Meet Hasse Holm Thomsen, current president of the Polit Case Competition Organization. The organization was founded in 2014 and consists of students of economics from the University of Copenhagen. Polit Case Competition is an economic case competition in which competitors have an opportunity to apply economic theory to a real-life problem.

In this interview with Hasse, we have talked about his experience as an organizer, his definition of a successful case competition and how did Polit Case Competition manage to deal with the current Covid-19 situation.

Tell us a little bit about your background…

I currently study Economics, I am a Master Thesis Student at Danish Central bank – I am writing my thesis there. I have been studying Economics at the University of Copenhagen for the last 5,5 years.

Prior to that, I lived in Madrid (Spain) with my family.

What is your experience with case competitions? How many events have you organized?

My experience with Case Competitions comes primarily from my knowledge with Polit Case Competition, the one I currently organize. I was a participant a couple of years ago and it didn’t go that well. So I figured, if I can’t beat them, why not join them? {Smiles}

I joined them 3 years ago as an organizer, where I was in a team responsible for funding and partnerships. Then, the following year, I became head of that team and now I am currently the president of the organization. I’ve done a lot of funding and a lot of partnerships, but now I am mainly responsible for the management of the teams and setting the overall strategy of the Polit Case Competition. 

Why did you start your career as an organizer?

The reason why I joined was that I was eager to seek out some extracurricular activities at the University of Copenhagen. The organization, even when I started, was very professional, as opposed to other student organizations that people were just joining to get something on their resumes, or just to hang out. People were actually there to build this great event and were willing to sacrifice their time to make it happen. The case competition’s professionalism and ambition were very appealing to me – so that was my primary reason for joining.

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What challenges do you usually have when organizing a case competition?

It makes a lot of difference to be a president, as opposed to a volunteer. The challenges I face range from ensuring that everyone within the organization is aligned with the overall mission and that no one feels like they don’t have enough to do, knowing whether a person can handle a task, or if I should delegate to someone else instead. Since it is all volunteer work, what I realized a bit later during the process is that a case competition has to be fun for people to organize. I think that this is the main challenge ensuring that on one side it is fun, but on the other hand, we also have to actually do something and manage to establish everything. That is a challenge sometimes.

How did your case competition deal with the current Covid-19 situation?

In the Polit Case Competition, we shifted everything to be online. Normally we have an event where everyone meets up, which is very typical of case competitions. In the Polit Case Competition, we also had that format. 

I remember it was a Wednesday when the Prime Minister announced that everything was shutting down – and our case competition was supposed to take place on Saturday, so we did not have much time to adjust. It was clear that we could not host the event we had planned in March, so we ended up postponing the case competition for almost half a year. Maybe we could have done something in May, but then we were getting closer to the exams and people prioritize exams more than case competitions. Eventually, we decided to postpone everything to October, and initially, we were hoping that we could do a physical event as we normally do, in one way or another, but soon it also became evident that we couldn’t. What we did instead, was to hold everything online – people were solving the case at home and we awarded them with goodie bags and lots of Wolt gift cards.

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You used Innoflow for your event. What was your experience with this software?

We were a bit unsure because we thought it cost a lot of money and it was something we wouldn’t normally use: we were unsure what the value was going to be; or if it was just going to be another expense. 

However, we were very happy with the format – it made things a lot easier. It was easier to organize everything, to manage when people accessed the information, the submissions, the sign-up – everything. It made things just way easier. 

We could have done it without Innoflow, I am sure, but it would have been much more time-consuming and we didn’t have so much time. We were also very happy with all the assistance. In this case – Lasse [Lasse Dam Jørgensen, Business Developer at Innoflow] was helping us, he made a preview of the Polit Case Competition, how the organizer’s page would look like, and we in the competition used that as a stepping stone towards the things that the participants faced.

How would you define a successful case competition? 

I think a successful case competition, in general, is one where all the stakeholders are happy at the end. Partner organizations, in our case – Copenhagen Airports and BCG are happy with the outcome and feel like they got something valuable for the money they put into it. Also, it is important that what the case participants are solving is relevant, fun, challenging and that they also have the means to solve it. The worst thing that you can do is write a case that people cannot solve. You need to be able to solve it regardless of your level. Lastly, I think it is also important to make sure that the organization behind the event gets something out of it: that they feel that they have been a part of something big, something important. It is crucial in these challenging times of Covid-19 because if you forget the underlying structure of the organization, and if you forget to focus on all those individuals, you end up with something that was good for partners and participants, but what about the people who actually organized it? You have to make sure everyone is happy with the outcome.

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What is your best advice for other organizers organizing a case competition? 

The most important thing is the case. Make sure you get the case right. Talk to other case competitions, other case writers, what have they done, how do they ensure that the case company or the case organization was happy with the case; how do you make sure that the case is solvable for all the participants. Everything else is also important, of course – for example, having nice food and beverages, hosting the event.. But the core thing is the case. So my advice is to focus on that and then focus on everything else.

And what would be your best advice for people who might take part in your events in the future?

My first advice is just: apply! Just go for it. The sooner you start, the better. Many people are unsure if they are good enough, whether they can do it – and then they might end up never signing up. So my first advice is just to sign up. If you just get going, spend your time, sign up, and see what it is. Seek advice from previous winners or participants, listen to what they have done. Some of them say that you need some slides prepared, I think that is good – to some extent you need to have some slides ready. But I think it is more important that you just approach the case open-minded and make sure that you work fast, and also work all together with your team.

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