With the long-term growth in MBA enrollments and the widespread use of cases, the worldwide pool of students who will encounter the case method continues to expand. Strictly speaking, case study isn’t about the case method because such situations also occur in the real world—not surprising, given that cases mirror the real world. The method doesn’t account for every situation encountered in cases or every combination of situations. It simply takes advantage of the fact that many cases do involve certain well-deﬁned situations. From time to time, MBA students have told me they feel there is a secret to the case method that some people get and some don’t. If you get it, you do well; if you don’t, you scrape by as best you can, always fearful that you will be exposed. The case method requires a lot from the student.
At the same time, it isn’t a secret society in which a few fortunate individuals get it and thus out perform their peers. Case method students need two distinct sets of skills. First, they need to be able to analyze a case, to give it meaning in relation to its key issues or questions that have been asked about it. The goal is to come to conclusions congruent with the reality of the case, taking into account its gaps and uncertainties. Second, students have to be able to communicate their thinking effectively. The method should help you use the business concepts that are already part of your working knowledge or are taught in business courses—concepts such as:
• Expectancy Theory (Victor Vroom)
• 5 Cs analysis of marketing situations
• 5 Ps Model of Leadership
• Value Chain (Michael Porter)
The combination of a method to organize thinking about a case and business concepts will help you come to conclusions and explain why you think they’re valid.
It also occurs in writing, in class assignments, research projects, and examinations. Each type of communication has its own needs and requirements. In class, you have to meld your insights with the overall discussion. The role of each individual is to advance the discussion and contribute to the collective understanding of the case. Individual or group presentations usually aim at persuading the audience. A case-based essay also aims at persuasion. Basically, case study is divided into three separate skills: case analysis (part I), discussion (part II), and writing about cases (part III).