How to Deal with Harvard Case Studies

Harvard Business School has created a new method and a new definition of case study in education. A case study is the analysis of the institution or the event, its problems, causes, and consequences. Harvard Business School case studies are intended to be used in classrooms as a part of the discussion, which can help students develop their leadership skills and put themselves in situations that require making decisions.

Harvard case study method is rather effective, especially in terms of education. It gives students the opportunity to become decision makers and judge different situations, companies, and organizations, both government and private. Harvard Business Review case study format proves that there are no easy solutions in leadership. It’s an innovational educational technique, which helps students communicate, share ideas, defend their points of view, and exchange perspectives. HBR case studies are meant to turn students into skillful leaders.

How Does It Work?

How Does It Work?

HBR case study format always implies a discussion in the classroom. First, students are presented with the case, and that’s when they need to take the role of the leader and the decision maker. Their task is to recognize the main issues, analyze them, study the causes, think of alternative outcomes, and provide some recommendations.

Students are usually divided into learning teams. Before the actual case study class, they meet to warm up and discuss their points of view with the other team members. When they’re in class, they are under the guidance of the professor, but students do 85% of talking, while the professor makes observations from time to time, asks questions, and guides the discussion.

In class, students have to discuss the problem and analyze it. They present and compare alternative sides of the situation and suggest different courses of actions, explaining why their decision is the best possible one.

Why is this method effective? First of all, thanks to the classroom interaction and live discussion, students learn how to listen to other people’s ideas and compare them to their own points of view. The discussion process is easy and simple but has many benefits. The discussion is enriched by the diversity: different students represent different countries, experiences, and points of view.

Participation in class case studies is important. Nearly 50% of students’ grades is based on how they show they perform there.

How to Prepare for a Case Study

Even though it’s a live conversation, you can prepare yourself for a group discussion. First of all, do your research. In order to present your thoughts on the matter, you need to be familiar with this particular situation or event. Find the most important and relevant information. Pick the main points, which you are going to present during the discussion. Don’t be shy to ask your team members about the information they have found because this way you will be able to provide some facts that your classmates aren’t going to mention.

Next, you need to create a plan, which you are going to follow to during the discussion. You can also write down the notes based on this plan, which will help you keep your thoughts together when analyzing the event in class.

Start with the situational analysis. Ask yourself some questions to understand the event, for example, “Was the superior aware of the possible consequences of his decision? Does it mean that he’s not responsible for his actions? What parties are directly involved in this problem?”.

Next, you need to define the problem. You can create the list of potential issues and highlight the most serious ones. That’s when you can start talking about some alternative courses of actions, which could have potentially helped to avoid the problems you’ve presented.

And the last point in your plan should be dedicated to recommendations and possible solutions to the problem. Other students might argue your point of view, so it’s important to write it down beforehand and also explain why you think your decision is the most effective.

How to Behave

Don’t forget that every group discussion, even the Harvard Business Review case studies, is meant to see how students communicate with each other and how they show leadership skills through those communications. So, don’t forget to listen to other people’s points of view. Take every opinion into consideration and make sure that your message is clear and easy to understand by other students.

Don’t be shy. Try to contribute to the conversation as much as you can, but think about what you want to say and don’t forget to let other students talk. It’s important to show your interest, but you need to remember that other people’s opinions matter too.

Never be aggressive. Even if someone from the opposite team becomes too excited and tries to provoke you, keep calm and remember: true leaders always control themselves.

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