SDM Team Makes Final Round

Christian LaFon, Dave Schiller, Matt LaMantia, and Jeanne Kesapradist (L-R) advanced to the final round of the 2005 Thunderbird Global Innovation Challenge.

In Innovation Challenge

By Amy MacMillan, LFM-SDM Communications Assistant
December 14, 2005

An SDM team advanced to the final round of the 2005 Thunderbird Global Innovation Challenge in Arizona in October.

Jeanne Kesapradist, Dave Schiller, Christian LaFon, and Matt LaMantia, all from the SDM class entering in 2005, joined together for the third annual academic innovation challenge, which featured 321 teams from 83 top-tier business schools around the globe. The Innovation Challenge unites students who want to tackle real-world business challenges with businesses executives who require fresh perspectives on those matters. It is sponsored by Thunderbird – the Garvin School of International Management, Hilton Hotels, the U.S. Postal Service, IBM, and American Express.

Christian LaFon, Dave Schiller, Matt LaMantia, and Jeanne Kesapradist (L-R) advanced to the final round of the 2005 Thunderbird Global Innovation Challenge.

For the first round, the SDM team wrote a two-page business concept plan on business process and branding for the U.S. Postal Service, which included new ideas for increasing awareness. It featured an overview, value proposition, feasibility, and bottom line results.

The SDMers expressed admiration for innovations the post office has made to-date. "If you read their strategic transformation plan, it’s amazing to see how much the post office is doing! It’s a very progressive organization," LaMantia said.

Thanks to their idea, the SDM team became one of only ten teams to advance to the second round of competition. They flew to Glendale, Arizona for this final phase where they spent two full days working on another concept plan for Hilton Hotels and the U.S. Postal Service. Next, they presented their proposal before a panel of judges comprised of international executives, management consultants, and innovation experts.

A team from the Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt University captured the 1st place title of "Most Innovative MBA Team in the World" and won $20,000 in cash. The second- and third-place teams received $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.

Although the SDM team did not place in the final round, the students said the competition gave them terrific perspective on how to make presentations and on other business schools’ curriculum. Kesapradist said other contestants and the judges noted how the SDM team took the whole system into consideration when proposing concept plans.

"They could tell that we had thought through the entire idea. That was the key thing we did right in the competition," she said. "It gave me a lot of confidence in terms of the training we get through SDM and how it stacks up against other programs."