The Covid-19 travel restrictions dramatically reduced the number of student exchanges around the world in September 2020. Having fewer exchange students in the BBA International Business class forced me to think out of the box to find new ways to meet the AACSB Learning Goal ‘Graduates should be able to work effectively in a multicultural team’. I decided to test a disruptive initiative organized by one of our partners, the University of Maryland. Their International Business Agility Labs program consisted of six virtual case competitions in different subject areas (Marketing, Supply Chain, Finance, Accounting, Analytics and Entrepreneurship), each solving a problem for a real company abroad. The competition attracted business students from 17 partner institutions in 12 countries.
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Our students were mixed into teams with Maryland students and they competed against the Lahore Business School and the University of Navarra. They worked on a marketing case for a Portuguese start-up called BuildUp Labs. The teams had to carry out a market analysis and then propose a business model and a 6-month go-to-market plan for the platform Wyzr. The competition took place over 8 days. Students attended several online presentations on Zoom : these were given by members of the University of Maryland, Lisbon’s investment promotion agency Investlisboa, the marketing agency ComOn and its client BuildUp Labs. The students had to submit written proposals, and then the short-listed teams presented live on Zoom.
Our ‘Lab’ was run by the Associate Director of the Global Business Center at the University of Maryland and was sponsored by the American Marketing Association. The judges were professors together with professionals in the field.
This activity gave students an outstanding hands-on consulting experience for a real company and enabled them to improve their group work skills and cross-cultural competence. All the class said that they had been pleased to have been given this opportunity, and 89% would recommend similar experiences for BBA students in the future. They considered it to be a very valuable experience and several students said that they would put it on their cv – not only the 3 SKEMA students who were on the winning team!
This experiment proved the benefits of working with our international partners. However, the event was not designed for whole classes and also we had to change our schedule and ask for students to be excused from other courses. So although, it wouldn’t be feasible to include the IB Agility Labs in the syllabus at SKEMA in the future, organizing a similar activity ourselves would remove most of the operational constraints and would be really worthwhile.