Post-fact culture, storytelling and the case method

In two very recent political campaigns in the UK and US proponents declared proudly that they didn’t listen to experts.

Wherever we look in the world the principles of inquiry and research that underpin our understanding of the world, and the valuing of knowledge and expertise, seem under attack.


Some commentators argue that these are only the most recent examples of a much longer trend of anti-intellectualism. People want simple. They don’t want to hear complex solutions for a complex world.

businessintelligenceAnd into the void comes a wilful avoidance of clarity and knowledge, and beliefs based on someone’s ability to tell a good story. No inconvenient fact or truth, it seems, should come between a desire and an outcome. We are living, we are told, in a post-factual world. Fertile ground for those who tell a good story.


Whatever else we may be, we in the case world are storytellers. We believe in the power of a good story. But we also know that telling a good story is not enough.

socialmedia_000036648090That the moon is made of green cheese is a good story. So are Father Christmas and the tooth fairy. More concerning, the prejudices that breed fear of people who are unlike ourselves are often provoked and expressed through uncorroborated and unchallenged ‘good stories’. Uncorroborated and unchallenged because many people access their daily news and political commentary to social media sources whose algorithms promote stories that play to our preferences and biases

Academic rigour

handup_IMG_1910-3 (1)What makes we case-people different is that we also believe in the rigour of academic research and the testing of story against knowledge and well-researched experience.

The struggle to test and balance both theoretical and empirical understanding, and to challenge assumptions that students are forced to confront in classroom discussion, is the crucial difference between a story and a teaching case.

How are you going to approach working with cases, or materials that are case-like?

Simply telling a good story is never enough.

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Filed under Business education, Case method, Case teaching

Going digital: meeting the challenge


I always enjoy attending the annual conference of the Academy of Management.

With an attendance of around 10,000 academics and a large number of exhibitors it’s the perfect annual chance to connect with old friends, make new contacts and get a feel for what’s hot in management and business education and management publishing.

This year’s meeting in Anaheim, California, was no exception.

The events in the conference programme get a lot of attention and many of the presentations will already be available as journal publications, via social media or through the AOM’s own website. So I thought it would be interesting to share my personal take on conversations and presentations from inside the exhibition hall.

Digital threats and opportunities

The talk for quite a few years now has been of the possibilities and threats of digital media to existing publishing models. This year, I sensed a first consolidation of talk into sustainable action.

Textbook publishers were at the conference in smaller numbers this year – some evidence, perhaps, of the impact of digital as they respond to tougher sales conditions in the face of increased and disruptive competition from born-digital competitors and open source distribution models.

Pile of colorful magazines

Biggest challenge

The disaggregation of digital content is the biggest challenge to traditional publishers. Why buy the complete textbook if chapter one is the one that you want your students to read? Or the complete album – witness Spotify and other music services based on individual tracks and personal playlists rather than albums.

The challenge is different for case publishers. The case is already at the roughly equivalent level of granularity as a learning object, and therefore below the level at which disaggregation takes place.

A different challenge

For case authors and publishers, and case teachers come to that, the challenge is how to express a case, or a case discussion, to take best advantage of the defining attributes of a digital medium. That’s what’s been missing from many early digital cases. Too many tried to mimic real-world experience rather than expressing the unique attributes on offer from digital.

searchingIMG_1914This year, for the first time, I had a sense at the Academy of Management conference that, rather quietly, something may be stirring in the digital forest. Several exhibitors had digital products or approaches to case teaching on display that attracted my interest. See what you think.

Video series

Ivey Publishing has launched a new series of videos called Choosing and Using Cases – Insights from Leading Case Practitioners. Ivey also presented an interesting variant on case teaching with the launch of its guide for faculty requiring students to write cases as an assessed course element.

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Real progress

Over at Real Time Cases, you’ll find cases composed of video interviews with case protagonists in situ and in the midst of real-time dilemmas so students can work through the scenarios in real time concurrent with the resolution of the problem within the company. And in another exciting development, Recurrence  takes original paper cases and turns them into animated business games using gamification techniques to engage students.

There’s lots going on out there. Watch this space!

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Filed under Business education, Case method, Case teaching, Case writing