Behind the scenes at each Leadership Crisis Challenge (LCC), dozens of student volunteers are writing tweets, answering emails, acting as protestors, and generally putting the crisis into the challenge. They work with the core Sanger staff all night. We call the room where it all happens our “war room.”
For the second year in a row, Net Impact Undergraduate students took the lead on coordinating the war room during the undergraduate challenge. Dozens of volunteers from the organization and from around the school pitched in to run the simulation last month.
We caught up with the two leads (our “war lords”), Antara Ajjampur and Aaron Ngo, to get the inside scoop on LCC.
How did you end up behind the scenes in the war room this year?
AARON: Each year, a group of Net Impact (NI) students helps with writing the case and putting on the Crisis Challenge. I knew that I wanted to take on a larger role in NI this year, and was considering being a project manager. I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to get more involved in NI and the broader Ross community (and it was)!
ANTARA: I echo everything Aaron said. I had heard a lot about the Crisis Challenge and the people who participated in it said it was a great experience so I knew I wanted to join the team that helps out with the case. They luckily needed new project managers this year and I knew that I wanted to become more involved and take on a bigger role in NI so I applied.
What did you find most interesting or challenging about the Polaris case that was used during this Crisis Challenge?
AARON: For me, it was challenging being an underclassman working on the case. Early in the year, I looked at it and it had a lot of components I wasn’t familiar with yet. I didn’t really understand the implications of the financial statements or what a subpoena was. Luckily, Antara and the rest of the team helped out and taught me what I needed to know.
ANTARA: The thing I found most interesting about the case was how in-depth but also applicable this case was. It felt very real and I liked that I got to help add extra elements to make the case more interactive. I also loved being able to read the case at the very end and seeing parts that the NI team and I had added make it into the final case.
You both seemed so composed in the war room that night. How did you feel it went?
AARON: To be honest, I didn’t really feel composed. There was a lot going on that night so it felt like we always had something to do. I’m happy everything went relatively smoothly too. It definitely went by faster than I thought it would as well. We had the Michigan game on in the background so that was fun too!
ANTARA: I definitely did not feel composed! I was in charge of checking on the first time release and making sure everyone sent in their answers. I thought I would be ready, but it all felt so hectic when the time came. Luckily, we got them all in and everything ended up going so well! I was happy with how well our team worked together and time flew by. We also had fun reading out funny responses and tweets to each other throughout the night.
What was the most memorable interaction you had with a team on Thursday night?
AARON: Towards the end of the night, I walked past a study room where another member of the war room was calling teams, pretending to be Kim (a disgruntled employee at Polaris). You could hear him from the hallway, and the things he was saying were hilarious!
ANTARA: I replied to a couple emails in a sassy manner after the teams didn’t do something and it was really fun to see how they reacted! Also, seeing the tweets the teams put out and getting to read the hilarious responses back to them!
What did you think of the activities on Friday at the Big House?
AARON: We were both Room Managers on Friday, basically working to ensure both students and judges knew what was going on and where to go during and after their presentations. I thought the teams did great! Being able to see it all come together and watch the teams compete was definitely a valuable part of the experience for me.
ANTARA: It was really interesting to see how each team approached it differently and to hear the judges feedback. I got to learn what the judges would be expecting in an actual boardroom setting.
How does LCC fit in with Net Impact’s mission?
AARON: Net Impact strives to cultivate a community of students interested in how business can play a greater role in the world: mostly through a social impact or sustainability lens. I think LCC is a perfect example of an NI project that engages other students and forces them to think about the impact that a business’s actions can have.
LCC takes it a step further and challenges students to figure out how to handle a situation where the impact may not be positive. By helping Sanger put on this event every year, we’re providing an opportunity for other students to act as business leaders and think deeply about how a business can affect its broader stakeholders.
How can other students get involved with the Net Impact LCC team?
AARON: They can join NI next semester! (Just kidding, or maybe not). Every year we try to do a good job of recruiting for volunteers for the war room and for a press ambush or protest. These roles really help the case come to life, making it more fun and engaging to students. It’s also a pretty fun time, plus you get free dinner.
ANTARA: Come join the NI Crisis Challenge Team! Also, we love having volunteers to help in the war room, press ambush, and room managers. So if any of those seem interesting to you, definitely reach out to us because it is so helpful and helps students truly get the most realistic experience.
What are some tips you have for future student teams participating?
AARON: I thought the best teams were able to communicate with each other during their presentations. Instead of memorizing what they wanted to say and switch off by saying things like “and now [NAME] will tell you about our financial projects” I think teams could be more fluid and speak whenever they feel they had something valuable to add to the conversation.
These cases are naturally made to be ambiguous so I don’t think preparing a structured script is the best way to go, rather just knowing your recommendation well enough to be able to answer any questions about it on the spot.
ANTARA: Remember that the board of directors (judges) are on your team. Make sure that you are willing to work with the judges as they give feedback and take what they are saying into account. Also, be sure that you have a reason for everything you decide to say and can back it up. Finally, don’t get lost in the little details. It is a long case and focus on the most important parts that the judges will want to learn about.
Anything else to add?
AARON & ANTARA: We 100% recommend participating in the Crisis Challenge. It is such an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience that you should really take advantage of.
The Leadership Crisis Challenge is held twice per year, once for graduate students and once for undergraduate students. It is open to all current Michigan students; you can express interest in a future challenge to get more information.
Net Impact Undergraduate is a student organization at U-M that empowers a new generation to drive social and environmental change throughout their careers. You can join by visiting their website.