The Case Method: Pack More Experience into Training through Real-world Business Situations

Solve real problems for real experience

Harvard Business Publishing recently posted a great article about using the Case Method to immerse participants into realistic business situations. I have been involved in this approach many times in my work with strategy consultants, so I know first-hand that it shines as a training technique. Simply put, the Case Method provides a business case to participants, who must then solve a problem, or create a deliverable for a scenario often based on a past real-world business issue.

Create compelling business decisions

As the Harvard article says, the benefits of the approach include realistic scenarios such as incomplete information, time constraints, and conflicting goals, which they say packs more experience into each hour of learning than any other instructional approach. I agree. It’s always interesting to see how the participants become engaged with the material and start to remove the ‘pretend’ barriers. And if the course extends beyond analysis and into the creation of a report or presentation, the discussions surrounding what is certain and what is unknown make for compelling business decisions.

Harvard’s hints

According to Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus Benson P. Shapiro, Case Training should incorporate the following four things:

  1. A complete set of teaching objectives and a collection of likely structures and questions.
  2. An approach that allows participants to accept and maintain ownership of the discussion.
  3. A facilitator who truly listens, encouraging participants to listen to each other as well and take their participation seriously
  4. A facilitator who also stimulates and encourages discussion, setting the tone for the rest of the course.

Use coaching to keep participants on track

My experience has taught me that well-timed coaching and targeted feedback is essential to keeping participants on track. This has worked in our complete communications courses such as Writing with Impact, and it serves two functions: participants don’t get bogged down for too long in discussions that will go nowhere, and trainers can ensure that quality deliverables are met on-time, which is essential for participants to experience a sense of real achievement and learning by the end of the course.

The Case Method: helping participants immerse themselves into the world of business to create compelling training, every time.

Stephen Johnston,
Founding Partner, complete communications

Source: Harvard Business Publishing, 2014,


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