Strength in diversity

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With International Women’s Day 2020 taking place on Sunday, it seems appropriate to begin by saying how delighted I am to see the success of women case writers in this year’s Case Awards.

Women case writers won 50% of our awards this year, while 31% percent of all case protagonists were female.

This is an important breakthrough and I look forward to these statistics sustaining and improving in future years.

Diversity of approach, protagonists, scenarios, and authors expresses The Case Centre’s mission of supporting and developing the case method. Assisting and recognising the work of underrepresented categories of case writers or protagonists is an important part of that.

Lesley Symons, a long-standing friend of ours with whom we have worked in making our data available for research into the portrayal of women in case studies, has recently published an update in the latest edition of Global Focus. Ivey Publishing also ran a webinar on the subject here.

But cases must also be truthful in representing the reality of what the author has uncovered. One must be careful not to write cases that reflect an idealised picture of what we want business to be, rather than how it is. Cases, I think, can act as a kind of canary in the coal mine by raising the alarm about discrimination in the workplace.  If we, so to speak, teach the canary to hold its breath and sing a different song, that may be more pleasant but baffles the alarm.

And cases must also be seen in context of class discussion in the classroom. More than simply an opportunity, there is a responsibility on case teachers to address the underlying structural, conscious, and unconscious discriminations that result in the underrepresentation of women and other groups.  Some of these apply to case writers and their choice of scenarios and protagonists. Others are deeply imbedded within the structures of workplaces at all levels, of all types, around the world.

It is our responsibility to wrestle with the issue of updating and upgrading our approach to case writing, while also holding true to the strengths of the case method in confronting students in discussing difficult issues.

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Celebrating #WorldCaseTeachingDay

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Last year The Case Centre hosted and curated the first #WorldCaseTeachingDay and we were delighted and gratified by the results. Teachers, students, and professional support staff around the world responded by participating. The impact was enormous and my memories of the day are still so fresh that I am startled to realise that today we are hosting this year’s #WorldCaseTeachingDay.

The day will again be celebrating the impact that case teachers have in educating the next generation of business leaders, entrepreneurs and managers not just in the skills they require but also in ethical, sustainable and questioning approaches to creating and doing business. The increasingly rapid pace of change and the huge challenges we face put a premium on the ability to handle ambiguity and navigate a way through problems based on reasoning, analysis and collaboration. These are all skills honed particularly through experience in the case classroom.

Case teaching is a challenging process. We all admit it isn’t easy. Recognising that, The Case Centre offers support to case teachers through the many free teaching resources available on our website, professional development workshops and celebratory events like today, and our annual Outstanding Case Teacher Award.

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The Outstanding Case Teacher has an enviable record of recognising deeply committed, serious and impactful case teachers who are dedicated to supporting their students. The winner for 2020 is firmly within that tradition – Urs Mueller of SDA Bocconi. In an exceptionally strong field of teachers selected through a process of student nomination, Urs impressed the judges with his commitment to his students and his dedication to developing a personal teaching philosophy interpreting and grounded in the case method.

Visit www.worldcaseteachingday.org to discover how you can join in with the day across social media. I’m looking forward to celebrating your achievements with you and expect to be amazed by the inventive ways you find to take part.

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