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New Raw Case Study Considers COVID-19’s Impact in Real Time

In the Executive course this semester, MBA students are analyzing the economic fallout from the pandemic through a newly assembled online case study.

Yale School of Management MBA students completing the final course in the school’s integrated core curriculum this spring are tackling a brand-new raw case addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The case, which examines the pandemic’s effect through marketing and microeconomic lenses, was a last-minute addition to The Executive, the capstone course that ties together lessons that students learn as they move through the integrated core curriculum.

Two faculty members conceived of the case: Ravi Dhar, the George Rogers Clark Professor of Management and Marketing and director of the Center for Customer Insights; and James Levinsohn, director of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and the Charles W. Goodyear Professor in Global Affairs.

“Jim and Ravi thought the current crisis provided an excellent lens through which to utilize the analytic skills students had learned over the first year,” said Jaan Elias, director of case research and development at Yale SOM.

Dhar saw a learning opportunity for students to consider the consumer behavior and the power of brands during the COVID-19 crisis, Elias said. Meanwhile, Levinsohn wanted to challenge students to use microeconomic tools to analyze the pandemic’s effect on the financial structure and future of the airline industry.

“The case on COVID-19 really highlights SOM’s approach to business education: taking a cross-disciplinary approach to solving problems, under uncertainty, that confront senior executives, by focusing on multiple stakeholders—business, government, and society,” Dhar said.

Levinsohn said that, while the COVID-19 pandemic is primarily a health crisis, its impact has changed the landscape that executives must now navigate. “We thought it would be challenging, interesting, and maybe even successful to try to make a quick pivot in The Executive course to focus on this issue,” he said.

Yale SOM’s case studies team had to scramble to prepare the case before the start of The Executive.

While there is a great deal being written about the current epidemic, it was difficult to find materials on the business impacts, Elias said. “There is a great deal of uncertainty, and the press is filled with speculation rather than data. The case studies team had to sift through a lot of articles to find useful information.”

The case team was able to utilize analysis from the Yale Program on Financial Stability. “They’ve been posting descriptions about the government's actions trying to keep the economy afloat,” Elias said.  “We quoted and linked to numerous blog posts that they have published over the last few weeks.”

The usual timeline for building a raw case is about six week, Elias noted. “We only had about two weeks to gather the material and build a website,” he said. And the team was assembling information on a rapidly developing, worldwide crisis as it unfolded. “We were trying to hit a moving target.”