Guide to MBA Applications • MBA

All About the Case Study Method Used by MBA Programmes

POSTED ON 07/09/2019 BY The Red Pen

All About the Case Study Method Used by MBA Programmes| The Red Pen

While researching business schools and their different teaching methods, you will come across something called the case study method. A teaching method employed by many business schools, the case study method focuses on a “learning by doing” approach. Here, students are expected to provide solutions to complex real-life scenarios that are dependent on many variables. Though Harvard Business School (HBS) is credited with introducing the case study method, it was actually introduced by Harvard Law School in 1870, 50 years before HBS adopted it.

Read on to learn more about the case study method and its benefits:

What is the case study format?

The case study method is a type of problem-based learning that deals with real-life or hypothetical business scenarios (i.e., cases), usually in the fields of marketing, finance, operations, strategy and policy, among others. Case studies are devised by faculty, often in conjunction with industry experts to reflect the problems they face. The class is provided with the context of the scenario. Subjective and objective data is given that often includes company history, financial data, product information and scope of operations.

The problems presented can relate to critical decisions–a company’s new market entry strategy, its pricing and questions about international expansion, among others. In each of these cases, the objective is the same–evaluate the underlying issues, understand all the variables surrounding the case, ask for information if not available and derive logical solutions based on data. While there is no “correct” solution, what is important is how you arrive at the solution–it needs to be logical and well-thought-out.

The case is debated in the classroom, which not only encourages interaction and class discussion but also gives you a chance to understand, appreciate and learn from different viewpoints. What makes the case study method unique is that, instead of lectures in a classroom-based environment, it puts you in the shoes of the decision-maker. For example, you could be the CEO of Starbucks trying to determine which country makes the most sense to enter, or you could be the CMO at UBER trying to get more people to use the app. It gears you up for real-life situations that you might face post-business school.

What programmes follow the case study method?

There are many MBA programmes renowned for using the case study method. Some business schools teach exclusively in the case-based method such as Harvard Business School, Darden School of Business, Ivey Business School and IESE Business School. Others such as INSEAD, Haas School of Business, Tuck School of Business, Stanford Graduate School of Business, The Wharton School, Columbia Business School and many others follow a hybrid system, combining the case-based method with classroom lectures.

What value does the case study method hold for me?

Case studies allow you to understand a wide variety of scenarios and learn how to handle them. The different points of view presented in class will broaden your perspective and the wide range of possible solutions from your classmates will help you make holistic decisions.

The case study method helps you develop the following:

1) Critical thinking:

Pouring over data, considering all the variables in a scenario and thoroughly analysing every situation will help you develop an analytical mind frame. This is especially useful for someone not from a STEM/consulting background.

2) Gain confidence:

Defending your views while also understanding and considering differing opinions not only builds confidence but also prepares you for real-world corporate scenarios where you are likely to face such situations.

3) Broadening your horizons with a business outlook:

Case studies often focus on international business scenarios. This exposure to global perspectives will push you out of your comfort zone and prepare you for future roles in international business.

While you will learn an array of skills through the case study method, there are some pitfalls:

  • Schools focused on case studies typically do 300-500 cases over a two-year period, which amounts to almost one case a day (when looking at approximately 60 weeks of teaching). This means that you will need to dedicate a lot of time to reading and analysing each case alongside other essential activities such as networking, attending events and the like.
  • Business cases must be constantly updated, otherwise, they become irrelevant in the current business environment. Continuous changes in technology and ways of doing business require case studies to evolve. The fluidity of the business world also means that by the time you graduate, things may have changed and your learning could be redundant just as you begin your career.

Interactive and thought-provoking, the case study method is an efficient way to put your fundamental concepts to the test and to learn new ideas. If you are unsure about which teaching method is best suited for you and which business schools you should apply to, get in touch with us. To know more about the work experience requirements, click here and to read more about the business school application process, click here.