Ivey has a long history as a case writing institution. We are a leader in producing business cases with an international perspective and Ivey is the largest producer of Asian cases in the world. We've compiled helpful, general information on business case studies, their usefulness to students, as well as information for organizations who want to participate in the case writing process.
A business case study "is a description of an actual situation, commonly involving a decision, a challenge, an opportunity, a problem or an issue faced by a person (or persons) in an organization."1 Cases contain relevant data about the issue available to the key person in the case, plus background information about the organization. Cases may vary in length; the current market prefers eight or fewer pages of text and 15 or fewer pages total length, including pictures or exhibits.
1Erskine, J.A. and Leenders, M.R., Learning with Cases, © 1997, Richard Ivey School of Business.
A "case allows (the student) to step figuratively into the position of a particular decision maker."1 The strength of the case method of teaching is that students have to apply business principles to the issues raised and defend their recommended course of action to their fellow students.
Cases enable students to put themselves in the place of actual managers. Students analyze situations, develop alternatives, choose plans of action and implementation, and communicate and defend their findings in small groups and in class. Cases are used to test the understanding of theory, to connect theory with application, and to develop theoretical insight. Cases are still one of the best ways to enable students to learn by doing.
High quality cases cannot usually be written from public sources. They require the consent and cooperation of the organization and the individual manager about whom the case is written. It is reasonable to ask why this consent should be forthcoming.
A case is a donation to the process of continuing improvement in management education. A company's willingness to share its successes and failures, and the difficulties it has worked through, create a learning environment that is very difficult to convey otherwise.
- There may be publicity-related benefits. For example, if an organization's name remains undisguised, the organization might raise its name and brand awareness among students (and prospective employees and customers).
- The organization could use the case in internal training programs.
- Intangible benefits often come from working with faculty - their questions and comments, and the company's answers and explanations may point out a new strategy to follow or lessons to learn from the situation. However, case writing is not consulting, and guarantees of tangible benefits cannot be given, other than the gratitude of the School, its faculty and business students around the world.
While the faculty member and / or case writer will need background information, the real strength of a case comes from including the perspective of the key decision-makers in the company. Hence, it is vital to interview senior company officials. The normal first interview lasts 1 - 2 hours and is intended to help define the potential issue around which the case will be written. If tentative agreement is reached to proceed with the case, the author will then need access to relevant data (background information, reports, etc.). A second shorter interview is then scheduled to help fill in remaining details. With the material in hand, the case writer will finish drafting the case. It will then be sent to the company for verification, correction of any errors, and eventual release.
The best cases convey the ambiguity present in business situations. The perspective of the key decision-makers in the company brings realism (or personality) and a tension to the case. There are usually at least two apparently viable alternative solutions to the case which forces students to recommend a course of action with imperfect information.
Case writers strive to present real life situations and to use accurate data wherever possible. Often by the time a case is publicly available, the information presented is widely known. If not, the case writer may use disguised information. All cases contain the phrase "The authors may have disguised certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality."
Throughout the case writing process, case writers maintain strict confidentiality with all information provided by the organization. If preferred, anonymity of the organization, individuals and data can be assured. The draft case will be submitted to the organization to verify the accuracy of the case content. When satisfied, a designated person in the organization signs a "consent to use" (release) form permitting the use and distribution of the case.
To ensure that the case writer and faculty member have accurately described the business situation, the company is asked to sign a "consent to use" (release) form. This form contains wording that allows Ivey to correct or modify the case without the Company's consent for minor errors or to add modest amounts of information to correct misunderstandings discovered when the case is taught. The form gives the company the option to review more substantial changes or (as most companies do) to allow the case author to make other changes without seeking further approval.
Every situation is different. A typical case takes two months to write and revise. The case is professionally edited, reviewed by the subject company, converted into secure Portable Document Format and submitted for registration; this generally takes another month. Usually the case is then taught; based on the class experience, the case may be fine-tuned to address areas where more clarity or information is needed.
A typical case starts with a paragraph describing the problem facing an executive. The case often then gives background information on the industry, the company and the executives involved. Much of the background information for a case is in the public domain.
The case then typically returns to the dilemma faced by the manager. At this point, it is desirable to include comments from company executives. Their perspective, management style and deliberations bring realism to the case.
The case concludes with a re-iteration of the problem addressed at the outset of the case. Depending on the focus of the case, it may include financial statements, organization charts, process flow charts and similar information.
Cases are written by an experienced faculty member who is trained in case writing. Often a case writer assists the faculty member by compiling the basic case information, locating needed background data and putting the case into draft form.
The Ivey case collection is owned by Ivey Business School Foundation, a federally incorporated not-for-profit corporation. Proceeds from the sale of cases are used to fund case writing and faculty research, and to hire faculty.
Typically, a case author will prepare a teaching note to assist other academics teaching the case. The teaching note sets out the important issues in the author's mind, outlines a suggested allocation of class time to these issues and sometimes describes the decisions that were actually made.
While the teaching note is prepared early, often as the case is written, it frequently is revised after the case has been formally taught in a classroom environment to add information and details that will be helpful to an instructor.<
Once a case is written, the case author will provide the company with a copy of the case. Thereafter, permission to reproduce will be granted by Ivey Publishing; a modest fee will apply. Contact Ivey Publishing for further details.
Many companies believe in fostering business education by financially supporting case writing. Ivey welcomes this support and, with a minimum donation level, is pleased to recognize a company's contribution on the case. Contact Ivey Publishing for further details.