A week ago Monday, I found myself sitting on a 7:15a flight to Chicago. I had arrived late the night before and expected to sleep for the hour. Instead, I overheard a seatmate say that he was headed to San Francisco and the guy next to him, Los Angeles. Next thing I knew, I was conversing with the guy sitting in front of me who was returning to China, where he is getting his PhD. In comparison to their travels, my hour flight felt like nothing.
The conversation with the guy in front of me ensued. We talked about what each of us respectively do. Then came the conversation of MBA. I don't recall where he attended, but our traveler to San Francisco quickly joined as we reminisced about the case method. It was an interesting conversation as Mr. Going to SF said that he thought the case method was worthless and cases were simply too easy to solve. It made me question what types of cases he studied as most cases don't have a correct answer.
As I've noted before, I believe the case method is about thinking. It's learning to state your assumptions and ask questions to make a final decision or recommendation. SF-Bound seemed to think it was simply about getting the right or optimal answer. I noted that while some cases may have an optimal answer, I thought a subject like strategy doesn't necessarily. Sometimes an expansion in one direction will succeed, though you'll never be able to say what would have happened if a company expanded in a different direction or not at all. He strongly disagreed because he was a strategy guy that always found the optimal solution given the facts at hand. I commend him on his confidence, but must resume that there's not always a right answer. And in my opinion, the case method is far better than a professor lecturing on a book I can sufficiently read on my own. You can't teach everyone's individual experiences from a textbook. That's what makes a case classroom so rich. I may never serve my country, yet through the eyes of my classmates, I understand what it means to do so.