Cases and Case method

Case method — this training technique uses a description of real economic, social and business situations.

While you’re solving a case, you need to investigate the situation, understand the essence of the problems, suggest possible solutions and choose the best of them. Cases are based on actual material or are close to the real situation.

The method was first applied at the Harvard Business School in 1924. Teachers quickly realized that there are no textbooks suitable for the postgraduate program in business.

Their first solution to this problem was an interview with leading business practitioners with a detailed description of what these managers were doing. Factors which influences their activity also were fixed.

The postgraduate students were given descriptions of a certain situation, which faced a real organization in their activities. This made it possible to get acquainted with the problem and find a solution both independently and in the course of collective discussion.

Advantages of the case method:  
  • Practical orientation. Case-method allows you to apply theoretical knowledge to solve practical problems. This approach compensates exclusively for academic education and gives a broader view of business and processes than lectures in the university or practice in a narrow area of ​​work

  • Interactive format. Case-method provides more effective mastering of the material due to high emotional involvement and active participation of trainees. Participants are immersed in the situation with the head: the case has a protagonist, in the place of which the team puts itself and solves the problem from his face. The emphasis in training is not on mastering ready-made knowledge, but on producing it

  • Specific skills. Case-method allows to improve "soft skills", which are not taught at the university, but which are extremely necessary in a real working process


Disctinctive features of the case method


The solution of cases consists of the following steps:

  1. Situation studies

  2. Collecting and analyzing missing information

  3. Assessment of possible solutions to the problem

  4. Development of the best solution

Features of the case method:

  • The case does not have the correct answer. The optimal solution can be one, but there are several effective solutions

  • Introductory cases may conflict with one another or change over time. The case is based on real facts and imitates the real life situation, and in life you often face similar problems

  • The time for finding solutions is limited. In business, there is rarely an opportunity to find out all the details and have a complete picture before your eyes


The solution of cases helps to develop useful skills


Skills in working with information

  • Search for missing data

  • Analysis and processing of data sets in a time-limited environment

  • Making the results logical and structured

Business management skills

  • Search for new optimal solutions

  • Effective action in conditions of stress, uncertainty and lack of information

  • Rapid decision making in the face of conflicting input data and time constraints

Soft skills

  • Project management, teamwork, conflict management

  • Public Speaking Skills

  • Convincingly formulate your opinion, discuss, look for options


Cases are classified according to the format of use and complexity


According to the format of use:

  • Executive-cases. Participants get acquainted with the case directly at the event and decide it individually or in a format of discussion with the moderator. Such cases are used as an illustration of the theoretical material or for testing specific narrow skills. The size of the case is 1-2 pages

  • Case studies. Designed for analysis in the classroom and general discussion, sometimes it is assumed that participants will be briefly pre-trained. The size of the case is 3-5 pages

  • Harvard cases. Imply an independent team work for several days and presentation of the solution. The size of the case is 20 - 25 pages

According to the level of complexity:

  • Highly structured. Include a minimum amount of additional information. They contain a certain model of the solution, and there is an optimal solution

  • "Short vignetts". Introduce only key concepts, include 2-3 pages of applications. Participants need additional knowledge to work

  • Large unstructured cases. These are the most complex cases. Participants need to cope with a large amount of poorly structured data. The case may include extra information and / or missing data


Types of business-cases


Depending on the topic of the tasks being solved, there are 12 types of business cases. They can be divided into 4 groups.


1 - Cases about operations:

  • About the fall of profits

  • About Marketing

2 - Cases about strategic development:

  • About launching a new product

  • About entering a new market

  • About entering a new geo-market

  • About the setting a new plant

  • About mergers and acquisitions

3 - Cases about external changes:

  • About the reaction to competitors

  • About the reaction to the external environment

4 - Cases on the flexibility of the mind:

  • About the size of the market

  • Puzzles