February 24, 2016

Last weekend, the APICS Southwest district held its 10th annual student case competition. We had 25 teams and 108 students from 3 countries with another 11 teams on the wait list (including another country). We had about 50% undergraduate and 50% graduate level students who competed in a supply chain simulation of a juice company – the team with the highest ROI won the technical round. Next each team presented to the judges who represented the Board of Directors of the company. Just as in real life, each score was 50% – if you have the best idea and cannot present it, you will not prevail!

For the 2nd time in 10 years, the same university took home BOTH the undergraduate and graduate 1st place prize. This time, San Diego State University took home the gold. It just so happened that their academic adviser attended the competition (or actually NOT such a coincidence as he took a proactive interest in his teams), and so I took the opportunity to ask how he did it (why did they both come in first this year). His answer was awfully simple (and aligns with what I’ve seen throughout my career) – preparation and practice.

Are you prepared?

One tip to implement this week:
So, what could we do this week to prepare? In listening to the adviser and reading feedback from the students as to what they learned at the competition, I think it could be quite simple. Start by making sure you are prepared. Have you read up on your topic? Have you practiced? Talking about it is NOT enough; even if you think you might fail, you must try. Start with something that won’t become a disaster if you fail so that it is a safe trial. And work your way up. If you are a leader, provide guidelines and parameters for your employees so that they can try new ideas within a set of guidelines (which makes it safer). And if they fail (even if it is something important), do NOT get upset. You have to use it as a learning experience! The only reason to get upset is if they make the same mistake repeatedly. Instead, celebrate the fact that they took a risk to try something new and use it as a learning opportunity.