports, briefings, white papers, guidelines, studies and industry reports—even watching several videos and news reports for good measure.

A photo showing an Evernote snapshot of all the research that went into creating the case study competition

A believable brand

Xceletra, the company at the heart of the case, was fictitious but it was important to create a believable organisation and brand—one that you could imagine being a real, live client.

To create such a brand, we first decide where in the market the organisation is positioned, what size it is, and how innovative/traditional it is in comparison to its competitors. We then look for a name that sounds authentic but is not in use by an existing company—an exercise that proved somewhat challenging in a sector as large and diverse as pharmaceuticals!

Drawing on the power of Facebook however, Xceletra was born. Our graphic designer, Robin Boyd, then skilfully designed its logo.

A photo showing the Facebook competition to name the company and different options for the Xceletra logo

Bringing Xceletra to life

With a believable brand in place, we next set about weaving the challenge into a credible story centred on a lifelike organisation: How many employees does Xceletra have? Which therapeutic areas is it focused on? How successful has it been to date? How many compounds does it have in its clinical pipeline? What is its organisational structure? Where does the competition challenge fit within the overall strategy of the business?

For the Case Competition, we also wrote two scripts, one of which was brilliantly acted and filmed by WBS students and staff. I have to say, we never thought collaborative script writing would become part of our job description but it was great fun and we were fascinated by the way in which each of our characters developed their own distinctive personality.

At the end of the day, our aim with any fictitious case is to blur the boundary between fact and fiction and for all participants to have an experience that is as true to life as possible.

A photo showing how we brought the case to life, with board members and scripts - photo shows us working with post-it notes to create the management script

Developing an illustrated brief

Part Two of the Competition Brief required that participants got to grips with a wide range of potential solutions—fast! To facilitate this process and to reduce the need for participants to undertake large quantities of primary research when time was precious, we employed visual communication.

With a background in design, Matt is skilled at communicating complex ideas in pictures and while he’s the first to admit that his illustrations will never win the Turner Prize, his drawings have been commended for their clarity and creativity.

A photo showing Matt Stocker creating the illustrations for the WBS Case Competition

Pulling everything together

With the core components in place, it was now time to pull everything together into a cohesive whole. Not only does the case itself need to tell a convincing story but a variety of other elements are also necessary to effectively communicate the logistics of the competition.

First photo showing some of the many elements of the case study competition

Second photo showing some of the many elements of the case study competition

From participants to judges, each individual needs to know what they should be doing and when. It’s also vital that key information is communicated to the right people at the right time. To ensure this, we created packs tailored to participants, experts and judges.

A photo showing all the packs for the case study, including those for the students, judges and experts.

The finished article

All printed and ready for the day…

A photo showing the participant briefing documents - part one and two

What they said

Feedback on the day was incredibly positive and we were thrilled. Abhishek Paryani, a member of the winning team from Lancaster University Management School, said:

All in all, it was a challenging exercise that gave us insight into the issues within the big pharmaceutical companies and it allowed us to come up, within the one week, with creative and multi-disciplinary solutions that kept in mind the different stakeholders involved.

Sue Thorn, Director of WBS CareersPlus, also wrote:

The energy and creativity that Matt and Debbie brought to the process has been amazing, managing to turn our initially sketchy concepts into credible and challenging materials to fully engage and stretch our participants. They took care to fully research the background markets and sectors we were using as a backdrop to these workshops so that the fictional companies created and business scenarios facing them were challenging, but also fully credible. They coped admirably with tight turnaround times, were flexible to cope with any changes in specifications that we made and engaged us fully throughout the process. The high quality and scope of the case studies, the tasks devised for participants and the associated briefing materials gained praise from many of the senior WBS alumni and recruiters that were in attendance.

To find out more about the day of the competition itself, catch up again with us next week!
WBS Case Competition 2013: On the day