Entrepreneurial students to the finals in Europe’s biggest case competition

The Tournament in Management and Engineering Skills (TIMES) – a European student competition focusing on case solving in teams – has been arranged every year since 1994. During the competition, the team from the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship analysed how one of Google’s Chinese competitors should manage growth, and how the hotel industry can use social media to its advantage. They were so successful that they’re now going to the finals in Munich at the end of April.Times 690x330

The Tournament in Management and Engineering Skills, TIMES, is a case competition for students who study industrial economics. It’s arranged every year by European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management (ESTIEM) and is the largest European competition of its type, with approximately 250 teams participating. The competition consists of three rounds, where local selections are first arranged in over 70 different cities around Europe. This is followed by seven semi-finals and the winners go on to the April finals in Munich. Apart from generous prizes from the sponsors, the winning team also receives the “IEM Students of the Year” award.

After a couple days of hard work, the team from Chalmers emerged victorious from the semi-finals in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and was thus ready for the finals. The team consists of Alexander Leppänen, Nigel Wong, Oscar Petersson, and Fredrik Jern, all of whom are studying the master’s programme Entrepreneurship and Business Design at Chalmers.

Focus on understanding the problems
In the first round, the team solved one case. In the semi-finals, they went through two cases over two days andnow, in the final, the bar has been raised further and the team has to deal with three different cases before the winner is named.

– We have between three and four hours from the time we get the material to solve the case,after that there is a presentation in front of a jury who will ask us questions. The jury consists of representatives from both the business world and academia. When we presented our solution, there were people from companies such as McKinsey, Accenture, and Deutsche Bahn on the jury, Alexander says.

The cases differ widely and a large part of the effort during the competition went to first understanding the problem in order to then start working on the solution. According to Alexander, it is that major focus on identifying the cores of the TIMES_logo_rgb webrespective cases, in particular, that has been one of the group’s strengths so far in the competition.

– Our first case dealt with a Chinese competitor to Google that wanted a strategy for its intended growth. The two cases we solved in the semi-finals concerned questions about profitability and takeovers of competing businesses for a telecommunications company, and how the hotel industry can take advantage of social media as a new marketing channel, Alexander explains.

Teamwork is the foundation of success
Everyone in the group knows each other well, since they’re in the same class. The structure of the programme resembles the setup of the case competition, and often deals with producing results under very short deadlines and the final product is usually a presentation. This, in combination with the group having occupied itself a great deal with problem-solving during its time at Chalmers, made applying to TIMES a natural choice.

– Our success so far at TIMES is due in large part to our problem-solving ability and our strong presentation techniques – but above all our sterling teamwork! We developed all of this during our time at the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship, Nigel says.

An exciting final in Munich now awaits the team and they have carefully prepared through evaluating previous casework and an analysis of who will do what, in what order.

– After we’ve solved a case, we usually do an internal evaluation of the work where we talk about what went well and what we should think about for the next time. Then we talk through it again just before we have a go at the next question. This has turned out to be perhaps the most effective and rewarding preparation for us. We’ve also been coached by McKinsey, which is one of the world’s largest management consulting firms on strategy issues, and gotten a whole range of useful tips, Alexander says.

European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management (ESTIEM) is the organisation for European students in industrial technology and management, a subject that combines an understanding of technology with leadership skills. The goal of ESTIEM is to establish and promote relations between students throughout Europe and support them in their personal and professional development. The network consists of 68 local groups in 26 countries, and reaches some 50,000 students.

The Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship conducts internationally respected education and research into innovation and entrepreneurship. This year, the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship is celebrating its 15th anniversary andhas grown into an established master’s programme that takes in 50 new students annually. Currently three different tracks are on offer and a leading business incubator, Encubator AB, which supports students in business development, has been established together with Chalmers Invest.

Pictures: Private and ESTIEM