Case studies are one of the hallmarks of MBA education. Harvard Business School (HBS) professors began the tradition in 1908, interviewing top managers of the day and writing detailed accounts of real-life business situations to be used in place of textbooks.
Business school students around the world have been reading, discussing and advising on cases ever since. Often, schools glean cases directly from HBS itself, where more than 80% of classes are taught using the case method, according to the school’s website.
“The HBS approach to the case method of teaching may represent the most demanding, engaging, and provocative way to learn about the skills of leadership, short of actually serving as a CEO,” the school says.
So why not serve as a CEO?
Shanghai’s Jiaotong University and Euromed Marseille Ecole de Management in France will launch their joint executive MBA program in October, and included in the curriculum are “live” case studies that send students to companies, putting them in the role of top executives and managers. The Sino-French joint venture has offered a joint MBA program since 2003.
“In China, the curriculum for most executive-MBA programs is copied and pasted from MBA programs,” said the program’s China area manager and assistant professor, William Wang. “But the needs of senior executives and managers are not the same. They need a much more comprehensive knowledge of how to resolve complex problems.”
Students spend an intensive four-day period for each live case study – two days in the classroom poring over information on the firm and two days at the company. Afterward, they gather with professors, consultants and company executives to give their own recommendations in a boardroom setting.
Throughout the two-year EMBA program, students will participate in four to six live cases, ranging in content from restructuring a corporation after a merger or acquisition to designing a global marketing campaign. Participating companies will come from a range of industries.
Jiaotong-Euromed is working with human resource consulting firms Mercer and Roland Berger to develop the first set of live case studies this fall, Wang added.