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What is the case method?

The case method is a teaching methodology based on the study and discussion of real business cases intended to help managers like you improve your decision-making skills. The method, established in 1921 by Harvard Business School, ultimately teaches you the art of managing uncertainty.

The case method is the art of managing uncertainty.

Chris Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor

And what is the most important thing for you to do as a manager in uncertain situations? Make decisions. After all, you’re responsible for taking the initiative on finding the proper solution to a specific problem.

There are two types of problems you’ll face while making business decisions. There are those that can be solved objectively through a set process or equation and that require a single correct response. Then there are others that can be solved in a variety of ways. It’s the second type of problem that usually falls to you, the executive, to fix.

Can you learn this type of decision-making capability? Yes. In fact, that is precisely the goal of the case method: learning to respond to what are called “non-operational” problems in the business world. This methodology places you and your classmates in the role of manager when identifying the problems discussed in each case and seeking answers to problems. Crucially, it also prizes dynamic interaction between a diverse group of participants

4 reasons why the case method is the best learning methodology

1. Real world experience

The case method is the methodology that best reflects the realities you face as a manager. It helps you identify symptoms and grapple with problems that appear without obvious solutions. The goal is that the judicious decisions you make in a classroom setting will enable you to make them in the professional world.

2. Calibrated conversation

The case method allows you to learn through the discussion of previously prepared cases. Many of these cases will have been prepared by your professors and are based on their own business experiences.

3. An expansive view

The challenges posed by the cases presented to you will not have a single solution. It’s precisely that range of possible solutions, which you’ll discuss in-depth with your classmates, that makes the method such a valuable experience. With the case method, you’ll constantly learn from the insights and opinions of your fellow participants and the professor.

4. Cross-functional preparation

The case method will refine your management knowledge in ways that can be applied to a wide range of departments in your company, including finances, operations and human resources. At the same time, it will offer you a global vision of the repercussions your decisions may have on the organization.

Learn how the IESE case method works.

If you’re a prospective MBA student interested in learning more about the case method, consider attending an IESE Open Day for an in-person experience of the methodology. IESE’s Executive Education programs also offer you training tailored to whichever step along your career path you find yourself on, wherever you find yourself and whatever the challenges ahead.

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