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From left to right: teammates Matthew Broida ’11, Erikhans Kok ’11, Jack Jaime ’11 and Santiago Valdez Gutierrez ’11

From left to right: teammates Matthew Broida ’11, Erikhans Kok ’11, Jack Jaime ’11 and Santiago Valdez Gutierrez ’11

2011 Big Ten MBA Case Competition

Exceptional group dynamics allowed Team Kellogg to win the top prize over 11 other teams

By Cheryl SooHoo

8/10/2011 - Stellar teamwork led Team Kellogg to victory at this year’s Big Ten MBA Case Competition at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business in Columbus. Representing Northwestern, a group of four Kellogg students came away with first-place team honors.

Matthew Broida, Erikhans Kok, Jack Jaime Telias and Santiago Valdes Gutierrez — now all Class of 2011 graduates — participated in the team competition in the spring. Their challenge? To analyze a business quandary at Cardinal Health, a Fortune 19 healthcare services company, and present recommendations to a panel of experts. Cardinal wanted to know whether it should enter the healthcare consulting services arena and if so, how.

“I wanted to help our client in the best way possible,” recalled Kok, who also won one of four individual “Best Presenter” awards. “In this case, our client was Cardinal and the company had come to us with a live business problem for our analysis.”

Team Kellogg arrived at the competition on a Thursday evening, after a seven-hour road trip. At 8 a.m. the next day, the group received a 25-page document outlining the case. After a Q&A/information-gathering session with Cardinal managers, the team had a little less than 24 hours to come up with a winning business strategy. They finished their presentation in the wee hours of Saturday morning after a long day (and evening) of hard discussions. By midday Saturday, Team Kellogg had made it through the first round of presentations and became one of three finalists. By late afternoon, the Northwestern MBA students wowed the judges in round two by defeating the eventual second-place and third-place winners, the University of Iowa and Purdue University, respectively.

A strong, well-balanced team figured high in the win. “I appreciated having a good team of people with complementary skills,” Telias said. “We had members with finance and consulting experience, which was particularly useful for this case.” Additionally, the cultural diversity of the group, with individuals from three different countries, gave them a broad perspective to better serve their global client, according to Telias.

Open communication and a collegial group dynamic also proved to be key elements of Team Kellogg’s success. “Being able to speak your mind and benefit from joint problem-solving in a fun team atmosphere was really what helped us win,” Kok said.