Still a better case study than twilight, but…
Formal Entry for Inside IIM B-School Debate
B-School: IIM Trichy
Team Name: Kanti Shah ki Entry
Team mate’s name: Vishnu Poduval
As much of a fan as I am of literature, I don’t think it can be used as well as caselets or case studies in order to help understand management principles or skills. One of the reasons is the very nature of problems that exist now as compared with times in which these classics were written. While Julius Caesar talks about conflict management and avoiding getting personal in stressful encounters, this is probably the tip of the iceberg of the problem. I can think of no scenario in a business-centric context that deals with a team of managers trying to usurp their president by stabbing him in the chest!
Jokes aside, a business case can be thought of as a highly interesting story in itself. Cases also deal heavily with the human aspect of a business problem and are not limited to just the logical aspects of it. And this is why professors teach students management concepts through cases instead of through any other medium like problem solving or theoretical learning. Most cases heavily imbue the human aspect in them, especially those cases in the fields of organizational and consumer behaviour.
Changing times, changing people
Cases have another huge advantage over literature in the fact that they are temporary. A case is not necessarily the only answer. As times change, scenarios and people change as well. A case of an event such as a product launch in the 1950s would never be applicable today because of the sea change that the world has undergone since then. Literature, on the other hand is timeless and can only be used to teach broad moral values which may or may not be as applicable currently as they were in that era. We have had a case about BMW in the 1980s, when they were trying to establish themselves in the United States of America amidst stiff competition from Japanese car manufacturers and rising oil prices. The steps that were taken then were very dependent on the economic situation and technology of the time and would be different from a present day case where an electric car manufacturer would be trying to enter a market that is packed with traditional gasoline cars.
Write your own story, don’t fall for the author’s spoilers
Many cases will tell you about a mistake made or a problem that came to a particular business organization and ask you to find the solution out by yourself. Literature, on the other hand often tells you what the solution undertaken by the protagonist was and how he went about implementing it. There are cases which have taught us about product recall which asked us about how we would have gone about the recall instead of telling us about what exactly the company did. After we had made our presentations and discussed the case in class did our professor tell us that the recall happened to be one of the most successful in history leading to a huge spike in brand loyalty for that particular company. What piece of literature can tell you about such a tale or ask you to fill in the ending yourself?
Globe vs. a specific solution
Literature will tell you tales of great suffering, trials and tribulations of an individual or a family, but never those about a profit making organization where love, family and respect often come second to top and bottom lines and this is where cases score the highest over literature. The motivations behind running your life and your business are very different. There is no company in the world that does not wish that it was as profitable as the likes of an Apple or Microsoft. Literature will only teach you about the moral framework and broad values that tell you how you should get there but only a case can give you any kind of idea as to how you can get there while still giving you the reins to control the destiny of the company whose case you are working on. This is why cases are irreplaceable in the context of management education and why literature, although useful in giving an individual life “gyaan” will forever remain a very global source of education without too many specific applications.
– Subhash Rajeev