Exciting Case Study

By Nina Shen

Soon after we settled down at HKUST, it was time to test our team work capabilities. Our program arranged a warm-up case study for us to understand how to crack a real business problem. The most important thing for this activity was that our school put classmates from different cultures and backgrounds together in each group.

Take my team as an example, we have five team members from China, Taiwan, Japan, India and Switzerland, and we are from different backgrounds, such as finance, insurance, entrepreneurship and consulting. No matter what problem we face: analyzing situations, coordinating communications, integrating ideas or driving discussions, we all have someone who is good at it and takes care of the specific job. Thus, either from a culture angle or a capacity angle, the diversity in my core group is high. 

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From the beginning, we spent some time brainstorming about our idea of new plan for the company in the case, and we disagreed with our own ideas several times after somebody proposed. Two days before the presentation, we had no time but to vote for an idea and to start working on our presentation and mock-up pitch. We gave it our best. Although we ultimately did not make win, some key things we know we needed to focus on how to deal with cultural differences, communication and multiple opinions.

Coincidently, our school also showed us the results of our personality tests to everyone after the case competition. We realized that we have just started to understand each other. Under time pressure, we failed to figure out the differences of our communication styles. Since we were in a diverse group, it was a shame that we did not make good use of our diversity. Moreover, we neither understood our team members enough to utilize our knowledge base nor fully applied the team capacity to the highest extent. In summary, we forgot to show respect to different voices and give certain team members a chance to put their strengths into the team. 

After this lesson, our group had a meeting to understand each other more and let every team member express his or her thoughts about the strengths, weaknesses and communication styles of each team member. We decided we should effectively leverage team resources that we only use 40%-45% so far. For example, we could have asked our teammate from China more about the habits and characteristics of Chinese customer to crack the case. For our next case or other activities, we allow everyone to share their opinions and hopefully we can have a better result. In the end, we had a priceless experience, we all learned from each other no matter from a culture sense or a communication sense.