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Sink or SWIM: The Case Study (continued)

Despite the numerous hurdles, with four days to spare, all the pieces of the conference-planning puzzle had come together. The “Dare to Fail” planners had succeeded in selling 500 tickets (100 more than in 2011), had hit their fundraising goal, and had confirmed all 15 speakers. But then came the predictions that a snowstorm of historical proportions was heading toward Boston. At 2:00 p.m. the day before the conference was to begin, with vendors on their way to begin setting up the venue, the leadership team needed to decide whether the conference would go on as planned, be modified, or be canceled altogether. The MIT administration had not yet closed the Institute, and would not comment on whether or not they would. MIT rarely closed its doors; but if it did, no events would be allowed on campus, including the conference.

The decision facing the conference leadership team was not an obvious one. The impending weather was not a certainty. New England weather forecasts were wrong as often as they were right. While some speakers and attendees were already on their way to Boston, many attendees were asking whether the conference would be rescheduled. The conference leadership team began weighing the potential ramifications of their final decision. They wondered what would happen if the conference was not canceled and MIT ended up closing later in the day. What if the conference was canceled, MIT did not close, and the storm was not the showstopper it was predicted to be? What would be the potential fallout with attendees and corporate sponsors? Would SWIM’s reputation be impacted? If the team opted to cancel the conference, would they be expected to give back ticket revenue? And, if so, how would that affect the bottom line?

While they muddled over their options, the planning team couldn’t help but be reminded that the conference revolved around the theme of coming to the brink of failure and still finding a way to succeed.

To read more, and to download the full case, please visit https://mitsloan.mit.edu/LearningEdge/Leadership/sinkorswim/Pages/default.aspx.