It feels almost blasphemous to confess that before coming to Darden I didn't really think much about the case method. I knew that Darden was famous for teaching through the case method but I really came to Darden because of the amazing community and because I felt that this is where I fit the best.
After 5 months of Darden, I am happy to report that I am a convert to the case method and here is why:
1. You develop a point of view - We prepare 3 cases everyday and cases are designed such that there is no one true answer. The "answer" to a case is really dependent on the assumptions that you make. This necessarily means that there are usually 64 different view points in the room during class. You learn very quickly not only to defend your point of view but also to understand where your class mates are coming from. More importantly, you learn to have a view point even when data is either unavailable or ambiguous. Comfort with ambiguity, persuasion and communication - aren't these the skills that what we come to business school to develop?
2. You begin to learn a common language - I didn't really anticipate this before Darden but this is really the most tangible and perhaps the most useful impact of learning through the case method. Let me give you an example. The other day a friend and I were discussing about a mid-western coffee chain that we had just heard was going national. Here is how the discussion went -
Me: "Looks like they are really trying the Red Bull thing".
My friend: "Yes! It is pretty smart isn't it? Not sure if there Tata Nano strategy is going to work though"
Me: "Well, I think they are really trying more Kone than Nano"
The astute reader might have guessed that Red Bull, Tata and Kone refer to cases. We are able to have a conversation about marketing and pricing strategy - and a pretty elaborate one too - because we have read so many cases.
So much of business school is studying how companies work. And the case method is one of the best ways to really dig in.