Recently I took part in a 2 week long case challenge hosted by a management consultancy company in Stockholm. Working in groups, participants were divided based on universities with me (and Reuben from this class!) being placed together with two other engineering students from Uppsala University. With six groups of students in total, and three companies participating, each company had two groups working separately on their case.
The task that was presented to us was (in true management consultancy fashion) to propose initiatives that would enable a fully circular value chain within the studied company. During the case, we had regular discussions with employees in leadership positions at the studied company, in addition to a group mentor, with whom we could inquire about our focus areas, existing/planned efforts within sustainability and other related questions about their work etc. This was essential to our work, and having an experienced mentor during the process helped us considerably in dividing our problem as well as how we should structure the initiatives and our presentation.
In actually tackling this problem, we began with holistically studying the company’s value chain and their current work in order to truly understand what they do and what processes are employed. Following this, we drew up their current value chain (taking extra care as to mapping out material/energy flow in & out) and studied this alongside illustrations of fully circular value chains to identify what areas needed changing. Subsequently we looked at these focus areas and discussed possible initiatives and projects that could improve upon these. After that we researched individually in order to establish the viability of these initiatives as well as tweaking them to better suit existing opportunities in the focus markets. Having all of this, we created a presentation highlighting how we reached our focus areas, what the most essential themes of these were, and our identified initiatives and enablers. We also identified several KPI for each initiative, a necessity in order to track progress and see the degree of success for the initiatives. The presentation of our studies and initiatives were done to a jury with company representatives and to the other groups.
This was an immensely learningful experience for me, as it was the first time I participated in a real case challenge, let alone one of this size and on an actual company with a current problem. Besides learning about problem solving methodologies and case work, I think that my main takeaway is effective teamwork and how to combine knowledge in different areas. It was also interesting to see how our proposed goals and initiatives were continuously iterated as our understanding of the market, company, existing challenges as well as possible solutions grew. Lastly, it was exciting to gain an understanding of how business focused problem solving practically works in terms of what you’re expected to produce (e.g. concrete recommended initiatives and necessary enablers etc.)
Addressing the relevancy to this course, I think there are several ways this ties into entrepreneurship and startups. To begin with, problem solving skills are highly relevant within entrepreneurship, and having to make decisions within areas where one might not be an expert is expected. Presumably, these problems are commonly very nuanced and multifaceted. This case also made me realize that while you can’t be an expert at everything, often you still can (and have to) make educated assumptions to build upon, while still being ready to change these assumptions if new information arises. Finally, and related to what Serdar has said in previous lectures, our work really highlighted the importance and possibilities of utilizing friends and connections when solving problems! Someone you know might work in a relevant area and could help you out on a 5 min phone call. In our case, once we started asking around we were surprised to learn that everyone in our group had several connections to people working with sustainability, and we used these connections to ask questions and understand our problem as well as possible solutions better. Even if they work in a different area, solutions may often be transferable and applicable on your own problem.
I hope you found this insightful, thank you for reading!