The Curious Case of Case Studies

What do you do when you are asked to pre-read a 24-page case study written in 10 size font with hardly any redundancy but replete with mile (or ‘Nile’) long exhibits of tables and graphs full of numbers and that too in decimals? You either pick up a marker and minutely go through the case ending up highlighting practically all the pages OR you flip the pages, re-flip it to convince yourself that this is just too much, take a final look at the page-full of numbers that strain your eyes besides your already confused brain to remove any lingering guilt and head for the regular hang-out zone.

The common wisdom would say you adopt the former as a rule and the latter as an exception; unless you are one of those who have always boarded a running train and managed to con/convince the ticket-checker and fellow passengers to give you a seat/berth. But I say, even if you do not belong to the latter category and instead have been those rare disciplinary kinds (a breed that is fast disappearing), you ought to try the latter approach; heck, for experience sakes. The majority of the class has already done so, if not for the experience, but from the sheer lack of time (with all the projects, assignments, presentations and quizzes, who has the time to read before-hand).  Here’s how one can categorize our experience of sitting through a class without reading the case:

All are from Earth, I am from Mars” feeling – unfortunately, this lot picked up the wrong case study/course for such an experience. For instance, it would be hara-kiri to pick up a Supply Chain case study for this experimentation particularly if one does not have a supply chain background. It is easy to spot such “enlightened” candidates – their eyes says it all. The halls of wisdom advocate picking up a Strategy case study, where common-sense substitutes specific knowledge, to avoid such a feeling.

“Catch me if you can” mode – this lot manages to follow the discussion, albeit, a step behind; they are at-least not on a different planet as far as the case discussion is concerned. Though their minds have a tendency to embark on a tangential path at the first opportunity, they some-how manage to re-trace their path.  So what if their minds are not functioning as light-bulbs; tube-lights are good enough to get them through. The flip side is that those right questions and “a-ha” moments come usually after the topic has been discussed; robbing them of the opportunity to display their “have-read-the-case” wares.

The “sly-as-a-fox” characters – this category has mastered the art of deception and for all you may know have not understood an iota of the class/case proceedings (have certainly not read the case). But they are smart enough to make a comment, even if repeating something that was said previously by cleverly re-phrasing it or acting as last mile connectors by concluding a much intense discussion (knowing that is the only conclusion possible) to give out an impression of “i-know-it-all” (at-least to the prof).   

“Almost touched the finishing line” category – my sympathies for this category; for they have been participating in the discussion all through making the right comments but at the very end, gave themselves away thanks to a stupid question (something of the who is Ram at the end of…sorts ). To me, these pitiable ones are the closest to boarding a running train; only that they board the wrong train!! 

More rumination on case studies in subsequent posts.

– Amit Tambi

2 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Case Studies

  1. Amit,

    It was a refreshing read. I could totally relate the bunches you described with my experiences.


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