Business leadership is not a theory for study, but rather a competency one builds through experience. That is why the case method is an integral part of HBS Executive Education programs. Through active engagement with cases based on real events, participants learn how to arrive at and defend important decisions in the face of complex or even ambiguous circumstances. By conducting rigorous analyses, interacting with equally talented peers, and exercising leadership skills in the classroom, participants develop an increased capacity for strategic thinking and decisive action that they will bring back to their organization.
What Would You Do?
While the cases are as varied as the companies, markets, and industries from which they are derived, they all share important characteristics: they are real scenarios; they involve difficult challenges that defy easy answers; and they feature a protagonist who must assess the situation, analyze the facts, and arrive at a solution. To prepare for class, each participant assumes the role of the protagonist and must be ready to answer one key question: "What would you do?"
Leadership in Practice
The case method is more than an intellectual exercise. It is an active learning method that compels participants to practice fundamental leadership skills within the program, and among their peers. To succeed, participants must analyze complex data, anticipate consequences, and articulate their courses of action. In practice, the method involves a sequence of steps that mirrors effective business management:
- Individual reflection, in which participants assess the case on their own
- Small group discussions, which allow participants to test ideas among themselves and make adjustments to their plans
- Large class discussions, which challenge participants to communicate persuasively, listen carefully, and think quickly.
Preparation for Action
By challenging you to form and communicate practical action plans, HBS prepares you to apply what you learn in the classroom to the real-life situations in your organization. Here, you learn to discriminate information from noise, to think on your feet, to incorporate other points of view, and to persuade others to trust your carefully reasoned decisions.
See the Case Method in Action
What is it really like to prepare for and participate in an HBS case? The answer may surprise you: Watch our case method video "Transforming Executives"."Transforming Executives". You will find more information about the case method on our dedicated case method pages.