By Ujin Han ’12 M.B.A.

When you’re an MBA student, you soon realize that you now have a new best friend: case studies. You spend many long hours with this new friend, getting know all the facts, both qualitative and quantitative, looking at the situation from different perspectives, discussing with your classmates about what’s right, what’s wrong, and what to do…

About half way through the semester, after many (sometimes frustrating) discussions with your professors and classmates (who always tell you you’re wrong), you begin to wonder, “why is this case study ruining my good night’s sleep and my weekend? Go away!”

Margaret Andrews, an Associate Dean of Management Programs at Harvard University, suggests in an Inside Higher Ed blog that case study discussions are a lot like setting strategy. How? “Both are team sports, involve a lot of information, require fresh perspectives and dialogue—and are, at times, messy processes.”

She lists seven ways they are similar, but my favorites are:

  • “There is no ‘right’ answer.” There may be no “right” answer, but there is a better answer, the best answer—that can only come from understanding and “considering context, constraints, opportunities and options”.
  • “It requires deep thinking and understanding tradeoffs and implications to reach a good decision.” It’s not just about knowing all the facts, but understanding them and having thought through them. What is the opportunity cost of going through with that decision?
  • “Listening and discussion skills are needed to reach a solid conclusion.” When you listen to other people’s perspectives and thoughts and take them in, that’s when you start to gain new insights and can propel the discussion forward.

For more of the similarities to encourage your case study endeavor, read Andrews’ full post here.