What to expect from a case study competition and how to win at it?

Unstop
7 min readOct 26, 2021

Case studies are the best practical exercise of your grey cells which makes use of all your mental faculties as well as your decision-making skills. No wonder that this show and tell of corporate operations and market studies now occupy a major chunk of competitions both across universities and corporate organizations.

Let’s start with the very basics first:

What is a case study?

Case studies are one of the best teaching tools for enhancing and testing the practical knowledge of students. It asks for a detailed analysis of a market situation or any organization or a similar group, and the students are required to use their problem-solving skills to rectify the complications in it.

If we for an example talk specifically about management courses, their case studies could be related to any functional area of an organization, be it finance, operations, HR, or the IT department.

Furthermore, some case studies also take into account the whole workings of an organization and ask the participants to think and decide the best course of action as the managing directors.

The strategic actions which a group proposes are backed up with an in-depth research of the organization and the market conditions. These solutions are meant to provide the company with a competitive edge over others without losing on any other resources.

Case studies need active participation and develop one’s ability to think on their feet. There are as many approaches to case studies as there are case studies itself, this promotes innovation in thought and decision making skills.

Now that we know the basics, let’s look at the next step.

Types of case studies

It goes without saying that case studies could be in both written and presentation format (more about that later). Apart from that, the case study could either be

Functional Cases

Cases adhering to any one functional domain like marketing, operations, finance or HR.

Strategy Oriented Cases

These ask the participants to look at situations from the point of view of the senior executives of an organization. Strategic cases can further be classified into

  • The first type gives the participants a particular organizational problem asks them to make strategic judgments to solve it.
  • The second type presents all the information about the corporation to the participants without pointing out any particular flaw. Here the participants are supposed to show, on the basis of the information given, the understanding of how the company is organized and operated.
  • The third type presents the details of the decisions taken at the highest level of the organization. The participants are asked to present their understanding of these decisions and how it will affect the workings of the corporation.

Descriptive/Illustrative Case Studies

These merely describe the situation which is to be analyzed, thus making it familiar with every detail attached. The results for the situation are already on the table, all that is left is to understand the why’s and how’s of it (and in case of a negative result, how to find a way to avoid it).

Exploratory Case Studies

These are studies done on a shorter scale which pave the way for bigger projects. Their main function is to find and answer the basic questions which prove that further research and studies on a particular aspect of the situation are necessary.

Collective/Multiple-Case Studies

As the title suggests, these studies make use of different (relevant) studies from all points of time which aggregates into the case for a new one. Collection of various studies leads to better generalization and addition of information without extra expense.

Critical Instance Case Studies

These are similar to collective case studies in the way that these also depend on the data of different cases from different points of time. However, this is where the similarity ends as thereafter this study doesn’t look at generalizations and focuses on unique situations for study. Such case studies are useful for finding the relation between an event and its cause.

A case study competition will require a group to work as a team and present their analysis and solutions in a compact and effective manner to the judges. It’s a straightforward process but does require thoughtful preparation in advance if one wishes to win.

6 Tips to Win a Case Study Competition

Pick a good and balanced team

As with every real corporate environment, a good solution will come from a team with members having different areas of strength and competencies.

Given how wide the case topics usually are, it’s wiser to have a team with backgrounds of all domains like marketing, operations, HR, and finance to name a few. It also helps if a team member is exceptionally well at Excel and graphs, thus giving an edge to your presentation.

Research well

Even if the topic given doesn’t fall under any of your team members’ area of expertise, research is what makes up for it. There have been cases of winning teams having no background of the industry given in the case study, their only strong point was their dedicated research.

Every team will research the topic, but the ones who shine are the ones willing to put in a little extra effort towards finding relevant data from all sources. This will stand as a clear demonstration of your expertise and interest in the client’s organization.

Use every means possible to hone this skill, be it through books or online. You could also make use of websites like Dare2Compete to take part in online competitions and business simulation games in order to get a fair experience of the workings of such a competition. This goes a long way in polishing your areas of expertise and giving additional information about the market.

Show the flow of logic

Given the ambiguous nature of many case studies, it is possible that it may not have a singular correct conclusion or solution. So the best way to tackle it is to make sure that your presentation has a natural flow of logic and shows how you came to the conclusion you now present.

The creative process has the intricacies which might get overshadowed if only the final solution is focused upon. Shifting a part of the focus on the workings will ensure that even if the panel doesn’t agree with your solution, they will appreciate the logical path your team took to reach on it.

Find out similar real-life scenarios and avoid playing in the extremes

Many case studies are actual business scenarios from the past which have been dealt with. So it’s always beneficial if you find out about it and steer clear of the solutions used then.

Your ideas should be of the middle ground- neither too risky nor too safe, just enough to set the wheel rolling. Make sure that your strategies don’t harm any present policies of the organization, and present it with full conviction.

Prepare a well-structured presentation

It’s not important that all the team members should present and speak individually. Your team might have people who are not comfortable with public speaking but who excel at analytics, let them play to their strengths.

Choose the best speakers to go forward (if all the team members could partake in it, all the better). Also, make sure there are at the max only 2 members handling the computer slides at a time, clutter doesn’t look good.Your presentation should be professional looking, and thus you must avoid snappy colors or bold designs. Keep it sober and effective.

Prepare beforehand for anticipated questions

Find out what kind of questions could be asked depending on your research, strategy, sources, presentation and the final solution. Prepare well-researched answers for these beforehand, as it will give you an edge over the other competitors.

If you can, keep handy extra information like topic specific graphs, charts and previous studies which you can pull up in time of need. Being prepared for answers prevents a weak ending to an otherwise good presentation.

Case study competitions require a good team effort on top of individual preparation and dedication. If you wish to win, use all the help you can get. Dare2Compete is a website which is dedicated to helping students in the academic endeavors and is one place where you can get necessary ideas and experience from.The website has a dedicated slab towards business simulation games which help you participate and learn. It has been divided into sub-categories of

  • Strategy
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Economics
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Finance
  • HR/OB

These business strategy simulations are further classified into categories pertaining to their domains and designed to instruct in an interactive manner. Participation in the same enhances your strategic decision making while widening your knowledge base.

Whether to maximize profit or to shield your organization from an economic pitfall, these games will teach you all.

Case study competitions are enjoyable and informative, they invoke team-spirit and lets the participant experience what actually happens inside a corporation. Look at it like a fun, active way to learn more, and go prepared for anything. Remember to stay organized, logical and confident about your presentation, and the rest will fall into place.

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Unstop

Unstop (formerly Dare2Compete) enables companies to engage with candidates in the most interactive way to discover, assess, and hire the best talent.