Case method and critical thinking skills

Ayoola Sosan Written by Ayoola Sosan · 2 min read >

In this world of constant market fluctuations and unending trends, mastering critical thinking is key for companies and business leaders. This helps to avoid mistakes created by miscalculated forecasts or biased assumptions. Critical thinking also helps predict growth opportunities. Analyses of Business Problems is one of the courses though in the MBA program. The main objective of the course is to address the issues that stands in the way of making optimal decisions. Analysis of business problems is not just about making decisions. The process of analysis is an in depth necessity to think critically.

To stimulate the thinking patterns of aspiring managers, LBS teaches through the method of applications and practices using case studies. This method of teaching creates more opportunities to tackle tough business problems while deciding on and executing the best solutions. This takes away the limitation of exposure to real-world problem-solving scenarios.

How Case study method has helped me think critically

On entering business school, I encountered an approach to learning that was new to me: the case method. In class, we are taught using cases that are real-world business scenarios, and these cases need a thorough understanding. My first encounter got me totally puzzled and confused. In all honesty, I felt like a dummy. When I encountered my first case analysis assignment, it appeared straightforward, but when I finished reading, I wondered what point the case was trying to make. Upon having the first case study review in class with the faculty, I realized that I needed to develop critical-thinking and analytical skills.

First, analyse a case and give it meaning. Analyse the case based on identified issues or questions. The goal is to come to a decision that is in alignment with the reality of the case. Secondly, I needed to be able to communicate my thinking pattern concerning my analysis of the case effectively. Both skills are essential to my ability to make good decisions in functional areas as a manager, as well as to understand the relationships among these functions.

The Systematic Decision-Making Approach

In the analysis of cases, the faculty provided a six-step systematic approach. The approach shows how to analyse cases and make decisions from an unbiased point of view. It is a six step decision-making approach. It requires us to analyse case information. Then apply business concepts to derive valuable insights and develop recommendations based on these insights.

Step one – Problem Statement

The first thing is to realize that a problem exists and then define it. This step explains and explores the problem at hand. Questions like this should be answered:

  • What is the major challenge?
  • Which is the problem?
  • Where are the opportunities
  • What decision has to be made?

Through this, one will be able to analyse the case study on a particular issue.

Step two – Alternatives

At this stage identify alternatives to address the problem. Preferably between two to five alternatives that would work perfectly. The alternatives should be realistic, creative, exclusive and feasible given the constraints of the situation. Unacceptable alternative are:

  • Doing nothing
  • Delaying the decision to a later date.

Step three – Criteria

Define what “key decision criteria will guide decision-making”. The method asks students to discuss their rationale for selecting the criteria and “the weights and importance for each factor. One must discuss their rationale for selecting the decision criteria and the weights and importance for each factor.

Step four – Analysis

At this stage conduct “an in-depth analysis of each alternative. This should be done based on the criteria chosen in step three.” An example is using a decision table

Step five – Decision:

A proposed solution to the problem is provided. The Final decisions should be justified based on the analysis, correlating the recommendation with the previously chosen criteria. It forces the re-examination of the previous steps.

Step six – Implementation of the plan

At this stage, plans are required to implement the recommendation. The use of timetable and projected costs can be applied. Expected competitive reaction, success metrics and identified risks in the plan. This step could result in further analysis of the implication of the decision-making process. 

This approach engages “unbiased reasoning which is crucial for decision-making. It enables diligent analyses to solve a business problem.

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