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Case Hints – Why We Use the Case Method

The case method is one of the most effective means of management education. It is widely used in schools of business throughout the world, and this use is predicated upon the belief that tackling real business problems is the best way to develop practitioners. Real problems are messy, complex, and very interesting.

Unlike other pedagogical techniques, many of which make you the recipient of large amounts of information but do not require its use, the case method requires you to be an active participant in the closest thing to the real situation. It is a way of gaining a great deal of experience without spending a lot of time. It is also a way to learn a great deal about how certain businesses operate, and how managers manage. There are few programmable, textbook solutions to the kinds of problems faced by real general managers. When a problem becomes programmable, the general manager gives it to someone else to solve on a repeated basis using the guidelines he or she has set down. Thus the case situations that we will face will require the use of analytical tools and the application of your personal judgment.

Sources of Cases

All the cases in this course are about real companies. You will recognize many of the names of the companies, although some of them may be new to you. These cases were developed in several different ways. Occasionally, a company will come to a business school professor and request that a case be written on that company. In other situations, a professor will seek out a company because he or she knows that the company is in an interesting or difficult situation. Often, the company will agree to allow a case to be written.

Occasionally, cases will be written solely from public sources. This is perhaps the most difficult type of case writing, because of the lack of primary data sources.

In those situations where a company has agreed to have a case written, the company must “release” the case. This means that they have final approval of the content of a given case. The company and the case writer are thus protected from any possibility of releasing, data that might be competitively or personally sensitive. Public source cases, obviously, do not need a release. Given the requirement for release, however, it is amazing the amount of information that companies will allow to be placed in a case. Many companies do this because of their belief in the effectiveness of the case method.

Preparing for Class

When you prepare for class, it is recommended that you plan on reading the case at least three times. The first reading should be a quick run-through of the text in the case. It should give you a feeling for what the case is about and the types of data that are contained in the case.