Duke MMS Student Blog
What are Case Studies?
Okay so here’s a heads up for business school – and this applies to almost every business school – you will learn via the case method. I recently went to NC State to talk to some undergrads about the MMS program and business school in general, and I was surprised to find that almost none of them knew about the case method. So, let me explain: basically, students are given a packet of information detailing a problem that a real company has faced. The problem is described in detail, with background information, usually including financial statements. Students are then asked to answer a set of questions to solve the company’s problem. (Learn more about the case method and other teaching principles on the MMS website.)
The case method is a really cool way to learn business skills and practices, for several reasons. The first is that the cases are prepared by incredible business teachers from some of the world’s best business schools. So far, we have studied cases from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, LSE, and of course Fuqua. One of my favorite cases was designed by none other than our corporate finance teacher and esteemed Fuqua professor, David Robinson. These professors have seen firsthand many of the most influential business decisions of the past few decades, and they share this knowledge in a way that we can digest and maybe [cough] have a little fun.
Second, cases are actually a much more interesting way to learn about real business problems than reading about them in a book. Cases are very conducive to becoming a more well-rounded business professional, because each case has several components that have to be considered. Students often have to choose which decision a company will make given the circumstances of the case. This inevitably involves examining multiple aspects of the company’s market, target customers, financial statements, and company vision. By the end of the case, you really learn a lot more about the company and business than you bargained for.
Finally, these are real companies and real situations, making the decisions that your team comes up with seem all the more necessary. It is much more interesting to read about John Deere or the Chicago Cubs than about companies A or B that no one has ever heard of. The companies in the cases face some major decisions, and since students don’t always know the outcome, it’s an adventure to come up with a solution. It’s like being a consultant while you are still at Fuqua.
If you plan on coming to Fuqua, or going to any business school, the case method is a major part of the learning process. If you’re curious, search for some cases online and read through them. It may seem a little tedious at first, but you will soon find that they are pretty deep, and coming up with a solution is rewarding.