MBA students from the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business proved to be tough competitors at this year’s Net Impact Case Competition. Eight Eccles School MBA students from two teams competed in the finals in Denver, Colo., on Feb. 8 – 9, 2019 to create a solution for Danone, this year’s sponsor. Bowen Humphrey, Hugh Spackman, Taylor Halversen, and Vanesa Villanes presented a sustainable model for rotational grazing systems to the judges, earning them 1st place with a cash award of $10,000.
“Our project showcases that doing good for a business, the environment, and customers don’t have to be separate goals. With the right design, good business ideas can do all three,” said Hugh Spackman, 2020 MBA candidate.
Danone encouraged finalists to be thought leaders in building a supply chain that is organic and regenerative. Taylor Halversen, 2020 MBA Candidate, explained the importance of healing the earth in addition to preventative measures in farming. “This isn’t just a competition for us. We are so excited about our idea, and it’s that excitement that has led us … to develop a model we are really proud of.”
The students put in many late nights and worked during weekends to prepare for the Net Impact Case Competition before heading to Denver. The team implemented various concepts from the classroom into their winning approach, such as setting group expectations and creating psychological safety in a successful team as taught by Tina Diekmann, Angus T. (Andy) Shearer Professor of Management, in her course, Foundations of Teamwork.
“Apart from having varied skill sets and being willing to put in the time, there’s one team dynamic that really helped us get into the finals,” Spackman said. “When we criticize each other’s ideas, we do it with the understanding that we’re trying to discard suboptimal ideas and strengthen good ones. It means we can disagree about ideas without being disagreeable.”
The freedom to express thoughts, opinions, and constructive criticism within the team positively impacted the value of each individual member’s contribution.
“Two years ago, before starting this program, I had no financial understanding or experience whatsoever. [It’s] forced me to look at situations in very different ways that I never would have considered. If I was working on my own, I wouldn’t have come up with anything a tenth as good as what our team has created,” added Bowen Humphrey, MBA candidate, 2019, the team’s financial lead.
Other Eccles School MBA participants in the final rounds of the competition included Dane Cannon, David Jaynes, Kirtis Kennard, and Ryan Fontanesi.