It would be exaggerating to call the events following my Haas team’s victory in the 8th annual Innovation Challenge, a business case competition involving over 100 teams from more than 50 business schools, a “media firestorm”, but waking up to a text message saying “I’m going on CNN at 10:30AM” from our team leader the next morning certainly felt a bit storm-like. Between that and receiving congratulations from Dean Lyons and others at the school, there was quite a bit of hoopla surrounding our efforts in those first few days of winter break. Having now had some time to reflect on the competition and team Haastile Takeover’s performance, I am struck by a couple elements that made our activities quintessentially “Haastile”.
First, it is amazing how much we learned in just one semester. Working on a business model innovation case for Jiffy Lube, one of the competition’s sponsors, our group naturally engaged in the innovation process we learned from our Fall A Problem Finding, Problem Solving core course. We started with a brainstorming session focused on divergence – a free-for-all where no idea is too farfetched – and then focused on convergence and gradually focused our ideas to create a comprehensive solution that captured the common values in each of our individual ideas. Our early academic experiences carried into the presentation portion of the competition, when we relied on lessons from our Fall B Marketing course to present our solution’s value proposition based on benefits to consumers, rather than just features. This is where I believe our presentation differed substantially from those of our competitors, and ultimately enabled us to take home the first place prize. We each truly felt, at each turn and with each choice we made as a team, that we were applying the skills we were developing in the classroom. To see such immediate value from our investment of time and money in the MBA program was incredibly rewarding.
Second, our work sessions radiated the positive energy that pervades the Haas community. Did we, at one point, consider proposing that each Jiffy Lube franchise include a silent disco? Did we almost laugh ourselves out of the library while putting together our presentation? Yes and yes. If nothing else, the cornerstone of the Haas experience thus far has been the fun we have while taking on some pretty significant challenges. Team Haastile Takeover took that to heart during our activities. While my bank account will never forget the significant prize money we won, my fondest memories of the Innovation Challenge will be the relentless joy we all exhibited while tackling these business problems together.
In the short time I’ve been here at Haas, teams have won marketing case competitions, technology case competitions, and nationwide MBA soccer tournaments. The school clearly has a strong tradition of excellence in its endeavors. But the thing that other top business schools may not be able to replicate is the fun we have while seeking this excellence. Not only do we learn an absolute ton in a very short period of time and immediately put it to work, but we do so with pride, spirit, and big smiles on our faces. It sure is fun to get Haastile.
To read the original article about Berkeley-Haas winning the 8th annual Innovation Challenge, click here.