The world’s first “Master of Business Administration” program began at the Harvard Graduate School of Business & Administration in 1908. Fourteen years later, in 1922, the case-based teaching method was established as the primary teaching tool. at Harvard.
It all started with an interesting incident in April 1919, when the management of the General Shoe Company noticed that their employees at their manufacturing plant frequently stopped work 45 minutes before the usual end of shift time. This was despite the fact that the company had a large backlog of backlogs that needed to be produced. What then was the problem? A Harvard case study has been developed on this subject.
Faced with volatile demands for business training and multiple global events such as world wars, volatile business cycles, political upheavals and the 2008 global financial crisis over the past 100 years, Harvard has added new initiatives for the experiential learning. These included Immersion Field Experience for Leadership Development (FIELD) projects, technical simulations, flipped and experimental classes, introspection exercises and many more. In April 2021, she launched a campaign in her faculty living room to explore a few main questions: How well have business schools adapted and endured the case method 100 years later? Do they work?
4th IR, Covid & Plus
Business schools in 2021 are under immense pressure from potential employers for different types of skills they expect from students. Every integration into a position should produce results from day one and achieve flawless goals. And a subject that is not talked about much is “entrepreneurship”, in which many young people seek to grow up. Can case studies prepare students for success in a world that is changing faster than cases can be written? What are the gaps in these cases?
Students have been flocking to business schools for many years and we have seen in India every year many new institutions offering management programs. This has had an effect on the availability of quality qualified teachers, which is extremely damaging to the cause of education.
Teaching involves a thirst for knowledge, passion, commitment and hard work. Education is no substitute for not finding another job! At the same time, not all successful managers can be a good teacher or vice versa. How to train enough management teachers to impart knowledge?
The rise of new-age startups and knowledge-centric gig-economy roles add to the changing business landscape. None of these startups or companies had a precedent or manual to draw inspiration from. How can cases written 10 years ago be relevant today? The changed context makes the content irrelevant! The Covid pandemic has also shown that no case study can be treated as an update manual and that these could not help policymakers by coming up with ideas.
In the Age of Industry 4.0, the business disruption is evident with the fact that 54% of Fortune 500 companies by the year 2000 are extinct (remember Kodak?) And many more that could be in the 2030 list may not have been born yet! The McKinsey study suggests that the average lifespan of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies was 61 years in 1958; it is now less than 18 years. It also estimates that by 2027, 75% of companies currently listed on the S&P 500 would have disappeared. Can management students be prepared for the future with the help of vanishing examples?
Indian B-Schools: time for introspection
The use of case studies in teaching in business schools was seen as a better way to awaken students’ cognitive, analytical and assessment skills.
When students solve and present a case, it sharpens their soft skills and gives them the opportunity to learn and express their views from various ideas and perspectives of group members, classmates and teachers. . On the other hand, professors who are able to develop and teach with quality cases are often considered good teachers because they are good at keeping students engaged, topics of interest alive, instilling healthy discussions, and avoiding the monotony. Teachers with a one-sided monologue style or poor case study skills are not well accepted, either by their students or peers.
It is observed that many professors in most Indian business schools use cases written many years ago, even though almost all management functions have undergone phenomenal changes in recent years. Most of the case studies written or used over the past decade are below average. They are filled with flowery language, pompous jargons that hide the insufficiency of actual study, exaggerated claims that glorify past accomplishments from the case writer’s point of view. Unfortunately, they are a chore in themselves and yet the faculty uses them as a proven method of teaching management lessons.
Writing a case study is a process based on in-depth research and empirical analysis. There are no shortcuts or “hacks” to this. Writing a case is not a meticulous job, as many think! The other unacceptable “hacking” is that of professors using “caselets” which are executed in a few lines; and calling them “cases”. It’s like a rookie cricketer who claims to be as good as the next Virat Kohli just because he knows how to bat and play cricket!
Only case methodologies based on a contemporary and precise context and tested with intensive empirical evidence and real field experience will be worthy of being an invaluable teaching tool in business school. It’s supposed to be research, not just a Google search!
Does the faculty have the patience and commitment for such involvement? After all, it is a great responsibility to guide the thinking process of today’s students, who aspire to be future decision makers in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world.
If Indian management teachers don’t improve quality standards fast enough, someone might write a quality dossier on them soon!
Benjamin Franklin’s words now have a much deeper meaning: “Tell me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn “.
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed here are personal observations and are not attributable to their official roles or the organizations they represent.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions of this publisher. Unless otherwise indicated, the author writes in his personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be taken to represent any official ideas, attitudes or policies of any agency or institution.