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Top 40 Most Popular Case Studies of 2017

We generated a list of the 40 most popular Yale School of Management case studies in 2017 by combining data from our publishers, Google analytics, and other measures of interest and adoption. In compiling the list, we gave additional weight to usage outside Yale

We generated a list of the 40 most popular Yale School of Management case studies in 2017 by combining data from our publishers, Google analytics, and other measures of interest and adoption. In compiling the list, we gave additional weight to usage outside Yale.

Case topics represented on the list vary widely, but a number are drawn from the case team’s focus on healthcare, asset management, and sustainability. The cases also draw on Yale’s continued emphasis on corporate governance, ethics, and the role of business in state and society. Of note, nearly half of the most popular cases feature a woman as either the main protagonist or, in the case of raw cases where multiple characters take the place of a single protagonist, a major leader within the focal organization. While nearly a fourth of the cases were written in the past year, some of the most popular, including Cadbury and Design at Mayo, date from the early years of our program over a decade ago. Nearly two-thirds of the most popular cases were “raw” cases - Yale’s novel, web-based template which allows for a combination of text, documents, spreadsheets, and videos in a single case website.

Read on to learn more about the top 10 most popular cases followed by a complete list of the top 40 cases of 2017.  A selection of the top 40 cases are available for purchase through our online store

#1 - Coffee 2016

Faculty Supervision: Todd Cort

Coffee 2016 asks students to consider the coffee supply chain and generate ideas for what can be done to equalize returns across various stakeholders. The case draws a parallel between coffee and wine. Both beverages encourage connoisseurship, but only wine growers reap a premium for their efforts to ensure quality.  The case describes the history of coffee production across the world, the rise of the “third wave” of coffee consumption in the developed world, the efforts of the Illy Company to help coffee growers, and the differences between “fair” trade and direct trade. Faculty have found the case provides a wide canvas to discuss supply chain issues, examine marketing practices, and encourage creative solutions to business problems. 

#2 - AXA: Creating New Corporate Responsibility Metrics

Faculty Supervision: Todd Cort and David Bach

The case describes AXA’s corporate responsibility (CR) function. The company, a global leader in insurance and asset management, had distinguished itself in CR since formally establishing a CR unit in 2008. As the case opens, AXA’s CR unit is being moved from the marketing function to the strategy group occasioning a thorough review as to how CR should fit into AXA’s operations and strategy. Students are asked to identify CR issues of particular concern to the company, examine how addressing these issues would add value to the company, and then create metrics that would capture a business unit’s success or failure in addressing the concerns.

#3 - IBM Corporate Service Corps

Faculty Supervision: David Bach in cooperation with University of Ghana Business School and EGADE

The case considers IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC), a program that had become the largest pro bono consulting program in the world. The case describes the program’s triple-benefit: leadership training to the brightest young IBMers, brand recognition for IBM in emerging markets, and community improvement in the areas served by IBM’s host organizations. As the program entered its second decade in 2016, students are asked to consider how the program can be improved. The case allows faculty to lead a discussion about training, marketing in emerging economies, and various ways of providing social benefit. The case highlights the synergies as well as trade-offs between pursuing these triple benefits.

#4 - Cadbury: An Ethical Company Struggles to Insure the Integrity of Its Supply Chain

Faculty Supervision: Ira Millstein

The case describes revelations that the production of cocoa in the Côte d’Ivoire involved child slave labor. These stories hit Cadbury especially hard. Cadbury's culture had been deeply rooted in the religious traditions of the company's founders, and the organization had paid close attention to the welfare of its workers and its sourcing practices. The US Congress was considering legislation that would allow chocolate grown on certified plantations to be labeled “slave labor free,” painting the rest of the industry in a bad light. Chocolate producers had asked for time to rectify the situation, but the extension they negotiated was running out. Students are asked whether Cadbury should join with the industry to lobby for more time?  What else could Cadbury do to ensure its supply chain was ethically managed?

#5 - 360 State Real Options

Faculty Supervision: Matthew Spiegel

In 2010 developer Bruce Becker (SOM ‘85) completed 360 State Street, a major new construction project in downtown New Haven. Just west of the apartment building, a 6,000-square-foot pocket of land from the original parcel remained undeveloped. Becker had a number of alternatives to consider in regards to the site. He also had no obligation to build. He could bide his time. But Becker worried about losing out on rents should he wait too long. Students are asked under what set of circumstances and at what time would it be most advantageous to proceed?

#6 - Design at Mayo

Faculty Supervision: Rodrigo Canales and William Drentell

The case describes how the Mayo Clinic, one of the most prominent hospitals in the world, engaged designers and built a research institute, the Center for Innovation (CFI), to study the processes of healthcare provision. The case documents the many incremental innovations the designers were able to implement and the way designers learned to interact with physicians and vice-versa.

In 2010 there were questions about how the CFI would achieve its stated aspiration of “transformational change” in the healthcare field. Students are asked what would a major change in health care delivery look like? How should the CFI's impact be measured? Were the center's structure and processes appropriate for transformational change? Faculty have found this a great case to discuss institutional obstacles to innovation, the importance of culture in organizational change efforts, and the differences in types of innovation.

This case is freely available to the public.

#7 - Ant Financial

Faculty Supervision: K. Sudhir in cooperation with Renmin University of China School of Business

In 2015, Ant Financial’s MYbank (an offshoot of Jack Ma’s Alibaba company) was looking to extend services to rural areas in China by providing small loans to farmers. Microloans have always been costly for financial institutions to offer to the unbanked (though important in development) but MYbank believed that fintech innovations such as using the internet to communicate with loan applicants and judge their credit worthiness would make the program sustainable. Students are asked whether MYbank could operate the program at scale? Would its big data and technical analysis provide an accurate measure of credit risk for loans to small customers? Could MYbank rely on its new credit-scoring system to reduce operating costs to make the program sustainable?

#8 - Business Leadership in South Africa’s 1994 Reforms

Faculty Supervision: Ian Shapiro

This case examines the role of business in South Africa's historic transition away from apartheid to popular sovereignty. The case provides a previously untold oral history of this key moment in world history, presenting extensive video interviews with business leaders who spearheaded behind-the-scenes negotiations between the African National Congress and the government. Faculty teaching the case have used the material to push students to consider business’s role in a divided society and ask: What factors led business leaders to act to push the country's future away from isolation toward a "high road" of participating in an increasingly globalized economy? What techniques and narratives did they use to keep the two sides talking and resolve the political impasse? And, if business leadership played an important role in the events in South Africa, could they take a similar role elsewhere?

#9 - Shake Shack IPO

Faculty Supervision: Jake Thomas and Geert Rouwenhorst

From an art project in a New York City park, Shake Shack developed a devoted fan base that greeted new Shake Shack locations with cheers and long lines. When Shake Shack went public on January 30, 2015, investors displayed a similar enthusiasm. Opening day investors bid up the $21 per share offering price by 118% to reach $45.90 at closing bell. By the end of May, investors were paying $92.86 per share. Students are asked if this price represented a realistic valuation of the enterprise and if not, what was Shake Shack truly worth? The case provides extensive information on Shake Shack’s marketing, competitors, operations and financials, allowing instructors to weave a wide variety of factors into a valuation of the company.

#10 - Searching for a Search Fund Structure

Faculty Supervision: AJ Wasserstein

This case considers how young entrepreneurs structure search funds to find businesses to take over. The case describes an MBA student who meets with a number of successful search fund entrepreneurs who have taken alternative routes to raising funds. The case considers the issues of partnering, soliciting funds vs. self-funding a search, and joining an incubator. The case provides a platform from which to discuss the pros and cons of various search fund structures.

40 Most Popular Case Studies of 2017


Case Study

Faculty Supervision



Coffee 2016

Todd Cort

Customer/Marketing, Competitor/Strategy, Supply Chain, Sustainability


AXA: Creating New CR Metrics W

Todd Cort and David Bach

Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability, Metrics & Data


IBM Corporate Service Corps W

David Bach

Competitor/Strategy, State & Society, Innovation & Design



Ira Millstein

Ethics & Religion, Supply Chain, Operations, State & Society


360 State Street Real Options

Matthew Spiegel

Asset Management, Investor/Finance, Metrics & Data, Sourcing/Managing Funds, Real Estate


Design at Mayo W

Rodrigo Canales and William Drentell

Healthcare, Innovation & Design, Leadership & Teamwork


Ant Financial W

K. Sudhir

Competitor/Strategy, Customer/Marketing, Investor/Finance, State & Society, Fintech, Credit Scoring


Business Leadership in South Africa's 1994 Reforms

Ian Shapiro

Business History, Leadership & Teamwork, State & Society


Shake Shack IPO

Jake Thomas and Geert Rouwenhorst

Competitor/Strategy, Innovation & Design, Investor/Finance, Sourcing/Managing Funds, Supercharged IPO


Searching for a Search Fund StructureW

AJ Wasserstein

Employee/HR, Entrepreneurship through Acquisition


Kalil Diaz

AJ Wasserstein

Customer/Marketing, Entrepreneurship through Acquisition


TIAA 2016 W

Ahmed Khwaja, Vineet Kumar, and K. Sudhir

Competitor/Strategy, Customer/Marketing, Employee/HR, Investor/Finance, Millennials


Hip and Knee Replacement at YNHHSW

Edi Pinker

Competitor/Strategy, Healthcare, Leadership & Teamwork, Operations, Bundled Payments


Role of Hedge Funds in Institutional Portfolios: Florida Retirement System

William Goetzmann

Asset Management, Financial Regulation, Investor/Finance, Metrics & Data, State & Society


GE EcomaginationW

Constance E. Bagley, Ravi Dhar, and Fiona M. Scott Morton

Competitor/Strategy, Customer/Marketing, Investor/Finance, State & Society, Sustainability


Children's Premier

Edi Pinker

Competitor/Strategy, Healthcare, Practice Management


Walmart de MexicoW

K. Geert Rouwenhorst



Palm Oil 2016W

David Bach

Competitor/Strategy, Law & Contracts, Macroeconomics, Operations, Social Enterprise, State & Society, Sustainability, Deforestation


Haiti MangoesW

Douglas Rae

Entrepreneurship, Operations, Supply Chain, Social Enterprise, State & Society


Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan

Judith Chevalier

Competitor/Strategy, Investor/Finance, State & Society



Tony Sheldon

Customer/Marketing, Innovation & Design, Social Enterprise, State & Society, Sustainability


American Greetings

Arthur Swersey

Metrics & Data, Operations



Arthur Swersey

Customer/Marketing, Innovation & Design, Operations, Process Optimization


Strategy for Norway's Pension Fund GlobalW

William Goetzmann and Olav Sorenson

Asset Management, Investor/Finance, Sourcing/Managing Funds


Seven Theaters in Search of RevenueW

Sharon Oster

Arts Management, Pricing


Northern Pulp: A Private Equity Firm Resurrects a Troubled Paper Company

Heather Tookes and Peter Schott

Investor/Finance, Macroeconomics, State & Society, Sustainability, Acquisition


The Battle for Endesa

David Bach

Competitor/Strategy, Law & Contracts, State & Society, Energy, Mergers


Netflix & Qwikster

Sharon Oster and Keith Chen

Competitor/Strategy, Customer/Marketing, Innovation & Design, Operations, Streaming Services


Alcoa and the Auto Industry

Todd Cort and Brad Gentry

Competitor/Strategy, Customer/Marketing, Innovation & Design, Sustainability, Automotive


Air Canada

Jacob Thomas

Competitor/Strategy, Employee/HR, Financial Regulation, Investor/Finance



Ian Shapiro

Ethics & Religion, Healthcare, Law & Contracts, State & Society, Patents


Golden Agri Resources and Sustainability

David Bach

Competitor/Strategy, Sustainability, Palm Oil, Indonesia



Heather E. Tookes

Business History, Competitor/Strategy, Investor/Finance, Leadership & Teamwork, Asset Valuation, Publishing


Team DetroitW

Arun Sinha and Ravi Dhar

Competitor/Strategy, Customer/Marketing, Employee/HR, Innovation & Design, Leadership & Teamwork, Ford, WPP, Advertising


Teach for All: Designing a Global Network W

William Drenttel

Innovation & Design, Social Enterprise, Education



K. Sudhir



Sharon Oster

Customer/Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Operations, Social Enterprise, Education


Achievement FirstW

Sharon Oster

Social Enterprise, State & Society, Education


Mike Erwin: An Accidental Social Entrepreneur

AJ Wasserstein

Entrepreneurship, Ethics & Religion, Leadership & Teamwork, Social Enterprise


Canary Wharf: Financing and Placemaking

William Goetzmann

Asset Management, Business History, Customer/Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Design, Investor/Finance, Sourcing/Managing Funds, State & Society, Real Estate, Placemaking, Fintech, Brexit

     Case if freely available to the public
W     Case features a woman in a major leadership role

Click on the case title to learn more about the dilemma. A selection of our most popular cases are available for purchase via our online store.