Integrated Case Method: THE FUTURE TODAY

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by 
CharterQuest
, 30 January 2017

Subtitle

Businesses want employees who ‘know and can do.’ Universities for the most part seem to specialise in producing graduates who ‘may know’ but certainly ‘can’t do.’ The public expects employers to take over and provide support but employers say it is ‘not core business’. This is a dual responsibility but shouldn’t Universities be doing more by inter-alia incorporating the ‘Integrated Case Method’ deeper into the curriculum?

THE ‘INTEGRATED CASE METHOD’ AS WE ADVOCATE IT

The original design of the Case Study Method was developed by Harvard University as a way to expose business students to “real” corporate and enhance their critical thinking and analytical skills. It is most useful in the Finance and Business Sciences as these fields are subject to “generally accepted principles” and full of situations that require sound judgment in response to loopholes and ethical dilemmas. 

By ‘Integrated Case Method’, we do not mean a scenario of a page or two of a potential real world issue presented to an exam candidate, even if the curriculum and teaching has been designed or presented in that fashion; or some subject-specific case study. We mean a system of curriculum design, teaching and evaluation based on applying a diverse range of disciplines and knowledge areas e.g. Accounting, Risk, Operations, Marketing, Big Data, Business Ethics, Social and Environmental considerations to a series of interconnected issues or events occurring or that once occurred (adapted or otherwise to suit specific learning outcomes) in an organisation. 

These issues may include weaknesses, threats, opportunities and ethical dilemmas that need a thoughtfully holistic and integrated approach in analysis and resolution. See separate article, 'The CFO 2016 Product: A classic display of integrated thinking.'

WHAT DO EXPERTS SAY?

It is not uncommon in business nowadays to hear sought-after candidate attributes like big picture or holistic thinking skills. Phrases like functional silos, synergy, integrated thinking, integrated reporting, business model, globalisation and convergence, increasingly dominate the board agenda. All these offer variations of an increasingly interconnected world, one of the biggest challenges of our time, within which Problem-Solving occurs in business. 

One of the earliest attempts to model this challenge is rooted in ‘systems thinking’, an approach to Problem-Solving that attempts to balance holistic and reductionist thinking. By taking the overall system as well as its parts into account, systems thinking is designed to avoid potentially contributing to further development of unintended consequences. 

Professor Roger Martin (as Dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto), a notable expert on a strand of this argued forcefully for Management Education to produce more integrative thinkers, that is, individuals who build models rather than choose between them. Thinkers and of course doers, capable of multi-disciplinary consideration of numerous variables —customers, employees, competitors, capabilities, cost structures, industry environment and not just 

a subset of these. Models that capture the complicated, multi-faceted and multidirectional causal relationships between the key problem variables as a whole rather than farming out the parts so as to creatively resolve tensions without making costly trade-offs, yet turning challenges into opportunities.

In December 2013, The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) put forward the idea of integrated thinking as “the active consideration by an organisation of the relationships between its various operating and functional units and the capitals that the organisation uses or affects. Integrated thinking leads to integrated decision-making and actions that consider the creation of value over the short, medium and long term.”

WHY WE SUGGEST THE ‘INTEGRATED CASE METHOD’

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Interview with Corne Carolan, Programme Director of the Association of Africa Business Schools (AABS)

CharterQuest