the business case study: raw versus cooked

Talk about a power grab.  A couple of days ago, the dean of the Yale School of Management offered his definition of the "raw case."   (For all I know, this idea has been in circulation for some time now.  This is the first I have seen of it.)

The "raw case" is delivered not in the tidy 20 pages of the Harvard Business School (HBS) case study but online in a multimedia format. 

[This] conveys material through a variety of perspectives and data streams that can include original source documents such as 10-K filings and analyst reports, news media reports (print and broadcast), faculty-authored notes and background readings, scholarly articles, interview videos or transcripts with the parties involved, as well as other multimedia tools, such as Google maps. Raw cases consist of hundreds, even thousands, of “pages” of data. So, in addition to the lateral synthesis of many disparate piece of information, part of the student’s assignment is determining the most effective allocation of time and attention in order to answer the assigned question or perform the required analysis.

We think of this gift to the b-school community as a Trojan horse.  If Yale can persuade the world to adopt the raw case, it will have displaced the HBS case study format and some of the influence and the centrality of HBS itself.  (Finally, a business school acting like a business!) 

To confirm our suspicion that imperial motives drive this gift to the b-school world, Podolny speaks of the incumbent dismissively.  He calls the classic HBS offering a "cooked" case.  Wow.  Can you spell "positioning," boys and girls? 

Podolny says that this shift in formats is driven by the new intellectual and problem solving style in incoming students.  This is a little patronizing but it is nice to see a business school that pays attention to the cultural developments taking place off campus.


Podolny, Joel.  2008.  Transforming the MBA for the 21st Century – A commentary by Dean Joel M. Podolny.  Published in the Economic Times on April 28, 2008 and reproduced on the Yale School of
Management website here.

4 thoughts on “the business case study: raw versus cooked

  1. Virginia Postrel

    From what I can tell at something of a distance, the “new intellectual and problem solving style” of b-school students is to demand clear-cut, predigested “take aways,” preferably in written outline form (PowerPoint is nice), and to go absolutely crazy when problems don’t present themselves in clearly defined ways. The Yale approach sounds like a guaranteed ticket to low, low teaching ratings.

  2. Peter

    Is this: The Business Case goes Po-Mo?

    In addition to being cooked, I always viewed HBS case studies as being pre-digested. As a result, HBS graduates I’ve encountered often lack their own independent mastication capabilities.

  3. srp

    The trend in Harvard cases has been to make them more directed and focused. The older cases had scattered data all over the place and often you could do lots of things the authors of the cases never contemplated (as judged by the teaching notes they wrote).

    Classic Harvard cases involved an obvious, but wrong, analysis and a hidden “Easter egg”–a surprising calculation or comparision–that, once performed, revealed what was really going on. The theory behind this is that the big “aha!” moments are more memorable and striking and so are more likely to be integrated into the student’s routine thought processes. Also, this style taught students to look beyond the obvious.

    Today’s cases are more obviously directive, often serving as examples of some theoretical point covered in the readings for that day. The old whipsaw still comes out on occasion, though.

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