(For the Japanese version of this article)

Case Method Introductory Seminar Part 3: Cases as a teaching material [March 20, 2014]

Case Method Introductory Seminar Part 3: Cases as a teaching material


The Case Center Japan organized the three-part series of Case Method Introductory Seminar. It aimed to help understand mechanism and effectiveness of the case method and learn how to introduce and make greater use of cases effectively. The third seminar focused on cases as a teaching material and explored what makes a good case and what can be gained from a good case.

Dates: March 20 (Thursday), 2014

Place: Learning Square Shimbashi

Lecturer: Mr. Tsutomu Yokose, Special Invited Professor, International University of Japan Graduate School of International Management


The case method has been attracting attention because of its learning effect in enhancing practical skills through discussions and used increasingly in various educational scenes, such as HR trainings in corporations as well as classes at university and business schools. The objective of this seminar was to help understand mechanism and effectiveness of the case method and learn how to make greater use of cases in the classroom effectively from the three perspectives of designing, running and cases as a teaching material.

The third and final seminar focused on cases as a teaching material. The objective of the seminar was to explore what makes a good case and what can be gained from a good case through actual case discussion and help select cases for use in training courses and classrooms.

The case used for the discussion was "3M Optical Systems: Managing Corporate Entrepreneurship." The case describes the challenges facing a newly appointed general manager of 3M's Optical Systems business unit, who is faced with a decision of whether to take up budget application for the relaunch of a new computer privacy filter; in the past, similar products were developed by the unit and failed in the market. This case receives high evaluation as it elicits discussions on the roles of managers at different levels and also contains issues that are universal in a variety of organizations.

At the beginning of the session, the participants discussed 3M's sense of values on technology and examined how changing business environments had impacted those values. With this in mind, they considered whether to authorize expenditure if they were in place of the division vice president and pressed by the new manager for a decision as well as what should be done to encourage entrepreneurial spirits at 3M. Most of the participants were in favor of granting authorization, considering market growth potential and the need to maintain a climate of innovation in the company. A minority of the participants was against approval, citing uncertain market potential and lack of sales backup within the company. Based on these opinions, the participants discussed what the front-line manager and division vice president should do and consider in their respective positions at a time of making a management decision. They also noted that in order to foster entrepreneurship in the company, managers need to think about the values of the organization as the foundation for initiating the entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the participants learned that when empowering members in the organization, it is important to strike a balance between supporting individual capacity development on one hand and maintaining discipline on the other.

Finally, the instructor of the seminar exchanged opinions with the participants about what makes a good case. They agreed that a good case puts people in various standpoints and guide them toward many discoveries in discussion process. It was also recognized that it does not result in a single conclusion and allow discussions and learning to continue after the class.

By discussing the issues with others from various angles, the participants were no doubt able to savor the process of reviewing and rebuilding their own opinions. That is perhaps the outstanding feature of the case method. It is hoped that the three seminars could deepen the participants' understanding of how to effectively introduce the case method and give them multifaceted learning experience.

Professor Yokose leads the discussion.

Professor Yokose leads the discussion.

Scene of the seminar

Scene of the seminar

Human Resource Development Dept.

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