When it works well, the classroom becomes a forum for discussion not just about the cases, but the bigger social, ethical, and analytical issues at stake.
Much of any MBA curriculum is focused around case studies. For decades, the standard case has been a tight narrative of an event or a key issue affecting a company or industry. These can be great, but the information is condensed to such a degree it’s hard to extrapolate how to solve problems in the real world. Information isn’t neatly packaged in real life—it’s contradictory and can’t easily be represented on a printed page. When we designed the new SOM curriculum, we had an opportunity to approach management education from new angles. We started experimenting and the “raw” case was born.
The best way to explain a raw case is to provide an example. Our first raw case looked at the purchase of Equity Office Properties Trust by Blackstone, which at the time was the biggest private equity deal ever. How do you do a case on something that is a current event? We traveled to the headquarters of the two companies to interview their CEOs. We assembled SEC documents, media clips, analyst reports, and data on the private equity and real estate industries, and prepared notes on how to value property. We created a website that pulled everything together and allowed students to explore the purchase from all the perspectives we teach during the first year. The case debuted in the Integrated Leadership Perspective, the final course of the first year. It was taught jointly by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who is an organizational behavior professor, and me, a finance professor. This emphasized that the case had to be approached from different perspectives.
The first year curriculum reflects this multi-perspective concept. It progresses from tools to perspectives and then to an integrated experience where you use both to analyze a really rich, three-dimensional, complex problem. A lot of the ILP course is directed toward student presentations, which we see as a way of challenging students to come up with creative solutions rather than simply responding to professors’ questions. When it works well, the classroom becomes a forum for discussion not just about the cases, but the bigger social, ethical, and analytical issues at stake.
Interviewed spring 2009.