A new generation of case writing talent

Like many case authors around the world, I look forward each year to the announcement of our case awards. As well as the excitement of discovering our winners, I also love the insight they give into the topics that business faculty are choosing to teach.

When the 2021 winners were announced on 1 March, I was delighted to see that 27% of our winning cases featured a female protagonist, which, while not enough, is definitely a step towards parity. As case-winning topics are concerned, for the first time we saw a case address the topic of influencers, and ethical issues such as diversity and pay, sustainability, food and energy featured strongly. There was also a resurgence in interest in multinationals, particularly around tech. 

The awards reveal a new generation of case writing talent. First time winners took all six of our competition categories. Furthermore, six new schools from five countries joined the traditionally strong case schools to show the growth of quality case writing worldwide. I congratulate all our winners, new and established alike, for the contribution they make to classrooms and boardrooms, online and face-to-face, local and global. 

Like all educators, case writers have faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. The almost universal switch to teaching online brought a challenge to reimagine case pedagogy outside the live classroom, including the core discussion element. This necessitated fresh thinking, problem solving and courage on the part of faculty to rapidly adapt case materials and their teaching. So, we will be encouraging published authors in The Case Centre catalogue to update teaching notes to reflect the new online norms.

The 2021 Overall Award-Winning case, Dollar Shave Club, is an example of how authors can adapt to support teachers in adding guidance on how to use the case successfully online. The three winning authors, Jamie Anderson, Karin Kollenz-Quétard and Nader Tavassoli, ran a webinar (hosted by The Case Centre) around these themes on 23 March 2021.

Finally, and very deservedly, this year’s award for Outstanding Contribution to the Case Method was awarded to professor Paul Beamish of Ivey Business School. Paul has been Ivey’s bestselling case author since 2001 and has won awards from EFMD, the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada, and The Case Centre. In addition to his excellence as an outstanding case writer and educator, Paul was Head of Ivey Publishing until 2016. His commitment to the case method and dedication to passing those skills on to colleagues around the world is immense, and incorporates case workshops improving skills, and developing improved access to quality case materials in developing countries. His impact has been worldwide.  

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the case method

What can we do to address issues of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion explicitly in our case writing, teaching, distribution and learning? 

The most engaging cases feature protagonists, scenarios, locations and industries that capture the lived experience of diverse business practitioners and the diversity of our students, because the case discussion that is at the heart of the case method is all the stronger when participants are confident in sharing their own experience of lives lived and shaped in different circumstances and business settings.

So the most engaging case teaching is when the teacher is confident in addressing diversity, equity and inclusion in their facilitation of the discussion. When students are encouraged to contribute and reflect on a broad range of experience, analysis and opinion. When contributions are diverse and divergent, students are equal participants and each individual feels included.

Yet many case teachers lack confidence in addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in their teaching. Others, wishing to avoid cases that reinforce stereotypes suppressing student ambition and aspiration, find it difficult to identify cases that feature active diverse protagonists.

How can that dilemma be resolved?

I am excited by the degree to which case publishing schools, writers and teachers around the world are tackling these issues. Recently we’ve been working to support the Case Compendium initiative by the Centre for Equity Gender & Leadership at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business – making it easier for case teachers to identify and source cases that best support diversity, equity and inclusion in their case teaching. 

We are making it easier to search for cases in our catalogue using diversity, equity and inclusion identifiers and are encouraging all case writers and case publishers to do the same.

In our workshops, conference professional development sessions, and through our awards and case writing scholarships – we are supporting new and diverse case writers from different backgrounds and experiences, and are encouraging all case writers to represent positive, diverse protagonists, challenging those stereotypes that narrow rather than open up discussion, and to include people, sectors, businesses of all kinds that break fresh ground and reflect the lives and future careers of students.

We have compiled a resources page on our website supporting case writers and case teachers imbedding diversity, equity and inclusion into their work.

We have much to learn. This is a journey, not yet a destination. Please take it with us.

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