Gentle Bamboo Solutions

[Case Studies] Co-creating knowledge in a classroom


[Today and in the next few emails, Rakshith explores Case Studies as a training tool. Over to him.]

Continuing from yesterday on the subject of case studies, a good case has three characteristics:

1. A significant business issue

2. Sufficient information on which to base conclusions

3. No stated conclusions

The case should stimulate the reader to:

1. Filter out irrelevant or low-value portions of the text

2. Furnish missing information through inferences

3. Associate evidence from different parts of the case and integrate it into a conclusion

An example: Let me give you an example that my friend Paritosh shared with me.

The Harvard Business School case “Malaysia in the 1990s” begins with the Prime Minister of the country, Mahathir bin Mohamad, about to address the United Nations General Assembly and have meetings with potential investors. Western environmentalists have been criticizing his country for deforestation. The Prime Minister must consider his country’s development strategy in relation to internal and external interests. At the end of the case, he is left wondering whether he should accept his speechwriters’ confrontational statements dismissing the environmentalists and their criticism, or to take a more conciliatory approach.

The rest of the case doesn’t report only those facts relevant to the controversy or offer the views and reasoning of all the parties to the dispute. It doesn’t evaluate which one has the most legitimate position. Participants do this. They provide most of the content of a case discussion. They are indispensable to the creation of knowledge. In fact, if they don’t come to class well prepared, the case method will fail because the people responsible for making meaning from the case are not equipped to do it. Participants enter and leave the classroom responsible for the outcomes of the discussion while the trainer or in this case facilitator teaches the concepts required to analyze the case.

Why should you care about this?

Abhilash and I have long debated the value of a facilitator-led classroom for learners. We’ve generally believed that 9 times out of 10, facilitators are just recycling knowledge. The case study model is different and is a testament to what can be achieved through facilitation. By design, a case doesn’t tell you what it means. On first reading, it can seem to be a whole that is less than the sum of its parts. Therefore, you can’t sit back and let the text do the work.

You have to read a case actively and construct your own meaning. And that means greater engagement, participation, and indeed greater responsibility on the shoulders of the participants in the training.

<Giving you the power to dictate my sign off>,