Social Entrepreneurship and Corporate Sustainability are emerging topics in Management Education. Excellent cases are rare, e.g.many cases do not focus on the core business of the portrayed organization, simply lack data or relevant questions. If you are a case writer, the following lead questions might give guidance in order to improve the relevance and potential learning experience of your case project. The questions are derived from the experience with the oikos global case writing competition and they do also echoe lessons of a classic article by Clyde Freeman Herreid.
We encourage case writers to consider the following questions prior to submit your case to any case writing competition.
1. Does your case provide a learning opportunity on a relevant topic? Is your case tackling a decision situation with impact on the future of an organisation and implications on corporate strategy? Is it a real case, and not just only a story? Can students identify a clear cut management decision challenge (i.e. merge or not; compete or cooperate).
2. Does your case tell an engaging story? Does it have an interesting plot that relates to the experiences of the target audience? Do you provide a hero (case protagonist), a dilemma and potential solutions? The solutions may not exist yet; it will be what the students need to supply once the case is discussed.
3. Is your case accompanied by teaching goals and a teaching note? Do you specify your audience? Undergraduates have a different background compared to MBA students. What does the case do for the course and the student? What theories are employed? How should the students be involved (e.g. group works, Student preparation, class interaction). Do you provide a sample teaching plan including timing proposals? Cases can be choreographed with roleplays and/or votings. Students need systematically be challenged to argue. Excellent teaching notes provide suggestions for frameworks and literature for faculty AND for students.
4. Does your case refer to a recent situation? To appear real the story should have the ingredients of a current challenge. When your case deals with current issues the students feel the relevance of the issue. Thus, a current case on Corporate Strategies to deal with Global Warming will awaken the students' interest before one on Shells' Brent Spar Platform Disposal Challenge.
5. Does your case include quotations? Digital Technology has made the life of case writers easier: Nowadays it has become simple to produce a short film on the “hero” (case protagonist) of a case. A face and a voice is the best way to gain empathy for the leading characters: Let them speak in their own voices. If this is not possible use quotations and add life and drama to the case. Quotations from other sources, e.g. leading newspapers, advertisements or internal documents should be used as well. They make your case more authentic.
6. Is your case relevant to your audience? Cases should be chosen that involve situations that the students know or are likely to face. This improves the empathy factor and makes the case clearly something worth studying. Does the case tackle the core business? Thus, for a graduate student in Finance, a case involving George Soros´ opinion on Tobin-Taxes might be of greater interest than Barter Trade in Papua New Guinea.
7. Does your case include relevant numbers? Sometimes case reviewers detect a lack of hard facts, which are part of virtually any decision process in a real life Management situation. Without concrete numbers on the economic context of the portrayed organization and their interconnections to the case dilemma it is often hard to make sense of a context.
8. Does your case enforce a decision? Not all cases have to be dilemmas that need to be solved, but there is an urgency and a seriousness that is involved with such cases. Best practice cases are often boring for the reader whereas in dilemma or decision cases, students are forced to face challenges and head on. Provide a timeline and sufficient data in order to enable well reasoned options.
9. Is your case providing an issue of general interest? Cases should be of more use than a minor or local problem; they should have general applicability. The case writer should make sure that the case provides useful generalizations and clear take-aways. Patterns should be recognizable and key insights for on-the-job application or confidence for mastering similar challenges in the future should be aimed for.
10. Is your case concise and to the point? This is basically a matter of attention. Cases should be long enough to introduce the facts of the case but they should be carefully designed in order to keep the interest high. Complexity can be introduced in stages. A Case series can help structuring the information. Data can be provided accompanied by some questions and a first decision point before additional information is introduced. Remember, that the average homo sapiens is not able to digest more than three informations at a time.
Finally – An excellent case is being revised after a first try in class. Very often case writers take implicit knowledge for granted and the perception of the case presented in class is being different than expected. Different mental models and understandings on the foundations of Management also might hinder the usability of cases in varying geographical and cultural contexts.
Note: This text is an extended abstract from chapter 1.2 of the oikos collection (2007) and based on Herreid, Clyde Freeman. Dec.1997/Jan. 1998. What Makes a Good Case? Some Basic Rules of Good Storytelling Help Teachers Generate Student Excitement in the Classroom, Journal of College Science Teaching (pp.163-165) .