Author Archives: Espen

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Teaching with Cases: Detailed table of contents

The Table of Contents in the paper and PDF version of Teaching with Cases: A Practical Guide is only at the chapter level. For readers wanting a more detailed overview of the book or to find something specific, here is the detailed table of contents:

Preface  vii
Acknowledgements     ix

Chapter 1: Introduction: Why you should read this book 1
Why case teaching?     2
How case classes and students vary     4
   Class size     5
   Core versus elective     5
   Part-time versus full-time     5
   Gender     5
   Weekly versus  modular courses     6
   Domestic versus international     6
   Single versus multi-section     6
   Executive versus graduate versus undergraduate     7
   One of many case classes for students vs. only or one of few 7
   In school versus other location     7
Practical Guidance for all Case-Teaching Faculty     7
The central framework: Foundation, flow, and feedback     8

Chapter 2: Foundations: Preparing for the course     11
Taking Ownership    12
Making a Contract     14
Developing Content     16
   Structuring the syllabus     26
   Selecting cases     18
   Selecting readings and textbooks     24
   Using guest speakers     26
   Using assignments     28
Working with Students     29
   Motivating Students     32
      Enthusiasm and Engagement     33
      Relevance     33
      Opportunities to build valuable skills     33
      Safe participation     34
      Fun     34
   Finding Information about Students’ Backgrounds     35
   Helping the students prepare for case discussions    36
   Classroom participation requirement     36
Establishing Infrastructure     38
   Establishing seating arrangements     39
   Using Name cards and seating charts     42
   Setting length and frequency of class sessions     44
      Session Length  45
      Session Frequency  45
Wrapping up     46

Chapter 3: Flow During the Class Session    49
Preparing Yourself    51
   Crafting a teaching plan     52
   Demeanor in class     54
   Dressing for class and impression management     55
   Managing your anxiety     57
      Preparation     57
      Exercises     58
      Rituals     59
Starting to Teach     59
   The first class     59
   Opening classes     62
   Building trust in the class     64
Managing the Discussion     66
   The Emcee: Calling on students and managing airtime     67
   The Scribe: Using the board     70
      Board plan     71
      Writing on the board     74
   The Conductor: Using body language, silence, and movement 76
   Using the physical space   79
   The TV Host: Asking questions   82
      Giving up control     84
   Time management     85
      How long to let a discussion go     86
      If you are running out of time     86
      Breaks and other interruptions    87
      Teaching long class days     88
Beyond Discussion     89
   Using theory and other non-case material     89
      Inductive versus deductive case use 90
      Communicating Theory  91
   Role-Playing     93
   Multipart cases     94
   Group work     95
      Group Presentations     96
      Group Discussions    98
      Team teaching in the classroom    99
   Are you getting the most from each student?     101
   Humor in the classroom     102
   Energy    103
      Raising the energy level     104
Relationships among and with students     106
Concluding a Discussion     107

Chapter 4: Feedback: Assignments, Grading and Guidance 111
The Evaluative Mindset  112
Designing Evaluation   113
   Designing assignments 115
      Individual Oral Assignments   115
      Individual Written Assignments 116
      Group Oral Assignments  117
      Group Written Assignments  118
   Designing Exams     118
      Selecting Cases for Exams   118
      Writing Exam Questions  119
   Take-Home Exams   121
   Designing Term Papers  122
   Term Papers as Research Method  124
Grading    125
   A matter of scaling     125
      How to structure feedback     127
      Group Work  130
      Final Exams  130
      Class participation     131
      Capturing Participation  133
      Setting Expectations  134
      Setting Expectations by Self-Evaluation  135
   Exams  136
The dreaded extra-credit requests    139
Handling academic dishonesty     140
Conclusion     143

Chapter 5: Managing Classroom Issues     145
Issues with Individual Student    145
   How do I manage students who hog airtime?     146
   How do I manage combative students?     147
   What can I do about students’ computer use in class?    148
   What do I do if a student does not pay attention in class?   149
   What do I do if a student complains?     150
   How do I accommodate students with disabilities?     151
Issues with groups of students     152
   What Do I Do When Students Are Not Well Prepared? 152
   How do I get students to prepare better?     153
      Reward Good Preparation 153
      Help Them Along  154
      Draw Out Prepared But Reticent Students 154
      Require Case Write-ups or Give Pop Quizzes  154
      Give a Stern Lecture  154
      Make An Example of a Student or Two  154
   How do I stop side conversations?     155
   How Do I Manage Dysfunctional Class Behavior?  156
      Hissing  156
      Genuflection   156
      Sharking  157
   What if the class turns against me?     157
   How is Teaching Executives Different?  159
   How should I deal with student pranks?     161
   How Do I Deal with Student Representatives?    163
   How Do I Deal with Dysfunctional Groups? 164
      Free-Riders  164
      Personality Conflicts   165
      Poor Project Management   165
      Poor Performance   165
Issues Beyond Students     166
   What if I can’t find enough cases that fit?     166
   What do I do if I have lost track of the discussion?     167
   What if I run out of questions?     168
   How do I deal with problems in an intensive-format course? 137
      Prepare Differently  169
      Manage Expectations  169
      Manage Process Closely  169
   What can I do if I am low on energy?     170
   What If the Administration Gets Involved?

Chapter 6 Quantitative and technical material     174
Flipping the Qualitative and Quantitative    175
   Being Qualitative about the Quantitative  175
   Being Quantitative about the Qualitative  176
      Explicitly Teach Estimation   177
      Quantify Anything   177
      Know the Industry Data   177
      Change Assumptions or Problems on the Fly  179
Teaching Quantitative Material   179
   Making a Teaching Plan for a Quantitative Case   179
      Pacing the Discussion  180
      Asking for a Number at the Beginning   181
   Managing Math Phobia and Aversion to Numbers   183
      Making the value clear   182
      Acknowledging the Phobic  182
      Filling in the Holes  182
      Fostering a Sense of Self-Efficacy  183
   Using the Board  183
   Making the best use of students     185
      When Students Go Wrong  185
      When No One Has the Correct Analysis  186
   Discussing a Quantitative Case with Subjective Numbers or Estimates   187
      Using Groups  188
Teaching Technical Material   189
   Motivating the Study of Technology   189
   Structuring the Teaching of Technology  190
Conclusion 192

Chapter 7 Adjusting for language and culture     195
The Foreign Student  197
   Making Adjustments for Foreign Students   200
The Foreign Teacher   202
The Teacher Abroad  204
   Expectations for teaching   205
   Teacher power     206
   Student behavior     207
   Using Interpreters   208
   Trust the locals     211

Chapter 8: Preparing for the next time     213
Debriefing a course     213
   Interpreting and using student feedback     215
      How to Read Student Feedback   215
      Striving for High Evaluations   217
   Reviewing Case Selection   217
   Debriefing with a Teaching Group 218
   Archiving Material   218
Evaluating case teachers, including yourself     219
   Before Class  219
   During Class  219
   After Class  220
Managing relationships with alumni     220

Chapter 9: Fostering Case Teaching at the School Level  223
The Commoditized Business School  223
Relevance is Relevant   224
Integration is Integral   225
Institutionalizing Case Teaching   228
   Recruiting, Incentives and Promotion   228
   Teaching-Related Procedures   230
Getting Infrastructure Right   230
   Classroom Design  231
      Good, Abundant Board Space   231
      Blackboards Rather Than Whiteboards   231
      Seating   232
Making Cases Easy to Use and Produce   233
   Case Production   234

Chapter 10 Technologies for Case Teaching  238
Take Control of the Technology  238
   Technology for Teacher Productivity  239
   Teacher’s Computer Use in Class   241
      Presentation Software   243
Tools for Student-Teacher Interaction   246
   Learning Management Systems     246
      Build a Sandbox   246
      Explore the System   247
      Maintain Communication Norms   247
      Create a FAQ Repository  247
      Structure for Reuse  247
      Facilitate Searching   247
      Consider the User’s Experience   248
      Maintain Structure   248
      Automate Availability   248
      Explore the Analytics   248
      Seek and Accept Help  249
   Other Technologies to Support Student Interaction  249
      Social Media   249
      In-Class Polling and Voting Tools   249
      Questionnaires   250
      Shared Documents   250
      Analysis Tools   250
      Online Simulations  251
Online Teaching   251
   Teleconference Teaching   251
      Get the Basic Technology Right 252
      Communicate in a Way Suited to the Medium   252
      Communicate via Side Channel and Back Channel  253
      Get to Know the Students  254
   Videoconferencing  254
      Lighting and Background   255
      Sound   256
      The Video Camera   256
   Concurrently Teaching Face-to-Face and Remotely   259
   Teaching Asynchronously with Discussion Forums   260
      Foundations: Designing the Course and Forming the Contract   262
      Flow: Running the Discussion   265
      Guidelines for Students   267
      Feedback: Evaluating and Closing the Loop 269
Managing the inevitable technical failures   271
Conclusion   273

Index   275
About the Authors  293

Case teaching when you are not at Harvard

Our book is out!

Bill Schiano and I have written a book, Teaching with Cases: A Practical Guide, officially launched today at Harvard Business Publishing, available as PDF and in paperback (304 pages).

Bill and I are both passionate about case teaching and use it whenever possible. We have aimed the book at the kind of people we were 18 years ago: Teachers wanting to use case teaching, but finding ourselves in institutions where case teaching is not the dominant teaching method. (We actually wanted to name the book Case teaching when you are not at Harvard, but saner minds intervened.)

There are a few books on how to do case teaching available, but common to them is that they are a) rather philosophical and abstract in their advice, and b) take the institutional environment for granted – i.e., they assume that you are at a school, such as Harvard Business School, Wharton, INSEAD or University of Western Ontario, where case teaching is the norm, the students are brilliant and fiercely competitive, classrooms are made for case teaching and excellent teaching is valued by the administration (and the promotion committees.)

We wanted the book to be relentlessly practical – what to wear to class, how to deal with disruptive students, how to get students to prepare, how to grade participation. We also wanted the book to address how to create the necessary infrastructure for case teaching with little or no administrative support, down to how you create name cards (let the students do it or use a spreadsheet/mail-merge function) and class chart (take a photo of the students holding their name cards, print it in weak grayscale for after-class note-taking.)

The book is built around three concepts: Foundations (how to set up the course, contract with the students, and set up infrastructure); Flow (how to conduct the discussion in the classroom, manage time and boards, ask questions, and conclude discussions); and Feedback (how to design grading and feedback, especially participation grading.) We have extra chapters on dealing with difficult issues (much of it based on questions from participants in HBS’ case teaching seminars); how to teach quantitative and technical material; how to deal with differences in language and culture (foreign students and foreign teachers); how to prepare for the next course; how to foster case teaching at the school level (many business schools are now looking to better teaching, including case teaching, as a differentiator); and lastly, a long and detailed chapter on technologies for case teaching, including our views on how to teach cases online.

The book also includes a collection of online resources (sample syllabi, sample teaching plans, etc.) for teachers, available at We hope to grow this collection as we hear from readers and build more material ourselves.

That’s it for now – I’ll be back with excerpts, a full table of contents, and various other nuggets eventually. But given that this book has been on my mind for a couple of years now, it is a rather good day…

Being rational in the publishing debate

Book publishing is moving towards subscription models, and the tempers are (predictably) flaring, especially since writers cannot change their business model to giving performances rather than selling their works for self-consumption, as musicians can (and do).

malletJohn Scalzi, sci-fi writer and blogger par excellence (he works his comment field using what he terms his Mallet of Loving Correction, which is also the title of his blog-generated book
) has a reasoned response to the current subscription-or-not discussion, which I encourage everyone to read. Key phrase:

[…] every new distribution model offers opportunities tuned to that particular model of distribution — the question is whether one is smart enough to figure out what the strengths of any distribution model are, and then saavy (and lucky) enough to capitalize on them.

And there you are. Easier ways to publish will lead to more writing – it already does. It will also create new ways of making a living from writing – and, I suspect, new forms of writing (as it already has.) In the process, some will prosper that previously didn’t, others won’t. Digging oneself into a trench certainly won’t help.

Moon landing hoax rebuttal

For some reason, many people with very little brains believe the moon landings of Apollo 11 and others were faked in a giant conspiracy. This video shows why they could not be faked, and why it matters. (Another point: At no point did the Soviet Union dispute that the USA had made it to the moon – because they had their own manned missions and could see the landing site with their own eyes….)

Anyway, a brilliant piece of argumentation, for your enjoyment:

Elon, I want my data!

Last week I got a parking ticket. I stopped outside BI Norwegian Business School where I work, to run in and deliver some papers and pick up some computer equipment. There is a spot outside the school where you can stop for 10 minutes for deliveries. When I came out, I had a ticket, the attendant was nowhere in sight – and I am pretty sure I had not been there for 10 minutes. But how to prove that?

Then it dawned on me – I have a Tesla Model S, a very innovative car – not just because it is electric, but because it is constantly connected to the Internet and sold more as a service than a product (actually, sold as a very tight, proprietary-architecture product, much like whatever Apple is selling). Given that there is a great app where I can see the where the car is and how fast it is going, I should be able to get the log from Tesla and prove that I parked the car outside BI less than 10 minutes before the ticket was issued…

Well, not so fast. I called Tesla Norway and asked to see the log, and was politely turned down – they cannot give me the data (actually, they will not hand it over unless there is a court order, according to company policy.) A few emails back and forth have revealed that the location and speed data seen by the app is not kept by the internal system. But you can still find out what kind of driving has been done – as Elon Musk himself did when refuting a New York Times journalist’s bad review by showing that the journalist had driven the car harder and in different places than claimed. I could, for instance, use the data to find out precisely when I parked the car, even though I can’t show the location.

And this is where it gets interesting (and where I stop caring about the parking ticket and start caring about principles): Norway has a Personal Data Protection Act, which dictates that if a company is saving data about you, they not only have to tell you what they save, but you also have a “right of inspection” (something I confirmed with a quick call to the Norwegian Data Protection Authority). Furthermore, I am vice chairman of Digitalt Personvern,  an association working to repeal the EU data retention directive and know some of the best data privacy lawyers in Norway.

So I can probably set in motion a campaign to force Tesla Norway to give me access to my data, based on Norwegian law. Tesla’s policies may be American, but their Norwegian subsidiary has to obey Norwegian laws.

But I think I have a better idea: Why not, simply, ask Tesla to give me the data – not because I have a right to data generated by myself according to Norwegian law, but because it is a good business idea and also the Right Thing to do?

So, Elon Musk: Why not give us Tesla-owners direct access to our logs through the web site? We already have password-protected accounts there, storing documents and service information. I am sure some enterprising developer (come to think of it, I know a few myself, some with Teslas) will come up with some really cool and useful stuff to make use of the information, either as independent apps or via some sort of social media data pooling arrangement. While you are at it, how about an API?

Tesla has already shown that they understand business models and network externalities by doing such smart things as opening up their patent portfolio. The company is demonstrably nerdy – the stereo volume literally goes to 11. Now it is time to open up the data side – to make the car even more useful and personable.

PS: While I have your attention, could you please link the GPS to the pneumatic suspension, so I can set the car to automatically increase road clearance when I exit the highway onto the speed-bumpy road to my house? Being able to take snapshots with the reverse camera would be a nice hack as well, come to think of it. Thanks in advance! (And thanks for the Rdio, incidentally!)

Update a few hours later: Now on Boingboing!

Update Sept. 2: The parking company (Europark) dropped the ticket – didn’t give a reason, but probably not because I was parked too long but because I was making a delivery and could park there.

The disrupted history professor

Jill Lepore, Harvard HistorianProfessor Jill Lepore, chair of Harvard’s History and Literature program, has published an essay in the New Yorker, sharply critical of Clayton Christensen and his theory of disruptive innovations. The essay has generated quite some stir, including a rather head-shaking analysis by Will Oremus in Slate.

I find Lepore’s essay rather puzzling, and, quite frankly, unworthy of a professor of history, Harvard or not. At this point, I should say that I am not an unbiased observer here – clayClay is a personal friend of mine, we went through the doctoral program at Harvard Business School together (he started a year before me), he was on my thesis committee (having graduated three years ahead of me) and we have kept in touch, including him coming to Norway for a few visits and one family vacation including a great trip on Hurtigruten. Clay is commonly known as the “gentle giant” and one of the most considerate, open and thoughtful people I know, and seeing him subjected to vituperating commentary from morons quite frankly pains me.

Professor Lepore’s essay has one very valid point: Like any management idea, disruptive innovation is overapplied, with every technology company or web startup claiming that their offering is disruptive and therefore investment-worthy. As I previously have written: If a product is described as disruptive, it probably isn’t. A disruptive product is something your customers don’t care about, with worse performance than what you have, and with lower profit expectations. Why in the world would you want to describe your offering as disruptive?

That being said, professor Lepore’s (I will not call her Jill, because that seems to be a big issue for some people. But since I have met Clay (most recently last week, actually), I will refer to him as Clay)  essay shows some remarkable jumps to non-conclusions: She starts out with a very fine summary of what the theory of disruption says:

Christensen was interested in why companies fail. In his 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” he argued that, very often, it isn’t because their executives made bad decisions but because they made good decisions, the same kind of good decisions that had made those companies successful for decades. (The “innovator’s dilemma” is that “doing the right thing is the wrong thing.”) As Christensen saw it, the problem was the velocity of history, and it wasn’t so much a problem as a missed opportunity, like a plane that takes off without you, except that you didn’t even know there was a plane, and had wandered onto the airfield, which you thought was a meadow, and the plane ran you over during takeoff. Manufacturers of mainframe computers made good decisions about making and selling mainframe computers and devising important refinements to them in their R. & D. departments—“sustaining innovations,” Christensen called them—but, busy pleasing their mainframe customers, one tinker at a time, they missed what an entirely untapped customer wanted, personal computers, the market for which was created by what Christensen called “disruptive innovation”: the selling of a cheaper, poorer-quality product that initially reaches less profitable customers but eventually takes over and devours an entire industry.

She then goes on to say that the theory is mis- and overapplied, and I (and certainly Clay) couldn’t agree more. Everyone and their brother is on an innovation bandwagon and way too many consulting companies are peddling disruption just like they were peddling business process reengineering back in the nineties (I worked for CSC Index and caught the tail end of that mania. Following this, she points out that Clay’s work is based on cases (it is), is theory-building rather than theory-confirming (yep) and that you can find plenty of cases of things that were meant to be disruptive that weren’t, or companies that were disruptive but still didn’t succeed. All very well, though, I should say, much of this is addressed in Clay’s later books and various publications, including a special issue of Journal of Product Innovation Management.

(Curiously, she mentions that she has worked as an assistant to Michael Porter‘s assistant, apparently having a good time and seeing him as a real professor. She then goes on to criticise the theory of disruptive innovation as having no predictive power – but the framework that Porter is most famous for, the five forces, has no predictive power either: It is a very good way to describe the competitive situation in an industry by offers zero guidance as to what you actually should do if you are, say, in the airline industry, which scores very badly on all five dimensions. There is a current controversy between Clay and Michael Porter on where the Harvard Business School (and, by implication, business education in general) should go. The controversy is, according to Clay, mostly “ginned up” in order to make the Times article interesting, but I do wonder what professor Lepore’s stakes are here.)

The trouble with management ideas is that while they can be easily dismissed when commoditized and overapplied, most of them actually start out as very good ideas within their bounds. Lepore feels threatened by innovation, especially the disruptive kind, because it shows up both in her journalistic (she is a staff writer with the New Yorker) and academic career. I happen to think that the framework fits rather well in the newspaper industry, but then again, I have spent a lot of time with Schibsted, the only media company in the world that has managed to make it through the digital transition with top- and bottom-line growth, largely by applying Clay’s ideas. But for Lepore, innovation is a problem because it is a) unopposed by intellectuals, b) happening too fast, without giving said intellectuals time to think, and c) done by the wrong kind of people (that is, youngsters slouching on sofas, doing little work since most of their attention is spent on their insanely complicated coffee machines, which “look like dollhouse-size factories”.) I am reminded of “In the beginning…was the command line.”, Neal Stephenson‘s beautiful essay about technology and culture, where he points out that in

… the heyday of Communism and Socialism, [the] bourgeoisie were hated from both ends: by the proles, because they had all the money, and by the intelligentsia, because of their tendency to spend it on lawn ornaments.

And then Lepore turns bizarre, saying that disruptive innovation does not apply in journalism (and, by extention, academia) because “that doesn’t make them industries, which turn things into commodities and sell them for gain.” Apparently, newspapers and academia should be exempt from economic laws because, well, because they should. (I have had quite a few discussions with Norwegian publishing executives, who seem to think so for their industry, too.)

I think newspapers and academic institutions are industries – knowledge industries, operating in a knowledge economy, where things are very much turned into commodities these days, by rapidly advancing technology for generating, storing, finding and communicating information. The increased productivity of knowledge generation will mean that we will need fewer, but better, knowledge institutions. Some of the old ones will survive, even prosper. Some will be disrupted. Treating disruptive innovation as a myth certainly is one option, but I wish professor Lepore would base that decision on something more than what appears to be rhetorical comments, a not very careful reading of the real literature, and, quite frankly, wishful thinking.

But I guess time – if not the Times – will show us what happens in the future. As for disruption, I would rather be the disruptor than the disruptee. I would have less money and honor, but more fun. And I would get to write the epitaph.

But then again, I have an insanely complicated coffee machine. And now it is time to go and clean it.