Students from the Council on Business & Society’s 6 schools participated in a two-day case study competition based on an energy-related theme and facilitated by Parker Ranch CEO, Dutch Kuyper.
The 2015 Boston case competition winning team:
- Florian Gueritte (ESSEC Business School)
- Weiran Ni (Fudan School of Management, Fudan University)
- Hidehiro Ito (Keio Business School)
- Nicolas Leicht (University of Mannheim, Business School)
- Sebastian Restrepo (Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth)
An interview with the winning team provides insights into the experience and, in the light of the forthcoming COP21, a student perspective on the energy issue
One of the highlights at the Boston 2015 Global Forum, hosted by Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, was the unique participation of students from the Council’s six schools in a case study competition. The case – Parker Ranch: Hawaii at a Crossroads – written by Tuck Professor Bob Hanson, Parker Ranch CEO Dutch Kuyper and Jonathan Mitchell, Parker Ranch’s Manager of Corporate Development, set the challenging task of analyzing a local Hawaiian community’s requirements in energy and finding an alternative renewable energy solution despite fierce competition from traditional large energy providers.
‘Overall, everything went pretty smoothly in our team,’ states Florian Gueritte of ESSEC Business School. We were lucky in that each of us had different skills, backgrounds and experience which meant that the five of us brought something to the table. Then, when we initially began the case competition, we managed to communicate very well from the outset, splitting tasks. Our complementary skills helped us to win through.
‘The Boston case competition was really a great experience for me,’ confirms Weiren Ni from the Fudan School of Management. First, we had a team with members from different countries, and when we worked on the same case, we had different working methods: some were good at strategic thinking and provided useful frameworks, while others were good at in-depth analysis, listing details one by one. Second, as time was limited, we respected each other, encouraged each other, and took full use of each other’s skills – that was the moment to experience great team spirit. We even finished the whole analysis and PowerPoint presentation together, as a team, and we trusted each other, believing that we could do a better job together: this in itself was a really amazing experience under pressure. And finally, we immediately spotted the common ground between us: although we spoke English with various accents, we saw that it was the shared language for communication within the team. Moreover, although we had different backgrounds, our MBA studies enabled us to find common meaning in the case. In a word, the competition brought us to work together within an international team to effectively put into practice what we had learned within the framework of a real case.
‘The case was an extremely positive experience,’ asserts J. Sebastian Restrepo (Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth). Often in business programs you talk about preparing to work in a cross-cultural, diverse workplace but very rarely does this get put into action. The Boston case competition provided a real life and tangible experience of the challenges and benefits that come from working with a truly diverse team. Working with people from very different backgrounds, language skills and core competencies on the fly to solve a complex problem was one of the best learning experiences we have had in our respective educational experiences.
Florian Gueritte maintains that perhaps the biggest challenge was the final presentation in the conference room before an audience of leading business experts and academics. The choice was made that all the 5 members would present our project. This was a bold and risky choice: we had to manage more transitions, and among us some were more or less confident in their English with the task of telling a coherent and seamless story. What we did was help each other write and rehearse our speech until we got it right. Team support was critical in our success.
The Parker Ranch case and CEO, Dutch Kuyper
‘Often you hear about these mythical organizations that are “mission driven,”’ asserts J. Sebastian Restrepo. I really didn’t think these truly existed until I met Dutch and Jonathan Mitchell, Parker Ranch’s Manager of Corporate Development. These two individuals are truly passionate about the mission of their organization and the constituents they serve. They approach this mission not just with heart but also a great deal of outside-the-box thinking. They saw a problem and instead of passing the buck they took on entrenched business interest.
‘When first reading the case we all were excited – but at the same time overwhelmed by its scope,’ states Nicolas Leicht from University of Mannheim, Business School. The case contained so many different layers comprising finance, strategy, leadership and many more. This made it particularly difficult in the beginning to work through the case and put the focus on the right areas. But by pulling together the strengths of our different backgrounds we were able to spot them and emphasize the critical facets. Parker Ranch was so interesting because it offered an opportunity to work on a tough business case while still having in mind the welfare benefits it can have in the real world for the communities in Waimea and for Hawaii as a whole. This gave us the confidence of being able to make a valuable contribution to this venture. Working with Dutch Kuyper was also a great experience. He has been extraordinarily successful and now puts all his skills and effort into a project offering large social benefits. His commitment and sense of responsibility for his community could be felt immediately when he was talking about Parker Ranch and Hawaii. Conducting this case competition with him was a lesson not only with respect to the technical skills we learned during the case, but especially regarding the personal attributes one needs to lead change and which he embodies.
The future of the energy sector: positive or negative?
Florian Gueritte asserts that energy has always been and will continue to be the fuel of global growth. If we and the world continue to grow for the next decades (population growth, productivity and emerging countries point to that direction), then the future of the energy sector as a whole is bright and very positive. However, power will undergo a reshuffle, for the energy sources and leaders (whether countries or companies) of the previous centuries will not necessarily benefit from these amazing prospects for energy in the 21st century. There will be new players, and existing ones will disappear. The difference between the winners and losers – in the potential scenario that the while current energy market will be disrupted – will be their capacity to adapt, think differently (production, storage, transmission, grid, etc.) and reduce the carbon footprint while increasing the energy power of the world. Investment in the right technologies and a good allocation of capital by investors and companies will also make a difference. If the money spend on lobbying by firms in the energy sector were spent in carbon-capture technologies or low-carbon energy sources, this whole debate would probably not be happening.
Hidehiro Ito from Keio Business School adds that ‘the energy sector will contribute to the improvement of energy generation, the balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability realization, and the enlightenment of energy consumers’. However, in business, the energy sector will have to overcome many issues. COP21 is going to regulate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions for individual country, which may lead to reductions in turnover for the energy business/sector. Although the price increase of energy units is required, it will not be so easy: price is strongly connected with economic development. At the Council’s forum in Boston, I realized that many speakers referred to the necessity of innovation such as the usage of new energy resources like shale gas and clean energy as well as smart grids. Although, it currently seems that such types of innovation have remained only in the concept phase or at small practice-level, the implementation of innovation will become essential factors for the energy sector in the future.
A message to the leaders at the forthcoming COP21
Florian Gueritte finishes with a powerful reminder: ‘Remember than even the successful Kyoto protocol excluded emerging economies and that the United States has never ratified it. However, the realistic message I’d like to deliver is stop subsidizing polluting industries such as coal-fired power plants, oil, etc. I also think it would be good to redirect a fraction of this huge amount of money to investment in energy-efficient buildings, non-carbon energy sources, carbon-capture technologies, smart grids, and environment-friendly storage to name but a few.’
Feature edited by Tom Gamble, the Council on Business & Society. All content kindly provided by the case competition winning team.
Winning participant profiles
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