Tag: ICE week



When I received an email offering a “Coaching Opportunity” for Executive MBAs to participate in Olin’s Intensive Case Experience (ICE) Competition, part of the full-time MBA required course Critical Thinking and Impactful Communications, I read it and let it slide. The commitment was several hours on a weekend in December—a busy month for everyone.

But when I received a second email on “Giving Tuesday” requesting volunteers, I sucked it up and offered up my Saturday.

It was the most satisfying volunteer experience I have ever had.

To begin with, Patrick Moreton, Senior Associate Dean of Graduate Programs, provided the volunteer EMBAs with an abstract of the student assignment, considerable context around the problem at hand, as well as the expectations of the volunteer coaches. The one-hour session was reminiscent of EMBA lectures, including an explanation of the case and the challenge to the students: “Suggest opportunities to disrupt Monsanto’s business using NLP (Natural Language Processing) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) in marketing and customer strategy.” I mean, how cool is that?

Monsanto and Amazon had presented the context of the problem and potential solutions to the student teams, and the teams were now in the process of preparing competitive presentations. Amazon and Monsanto offered office hours during the weekend to answer questions from the teams. The winning team would have the opportunity to present their idea to Monsanto.

Happy to hear that the full day commitment had been whittled down to four hours, the EMBAs each had an assigned conference room and three student teams scheduled to show up for one hour apiece.

During the prep, Moreton emphasized the importance of not providing answers, but asking the right questions.

  • Be the boss, but not the kind that tells people what to do

  • Resist your impulse to answer the question because you know it

  • Make sure everyone is heard

As I listened to each of the teams I worked with, I was surprised how little I needed to know about the specific topic to assist them with honing their ideas. Each team came in with ideas that, after one hour of work, were further developed and more refined. You can’t ask for more than that from a volunteer experience.

Patrick Moreton, Senior Associate Dean of Graduate Programs, prepped volunteers on how to coach MBA ICE teams. 

I asked Moreton after my coaching sessions why he extended the opportunity to EMBAs. “We do a fair amount of work with peer coaching, but it’s difficult for a peer to give the same level of feedback as someone who has more experience. The trick is to get people with more experience who understand that they’re not there to answer the questions, they’re there to help develop the people,” he said.

In addition, MBA students are interested in networking with EMBAs. Unlike opportunities for coffee or an Olin-sponsored cocktail party, coaching gives MBA students and EMBA alumni opportunities to connect on a different level. “From my perspective, people make relationships when they work together and when you have a shared purpose to really come together as a team. This is not just to give them the name of an EMBA to have coffee with, it’s a chance for them to demonstrate the value of being in that person’s network,” he said.

A fellow EMBA 43 alum, David Jackson, also volunteered as a coach. I asked him why he did it.

“For the same reason you still see Lou Brock and retired Cardinals baseball players hanging around the clubhouse. While I was not anywhere close to as good of a student as Brock was a baseball player, I enjoy engaging with and helping develop business students in the same way he still helps develop world-class athletes. Moreover, coaching is the best way to refine my leadership skills and learn new ideas and tricks from the students,” he said.

What I found satisfying was the realization that my Executive MBA degree, and my years of business experience, are truly valuable to young professionals. It isn’t necessary to know the details—I have a framework of expertise that applied to business problems of all kinds is an asset and can help others learn and grow. This is a gift I wish every EMBA could receive.




ICE Week 2017

For Mike Bynum, MBA ’19, the final celebration of ICE Week on Wednesday afternoon was both exhilarating and bittersweet.

After a grueling, five-day marathon of case descriptions, business research, preparation, and case presentations, he was happy to have a plate of hot food and a drink in his hand, surrounded by his classmates and the three members of his team—his partners for the entire semester.

“But it’s also a little nostalgic,” he said. “I’m realizing that I’m working with the team one last time. We had gotten into a rhythm.”

Bynum and more than 140 other first-year MBA students participated in ICE Week—short for “Integrated Case Experience”—from Friday through Wednesday, a 17-year tradition at Olin. After final exams and before departing for winter break, the students put their heads together, solving real-world problems for real Olin business partners.

The "best of show" winning team from ICE Week.
« 1 of 10 »

Disrupting partner businesses

This year, Monsanto and Amazon paired for one deceptively simple, yet agonizingly complex case: Disrupt Monsanto’s business using Amazon’s natural language processing and artificial intelligence in marketing and customer strategy. Presented on Friday, students worked through the weekend toward their Monday presentations.

Monday afternoon, MasterCard came to the plate with a second challenge: Propose products or services that would effectively increase the demand for digital money and open opportunities for largely cash-based customers to participate in the financial system. With only Tuesday to prepare, students gave their presentations Wednesday morning and early afternoon.

Patrick Moreton, Olin’s senior associate dean for graduate programs, said the five-day competition is a chance for students to step outside the somewhat artificial realm of the cases they’ve seen in the classroom.

“Classroom cases are more retrospective. They’re an effective teaching technique, but they’re not the real world,” Moreton said. “We bring in the outside companies so the stakes are higher. This is a chance for students to work on the kind of problems you might get at work.”

For the students, those “high stakes” include knowing they’re essentially auditioning for some top employers looking to fill summer internships. The partners get to see Olin students in action, gauging their analytical and presentation skills. Moreton urged the more than two dozen judges to consider a simple question as they evaluated the presentations: Could I give it to my boss without changing it? That might be a perfect presentation.

Corporate benefits

For the partners, it doesn’t hurt that they get 30 sets of eyes offering new perspectives and fresh insights on their business. Even if one presentation doesn’t jump out, the aggregated effect of multiple team presentations could uncover new ways of considering their problems.

For Monsanto, student ideas to “disrupt” its business included:

  • A software platform to aggregate farmers’ field data, Monsanto proprietary data, and third-party information to customize recommendations for farmers as they planned their annual seed and supply orders.
  • A user-generated social networking platform for farmers to share best practices using artificial intelligence to integrate ideas with outside data and elevate the most promising suggestions.
  • Another software platform using field and laboratory data to transition Monsanto away from corn and soy products—which largely support crops that provide feed for animals—to a business that moves toward more vegetable-based diets and lower protein diets.

Student suggestions for MasterCard included a plan to test an expansion of point-of-sale devices at retail locations in Mexico to expand the capacity of card-based cashless commerce and a proposal to reduce or eliminate digital payment fees to incentivize merchants to encourage them.

Winners

ICE Week organizers and the corporate partners raved about the high quality proposals they saw from students in both cases. They selected a runner-up and a winning team for both cases and a “best of show” team for the overall competition. Winners get a chance to make their presentations at Monsanto and MasterCard in front of senior leadership, as well as tour the companies and learn more about the business.

Monsanto case winners also got an Amazon Echo.

Monsanto-Amazon Case: Kavon Javaherian, Neha Lankadasu, Kyle Lee, Ana Mihaila (runners-up); Camden Civello, YoonJin Hwang, Takashi Otsuka, Meredith Owen (winners).

MasterCard Case: Camden Civello, YoonJin Hwang, Takashi Otsuka, Meredith Owen (runners-up); Greg Brown, Maitrayee Goswami, Junho Kim, David Paquette, Ariel Washington (winners).

Overall Winners: Greg Brown, Maitrayee Goswami, Junho Kim, David Paquette, Ariel Washington.




The MBA Class of 2015 wrapped their semester with the annual ICE Week competition on Thursday, December 19.  Groups were assigned during orientation (GO! Program) in July and worked together throughtout the Core curriculum.  Their last test of endurance and knowledge included two case competions during the final week of the semester.

Olin Business School and the Marketing and Communications Department provided the first case “Full-time MBA Branding Campaign 2014.” It generated an abundance of ideas for message points and the visual identity of the program.  Of course, only one team could win and they will have the opportunity to work with Paula Crews and her team on implementing their ideas in to the strategic plan for Olin.

The second case was provided by Michael Gavornik (MBA 2003) of Metal Container Corporation, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev.  Facing a strategic dilemma with ABI, students were challenged to come up with solutions for ABI to better utilize MCC to deliver value to ABI and execution of the strategy.  The winning team will have the opportunity to consult with MCC as they continue to address this issue.

In true MBA fashion, the week was brought to a close with the ICE Breaker Party at the Knight Center.  Students not only celebrated the end of ICE Week but also the completion of their first semester in the program.

ice team 1 ice team 2




First year MBA’s are undergoing a grueling test of fortitude, team work, and caffeine-fueled all-nighters to compete in the Integrative Case Experience, better known as ICE week. There are two business cases this year for teams to tackle and they have less than 24 hours to study each case, research, and prepare a presentation for a panel of judges.

The class was presented with the first case focused on re-branding Olin’s full time MBA program on Monday afternoon immediately following their Finance final exam.  Most of the students were in a semi-zombie state as they received packets and a presentation about a new business strategy and branding plan for Olin.  They were challenged to deliver a new tag line for the MBA program, a messaging hierarchy, and a visual identity for the website home page.

Teams began presenting at 11am Tuesday morning in front of judges and wrapped up at 4 p.m., just in time to assemble again in May Auditorium to learn about their second case that will be due Wednesday morning. Winning teams will be announced at an ‘Ice-Breaker’ reception on Thursday.

Stay chill Class of 2015 and carry on!

Pictured above members of Team 5: Daniel Shuster, Bobby Kanefsky, Manman Shang, Ashwin Ramanan, and Stephanie Meldrum.