BI-students awarded 2nd place in Harvard competition

20 December 2016

Based on an analysis of the Japanese animation industry, three BI-students have recently been awarded second place in the Microeconomics of competitiveness project competition, at Harvard Business School.

The students handed in an assignment in conjunction with the BI course "Strategies for Industrial Competitiveness", offered in collaboration with Harvard Business School. The course concludes with a group project, which entails an analysis of the competitiveness and development level of a specific industry and region. The assignment should match the standard of the top international consultancy firms, both in terms of content and presentation.

The best project was submitted as BI's contribution in the Harvard competition. To select a winner, Harvard Business School appoints a committee, which further chooses the best assignments worldwide. The prize consists of a diploma signed by the well renowned strategy professor at Harvard Business School, Michael Porter.

Christopher James Minora (29) from Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA, Stefania Cioroba (22) and Rodica Burlacu (23), both from Romania, represented BI in this year's competition. All of them are 2nd year students, enrolled in BI's Master of Science in Business, with a major in Strategy.

– It is very exciting to be acknowledged in a competition like this, and we are happy although it would have been great to win, Christopher said.

The President of BI, Inge Jan Henjesand, praises the students for their efforts.

– I congratulate our students with a strong academic achievement in a global competition, by one of the world's leading business schools. This helps to put BI on the map internationally, Henjesand said.

"It is very exciting to be acknowledged in a competition like this, and we are happy although it would have been great to win."

Contacts in Tokyo

– We started by brainstorming some non-traditional topics and narrowing it down to Japanese animation in Tokyo, which everyone has probably heard of, but maybe not studied at a business school. Next we worked hard to establish contacts in Tokyo via email and LinkedIn. This was extremely important because a lot of the available information was only in Japanese, so we needed some help, Christopher said.

Thinking outside the box, and daring to be a little unconventional is also important in these types of case competitions, the students explaned.

– The committee reads dozens of papers each year, and we wanted to give them a case they had never seen before, or maybe ever thought about, Minora og Burlacu said.

The students focused on balancing statistical data, with interesting insights into Japanese culture.

– I tried my best to fill in aspects of the paper that are typically heavy with figures and statistics with interesting examples from Japanese culture, so that the reader would actually remember the statistics with an interesting story, Christopher asserted.

Being curious and interested in the topic is also key.

– We enjoyed researching and learning about how this industry works, and were generally excited about the products and the culture we studied. That may not have been the case if we had chosen a more traditional cluster, he said.

Differences - a strength

Projects like these are very demanding and time consuming, hence trust and group dynamics are of paramount importance. But the students pointed out that fun should not be left aside.

Christopher says that it is important to distribute the tasks among the group members, depending on the topics that stirs their curiosity the most.

– We were lucky that our interests were all different and balanced each other out, he said.

I think that the team's strong drive for success was the main key for our accomplishment, Stefania claimed.

– We complemented each other's skills, and smoothly coordinated throughout the project. I am glad that, in the end, the sleepless nights, the hard work and dedication paid off and proved once more that the sin of ambition leads to amazing results.

"We were lucky that our interests were all different and balanced each other out."

Competitive edge

Assignment supervisor and head lecturer for the course at BI, Professor Torger Reve, points to the competitive edge the students gain by participating in such case competitions.

– What the students are learning in this course is to analyze an industry or an industry cluster, and make recommendations to the government on how to improve their competitiveness. They analyze emerging industries in the most advanced knowledge economies, mature industries in traditional industrialized countries, and emerging industries in developing countries, where the aim is to break the cycle of poverty, Reve said.

It is the industrial reality that is being analyzed. Therefore he invites guest speakers, such as successful entrepreneurs, managers of multinational companies, and cluster managers working with innovation and change, to class.

– This is the global classroom in practice! Reve said.

"This is the global classroom in practice!"

The students believe that the approach they used could be easily applied to other types of case competitions:

  1. Find group members you can trust - a good group dynamics is essential.
  2. Pare up with members that are different from you.
  3. Think outside the box when it comes to topics and dare to be unconventional.
  4. Choose a topic which hasn’t been intensively researched.
  5. Write about a topic that genuinely interests you - this makes the entire process more engaging, and, implicitly, leads to better results.
  6. Delegate tasks according to each member’s interests.
  7. Highlight facts, graphs and figures with interesting stories and examples - this will allow the reader to remember the message better.
  8. Decide from the very beginning how much effort you want to put into the assignment - this is essential for both your motivation and the end result.  


  • Harvard has developed a network of almost 100 business schools from around the world, offering variations of the course 'Microeconomics of Competitiveness'.
  • The best group project from each university participates in the Microeconomics of competitiveness project competition.
  • BI has achieved first and second places in five out of eight years, and this makes BI the business school with the most prizes in the world in this Harvard competition.
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