Pioneered in the early 20th Century at Harvard University, the case method has become the favoured teaching tool of most of the world's leading business schools.
What students say
"The invaluable part is eliciting the emotion that goes hand in hand with a difficult decision, given a host of uncertainties and competing issues. It really becomes fun, seeing how we handle that 'no mans land' where you get to see how different people approach a given situation."
Steven Fouskarinis, IESE Global Executive MBA participant
"Cases are an incredible way to gain experience and see different approaches to solve specific situations. It enriches oneself with real life situations."
Xavier Cornella, IESE Global Executive MBA participant
What your colleagues say
"Cases allow students a wonderful opportunity to apply what they think they know to the management challenges, issues and opportunities that are portrayed in the case."
Jim Erskine, Richard Ivey School of Business
"Discussions I have had in class around some cases have been truly eye-opening for both the participants and me. They have also led us to understand that everything is not black and white and some people soon discover how quickly they can end up in ethically challenged positions."
Daniel Muzyka, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia
"Management education is not just about theory, it's also about practice. The case method allows the teacher to bring a slice of life, a snapshot of reality, into the classroom setting. Real life may not fit nicely in to an over simplified framework or a neat and elegant theory. Cases help students discover reality in its full complexity which in itself is an energising experience."
Kamran Kashani, IMD
"The key thing that makes cases so effective in management education is their ability to engage people. In a learning experience it's very much about engagement, as the saying goes, tell me and I'll forget, teach me and I'll remember, involve me and I'll learn. Teaching with cases is very rewarding because you are part of a learning experience which is really enriching."
Martin Kupp, ESMT
What business schools say
Darden Business School
A distinctive element of the Darden academic experience is the case method of instruction. In contrast to a lecture-based approach to education, Darden class time is spent discussing cases about actual business problems and potential solutions. Under the skillful direction of a faculty member, students strengthen their communication and leadership skills by learning to make difficult decisions with limited information and significant uncertainty — critical skills for any current or future business leader. By actively defending their positions, students have a safe environment in which to learn to persuade and inspire others, to reconcile differing viewpoints and to prioritize objectives and capitalize on opportunities. Read more
IESE Business School
The highly dynamic and practical case study method is the main methodological tool used in IESE programs. Through the use of research-based business cases, students and faculty engage in a process of analysis and in-depth discussion of the real-life challenges faced by companies worldwide. Read more
The case method describes real management issues in real companies. Cases are used as a basis for class discussion and give participants the opportunity to take on the roles of key players in actual business situations. Read more
INSEAD believes that the case method offers the most effective way to provide lessons in leadership. In the classroom, the case method challenges students to use problem-solving, decision-making skills just as they would in the workplace. The approach fosters teamwork, individual reflection and active participation. Read more
Harvard Business School
There’s only one way to learn the demanding art of leadership – and that’s by leading. That’s why a Harvard Business School education has been, and continues to be, rooted in the practical lessons of the case method. By engaging students in business conflicts developed from real events, cases immerse students in the challenges they are expected to face. Challenges that require thoughtful analyses with limited or even insufficient information. That require effective responses within ambiguous circumstances or complex economic and political contexts. That, most of all, demand decisive action that must be articulated – and even defended – among other talented, ambitious individuals. Read more
Richard Ivey School of Business
Since Ivey’s inception in 1922, the case study method has been the keystone of the school’s approach to learning. The case method is active learning by doing. Each case provides the student with an opportunity to stand in the shoes of the decision-maker, analyzing the business issue presented, making judgments and determining a course of action. Read more