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This year’s Allstate Insurance Business Challenge gave students at Kellogg a chance to tackle a real strategic problem currently faced by Allstate. For the challenge, we were asked to develop a strategy to revamp Allstate’s usage-based insurance product group.

The competition was open to five-person teams of students – the only requirement was that the team needed to have one person outside of Kellogg but a part of Northwestern. The members of our winning team were four students from the One-Year MBA program – Amit Berry, Bilal Hussain, Yajur Kapoor, Wojtek Korpal – and Deniz Alpay, a fourth-year graduate student at the McCormick School of Engineering.

“I was very eager to join an all-star team of MBA students to get experience in developing a case solution and a deliverable” Deniz Alpay said. “I was greeted enthusiastically by my Kellogg team members and I feel I learned a lot working with them”.

We made it through the first round of qualifications and advanced to the second and final round, where only three teams participated. This round spanned six weeks and required the teams to dig deep into large data sets, do extensive research and work closely with Allstate mentors to deliver a comprehensive solution that could potentially be implemented.

In the end, there were three key things we felt gave us the edge when it came time to present our proposal:

Ideas people could relate to

Our recommendation involved creating new products that had real-like brand names, well thought out tag lines and actual mock-ups of how mobile apps would look. This really helped the judges visualize our strategy as if it were a real product decision they were making. “This was not your standard case competition with right answers and clearly defined rules,” Amit Berry said. “We worked more as independent advisors solving a very real, vaguely defined problem.”

Insights grounded in research

The suggestions we presented all started with insights that came out of intensive brainstorming exercises that we supplemented with research about actual consumer behavior. We were careful to provide the right mix of supporting data to validate that we were on to something with our ideas. “The latter round required a lot of work from us,” Bilal Hussain said. “We met frequently on weekends for six to eight hour sessions and thought constantly about the challenge and how we could approach the problem differently.”

Truly collaborative experience

We had a really diverse team comprised of individuals from four countries and from backgrounds spanning investment banking to management consulting to material science. Each of us learned from one another, and complemented each other’s skills in a way that I haven’t yet experienced yet at Kellogg. It also helped that we had a fierce desire to win and that meant the best ideas rose to the top, regardless of where they originated.

In addition to the teamwork and learning experience, the greatest satisfaction comes from the fact that we got to work on solving a pressing problem for the company and that our ideas will actually get implemented.

Wojtek Korpal is a student in Kellogg’s One-Year MBA program. Before joining Kellogg, he worked at the Warsaw office of The Boston Consulting Group. During his time at BCG, he focused on work in the retail banking and insurance industries.