Tag Archives: case method

Learning from “Decisive Moments that Shape a Harvard Business School Education”

HBS has a long-standing video on its site: “Inside the Case Method,” talking about “decisive moments that shape a Harvard Business School education.”

It’s a promo for the HBS MBA of course, highlighting its main point of distinction: the case method, which, according to HBS creates “special moments that pull everything we have learned into focus. When theory, practice, experience and talent all come to one sharp point — a decision.” And so on.

For the Harvard MBA admissions applicant this is a worthwhile watch for a few reasons:

1. It is good insight into how b-schools work and think, that is, background on the culture and attitudes at play, including overall assumptions and ethics. This point to what is expected of the next class too, and therefore what HBS Adcom is looking for when it accepts or rejects.

2. It is a view into the dynamics of the business school classroom, and the requirements of individual and group-based learning. The MBA applicant well-positioned to work in this way, is well positioned to be admitted.

3. It is exposure to the case method of teaching. HBS is “ground zero” of the case method, but actually almost every school uses cases to a significant degree, so it is useful for understanding all b-school pedagogy, and therefore what makes sense to say to enhance admissions prospects.

Footnote: the case method has been under some scrutiny, and voices have been raised that Harvard did not adequately prepare its graduates to assess risk / business failure (ref the 2008 recession and fallout). See sample stories in Forbes and Bloomberg News. But, to me it doesn’t look like HBS or the case method was more at fault than any other elite school or any other teaching approach was (or wasn’t).


Get the Feel of an MBA Classroom Experience Before You Apply

A few years back I put up this link to a Darden class (particularly it shows “the case method” in action) to make the point that applicants should make themselves aware of what it is like to be part of it. I you’re going to talk about your great affinity for case-method learning, make sure you are informed about what it is really like.

By extension, watch a generous sampling of videos that are freely and plentifully available on the Web to give yourself an overall sense of what the MBA experience and MBA life is like. This mini-immersion will allow you to better express what you hope to get out of the classroom and what you will contribute to it.

I say all this because applicants sometimes come to me with an unrealistic idea of what goes on in the classroom and outside of it: what the instructor does, how instruction occurs, what students do, what MBA students are like, and so on. With the wrong perception, essays start to sound ill-informed, if not downright naive. This is an admissions red flag.

Videos can be found on schools’ Web sites, or MBA information sites, or more generally for example by searching for MBA classroom on YouTube. And don’t just watch the serious ones — the goofy or playful ones like this, below, are just as relevant for getting a sense of what the real MBA experience is all about.