Practice makes perfect

The world’s largest strategic management competition – the 33rd Global Management Challenge (GMC) – attracted 150 participants from 25 countries and regions to Macau over three days, the fifth time Macau has played host to the competition. Won by the Russian team, their fourth consecutive time to receive the trophy, the local team didn’t make it to the finals this year despite winning in 2007 and securing second place in last year’s competition in Prague, Czech Republic. Luis Alves Costa, the founder of the event, never believed that a game he devised for his university class would grow to such an extent, involving teams from 33 countries worldwide.
“The GMC was born when I was a teacher at Lisbon University, giving IT and Management classes, using a first-generation simulator in the 70’s – a very simple machine that only allowed you to make three decisions. My students were very excited about it and would even ask me to give classes on Saturdays and do more simulations. I started noticing that they could learn complicated ideas such as price elasticity very quickly,” the professor told Business Daily.
Costa procured a more modern simulator, which allowed the inclusion of up to eight people and enabled teams to see how their decisions could affect the simulated market. With an eye to creating a national competition Luis founded a management simulator company, SDG, and contacted weekly newspaper Expresso as a media partner, which then took charge of creating a national competition leading to the first management challenge taking place in 1980.
“It went so well we went to Brazil the next year, then France, England, and now we’re in 30 countries and half a million participants have already been involved in the challenge,” Costa said.
Training ground
The challenge created by Costa sees participants assume control of a simulated company, managing different aspects of a simulated business environment and making management decisions based upon a simulated company history and the world financial situation as it was in the previous five years.
Teams comprise university students, executives, or mixed teams (students and executives) with the competition made up of a qualifying round and a final round to pick national winners. The first round pits all teams against each other, with only eight of the top scoring teams continuing on to the national final. The winner of the eight proceeds to the international final, representing their country.
Kick-starting management careers
The founder never realised the potential the challenge had to change the future of its participants until a Chinese team won the first international final and he witnessed the reception their university prepared.
“I was just in awe at the size of the auditorium and the amount of people present. In the end, the university dean thanked me because I had no idea how good this was for the five young team participants who were now guaranteed employment at [companies like] Century21, Motorola, and Microsoft, even before finishing their Bachelor’s,” Costa told Business Daily.
Since the inception of the competition China has taken home five world titles and Russia a close four – a dominance Costa explains by the work ethic participants from both countries put into the competitions and their knowledge of the benefits for their professional life after taking home a title from the GMC.
“Every country has talent, but there is inspiration and there is sweat.
For example, some years ago Brazil went to the final; before these competitions we offer a friendship dinner and a party where I saw that the Brazilian team was so happy – they were partying, drinking – and I told them maybe they should go to sleep or tomorrow could be hard. They didn’t take my advice and the next day they were sleeping at the table, while the Chinese and Russians – who had gone to sleep or kept working at 10:00 pm – just took it more seriously,” Costa added, remembering that teams from China – unlike other countries whose financing is backed by companies – are composed mainly of students who pay out of their own pockets.
Every five years
When the competition was first held in Macau in 1998, Costa invited Dr.
Stanley Ho to be the jury president; surprised by the cultural mixtures the city had to offer the professor decided to hold the competition in the city every five years.
“We saw that Macau had a lot of extra value for teams from other continents, so we agreed with the Macau Management Association that every five years the competition would take place in Macau, in order to make the bridge between the West and East. I think it’s good for us and good for Macau,” Costa said.
The founder pushes for one of the goals of GMC to be the promotion of entrepreneurship and believes that the qualification rounds in participating countries are useful for networking and practice.
“One of our big objectives is to help their [the participants’] future.
We really believe the challenge can spur entrepreneurship and has made deals with foundations and companies wanting to promote entrepreneurship in Macau. We try to mix unemployed finance or engineering graduates with company CEO’s, to ease the networking and employment possibilities,” Costa told Business Daily, adding that local students are taken to another level by having to take decisions on human resources, inventory, industry and finances.
The next two GMC finals will be in Qatar and Dubai, with the 2021 edition again taking place in Macau.