Inside the First ‘Zero Contact’ Case Competition

By Seth Robinson

In April, a team from the University of Melbourne went on to compete in the first ever ‘Zero Contact’, International Case Competition. We heard from the team about their experience, and how they adapted to the new format.

Each year, 20 Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) students are selected to participate in the Faculty of Business and Economics’ International Case Competition (ICC) program. The program features a rigorous training program that spans the entire summer break and includes a series of training workshops and intensive practice cases. For University of Melbourne students Cathy Wu, Kei Hirasedo, Brigette Marks and David Antolos, plans to partake in the invitational Central European Case Competition (CECC) in Budapest changed with the emergence of COVID-19.

The Unimelb team
The Unimelb team working on their first case.

However, for the CECC organizers, the pandemic presented the opportunity for a rapid digital pivot. In April, students from 12 top business schools around the world participated in 6-day online competition to tackle two complex strategy cases, which they then present to a professional jury. Far from succumbing to the disappointment of not being able to fly to Budapest, the University of Melbourne students adapted quickly and embraced the unique opportunity to participate in the world’s first zero-contact international case competition.

“Competing in an online format for the CECC was certainly a different experience, since all of our training had been done in person but I think that the online setting did not detract from the effort we put into the competition and how real it felt,” says Brigette Marks. “We maintained a similar approach to the case competition that we did for practice cases; we still went through the usual processes of brainstorming, building up our strategies and storyboarding but did this in a virtual setting, which almost felt more efficient than using a whiteboard which we had done in training. Throughout the competition, we used a combination of Zoom, Google Docs and SharePoint to collaborate on our slide deck. We wanted to put as much into the competition as possible to see all of the hours of training we put in over the summer materialise into case presentations we could be proud of and I think we did achieve that.”

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Participating Universities
The CECC online welcome event.

For Kei Hirasedo, it offered an opportunity to reflect on what these changes have meant for students around the world.

“In the competition, we really felt all of the learning we had done culminate in our final output, despite the added barriers of opposite time zones and online communication. As a team we felt that our analysis and strategic thinking matured significantly over the course of the competition, which was reflected in our recommendations and results.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to participate in the online social event with other students in the competition as they took place at 4am. However, watching them present their solutions in the competition was a great opportunity to absorb diverse styles of problem solving, presenting, and thinking. To witness students around the world present incredible solutions in the early hours of the morning after having not slept for an entire day was inspiring. It was a sobering reminder of just how many indefatigable students there are around the globe who have continued to persevere in the face of adverse circumstances – who we hope we will one day meet when the world recovers.”

The team’s academic advisor, Austin Chia, couldn’t have been more pleased with the team’s performance in the competition.

“The students have trained incredibly hard throughout the ICC program. While it was disappointing that the students missed the chance to attend the competition in Budapest, I’m thrilled that the team was still able to participate in a global competition that meaningfully leveraged their training throughout the summer. The team represented the University of Melbourne with distinction and approached the case challenge with a great deal of enthusiasm, dedication and business nous.”