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Our Tech Strategy Bostonian quest

There is something about losing that the winners rarely get: a piece of own’s reality. Winning is a mesmerizing drug that limits you to perceive all the lessons that a competition has to offer to your personal story. Only through the eyes of a loser is that we question our own goals, personal skills, perceptions, dreams and illusions.
Nevertheless, trying to fight pride that comes by winning is way sweeter than trying to fight the one from losing, specially when you lose in something that you thought you were up to the challenge for…
This last week, a group of other three brave colleagues (Richard, Johnny and Gabo) and I embarked on the endeavor of showing the world what our MBA at IPADE has to offer. This was the 5th Boston Tech Strategy Case Competition held in Boston University.
Don’t get me wrong here, the experience was one of a kind, we had all the fun that we could, Boston University logistics and hospitality was simply first class, we met new people, old friends and I even got to drive a car through the cosmopolitan streets of Boston. However, I’m not here to tell you about the details and results of the event as Debra has already done an excellent job in describing everything nice and fluently in the official Case Competition blog: http://casecomp.blogspot.com. Therefore, my intention here is to explain how this experience was felt through our own eyes.
Maybe to others the result just matched the expectations, however, to us things look a little different. However, I am a witness that we did everything we could and were prepared to do. We developed a consistent and well-thought concept that we still believe Ericsson should follow, In fact, what we presented intuitively matches the proposal of one of the finalists. Definitely the intuition that IPADE has been generating in us is high-quality as, to arrive to pretty much the same conclusions, the finalist team had to perform a lot of analysis and hard number-crunching. (You can familiarize with our proposal by downloading our presentation HERE).
Ok then, so why didn’t we win? Hours of preparation, a team thoroughly chosen, great talents and skills in the team and a well-developed synergy and intuition: why didn’t we get to the finals then? These are the insights (or rationalizations) generated by our team in trying to explain our failure:
a) Focus on the how, not in the what: we thought it was all about selling the idea but it wasn’t. They cared a lot for the presentation skills, but for them those are just bottom-line. It is not about learning how to sell your idea but about developing such a well-thought and internalized analysis, that presentation quality should just flow naturally from the mind and heart. Hard job to be accomplished in 24 hours…
b) Lack of experience in researching for data: We are 100% case method, this means that all the information that you need to analyze in a given case or problem is always present either in the text or in the exhibits at the end of the case. However, this was totally different. We had myriads of information formats, sources and frameworks, and we had to decide which of them would be relevant or not to our solution. Not an easy task for the unexperienced…
c) Inability to unblock the writer’s block: At about 6 or 7 in the afternoon, we had three blackboards full of relevant and interesting information and proposals. But we were just looking at our faces without understanding what to do with it: how was the best way to present it in a compelling, coherent and well presented story-line? We had planned to sleep about 6 to 8 hours, we end up sleeping none. At about 11 in the night, the writer`s block unblocked almost by itself. We started putting our thoughts together in the presentation and then prepared to deliver the message. Difficult job for some tired and frustrated storytellers…
d) Focus on Emerging Market possibilities, instead of in the high value created by new technologies in the developed countries: One of the tasks of the case was to tell a case story about how would the initiatives proposed look like in a specific application. We, of course, focused in the intricacies and needs of our Emerging Market Economy. This was excellent as the financial results indicated an increase of 9 cents per share per year, by only spreading this initiatives in the Emerging Markets already present (compared to the 16 cents gained in 2008). However, they were expecting us to think like venture capitalists: not how to solve tough problems and make money out of it, but how to gain the most money with the least of efforts, and talking about Internet Mobility (the case’s topic), the big bucks are in the developed countries, where streaming tv and remote video gaming are well spread, require tons of bandwidth and are growing exponentially.
e) Not up to the challenge of the raising of the stakes: If you compare last year’s winning competitors to our performance, you could easily tell that we would have made it to the finals. However, the competing universities are definitely noticing the importance and exposure that this competition has been gaining with the years and they sent their heavy artillery. There is simply NO WAY that this year winners would have developed such a thoroughly analyzed and perfectly conveyed McKinsey-like performances in just 24 hours, even less for some of them who actually slept. They had a very good idea of the challenges in the industry, they talked both to industry and technology experts, to the researchers that are currently developing the new strategy frameworks that will be bestseller books next year, to the managers and decision makers of companies like Ericsson and they rehearsed the language, concepts and vocabulary they use in the verge of this new mobile internet era. We thought we would be able to crunch all that insight in 18 hours, hard job to do for guys whose experience and insights come more from analyzing the past than by shaping the future…

The results were fair. The judges judged well. We didn’t deserve to win. We deserved to be humbled by our assumptions and to be encouraged by understanding that, even though our intuition is accurate and compelling, we still need some skills to build if we are to fulfill the developed-countries’ tech-industry complex requirements. However, I think that not everything was a loss. I believe that we were able to portray that IPADE people are professional. That we are objective, we live by our values and maturely value the quality when we see it. That we value more the people we are with, than the material results we can get from them. We worked excellently as a team. I would definitely had chosen the same team even if I’d known we were going to lose. And most of all, I don’t believe that any other team proposed something as magnanimous as ours. Others proposed socially responsible actions as well, however, even when they proposed what Ericsson should have or do, I didn’t see any team that would clearly state what they were expecting Ericsson to become. We were not mediocre, we wanted money, we wanted our piece of the pie, but not only that. We developed a concept that aims not only to create economic value, but also aimed to make Ericsson a company focused in value co-creation, innovation orchestration and community managing. If I’d say that we achieved something, was to demonstrate ourselves that in our minds we have the goal to create a better world, one in which technology and strategy work harmoniously together to enhance the quality of life of our own. And even though we didn’t return as heroes, it makes me feel happy to know who my colleagues and I are becoming at IPADE. Thank you everyone both in Boston and in Mexico. This experience will definitely be added to our list of life-changing ones.

1 comment

  • Jorge Perez-Colin 1 April, 2010 at 11:41 am

    ¡Muchas felicidades a ti y todo el equipo! El ejercicio que haces de aprendizaje es muy valioso y ojalá que puedas convencer a Rafael que se sistematice y se incorpore a la curricula del MEDE.

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