Practise for performance perfection
Professor Angela Ng, associate dean and director of undergraduate programmes at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's (HKUST) School of Business and Management, first served as one of the judges for the Citi International Case Competition (CICC) in 2005 and has been involved ever since. She has three words of advice for the teams taking part in this year's contest: "Practise, practise, practise."
Even though the participants won't know in advance which case they will be assigned, Ng thinks they can still work on certain key skills, "especially time-management," she says.
"On their courses, we give our students much more time to prepare, but in the competition they get 26 hours to come up with a proposal to present to the judges. They really need to manage their, and their team's, time well and also the way that they divide the work."
And, given the language the contest is conducted in, she adds, "Western students can probably read English much faster than Hong Kong or mainland students. So students whose mother tongue is not English probably need to strengthen their reading skills as well. That's one thing they probably want to spend more time on."
Teams from the host university HKUST were first runners up in 2006 and 2007, and the CICC must sync with what the students have been learning at the university.
"We put a lot of time and resources into developing our students' communication and analytical skills," explains Ng. "In the first year of our courses, we introduce case studies and students get the chance to present their ideas to their classmates. But the competition takes this to the next level and gives the students an opportunity to present their ideas to a big audience with a really international mix of students.
"Naturally, they take this competition much more seriously than a classroom exercise because it gives them an opportunity to put themselves into a real working environment," she says. "They get a sense of what it's like to work in the business sector - especially under pressure. I'm sure it's quite a stressful few days, but they do very much enjoy the whole experience."
Ng is delighted with the international aspect of the CICC. "The competition gives students a platform to exchange ideas with students from all over the world so they can find out about their cultural differences and learn from each other."
Ng also sees the contest as a way of increasing the perception of Hong Kong as a potential global education hub. "Hosting students from around the world is rewarding for us and the participants. When we organise a competition like this, we feel like ambassadors for Hong Kong."