The purpose of this section is to help you to understand what a case is and how you, as a student of business, can more effectively prepare your answers and benefit from a case discussion.
The material covered in this section includes:
1. Understanding what a case is.
2. Reading a case effectively.
3. Analysing and preparing for a case discussion.
4. Reporting your case findings.
5. Discussing the case.
1. Understanding what a case is.
Socrates, the teacher-philosopher, used questions rather than statements of fact, to lead his students through the reasoning process. As a student we can try and help you learn in several ways, and the case approach does much the same thing that Socrates did by asking questions. You, as the student, are not told the answer to a problem, but will have to build your own solution. This is a type of active learning where your instructor will guide you in your case discussion to the point at which you discover the solution for yourself.
So cases are a problem-solving situation. You are given a story, based on a real business situation, and then you are asked questions or posed a problem based on the situation outlined in the case. Some cases are short, and focused on a very specific topic or issue, while others are longer and provide much more information. In both situations the solution that you, and each person in the class presents, is based on your understanding of the problem and how you would solve it.
2. Reading a case effectively
In this course you will be presented with different cases. This case will be of two types. When you read a case the first task is to decide what kind of case you are dealing with.
The first type of case is generally short with little or no excess information. Facts are well ordered and clearly stated. In these types of cases you should look for ways to use specific tools or a model to arrive at your solution. A "best" solution often exists based on the application of these tools. A good example would be the need to calculate the break-even number of customers at a specific order amount for a restaurant. In reading these kind of cases you need to look for the types of tools you should apply, review the use of these tools to be sure you remember what facts are needed to apply the approach, and then read the case to identify the facts or data you need to use in solving the problem. You should then re-read the case to assure that your solution fits.
The second type of case tends to be longer with more information in the form of exhibits. In these cases, the case writer has attempted to supply you with enough information to give you the total picture of facts and conditions surrounding a situation. Some of the information is likely to be irrelevant or excess to the problem at the core of the case, and some information is likely to be missing. Because of the range of information, much of which will deal with the qualitative nature of the problem, the case does not have a "best" solution.
To help you in reading your case material here are some guidelines that you should follow for each case assigned:
> You will need to read your case at least twice, with the first reading an overview.
> Most cases have two parts; the basic text, and the exhibits. In your first reading you need to figure out what the key problem of the case is. Skim the case text material and note the main headings. Look carefully at the beginning and end of the case and see if the problem is defined there.
> Once you have a fix on the core problem, look back at each exhibit in the case and note what type of information is provided in it. Look at each exhibit and see if you can spot any anomalies, unusual facts or facts that do not seem to be in line with your expectations.
> Go back and read your case again. Make notes in the margins about information or observations that you feel will help...