Source: Pixabay

Startups & The Case Methods

In the preamble to his recent post: The Class That Changed the Way Entrepreneurship is Taught — Steve Blank writes the following: “Revolutions start by overturning the status quo. By the end of the 20th century, case studies and business plans had reached an evolutionary dead-end for entrepreneurs. Here’s why and what we did about it”.

Well, I truly like Steve Blank’s postings on entrepreneurship, I always did. Heck, a few years ago, I even nominated Steve for the Nobel Prize in Entrepreneurial Economics and contacted anyone who would listen — to make it happen…

Truth be told, to see such a “blanket statement” about the case studies caught me by surprise… So, I wondered: didn’t Steve come across a famous quote from Donald Rumsfeld: “All generalizations are false — including this one”…

Steve adds: “The case method assumes that students learn when they participate in a discussion of a situation they may someday face as a decision-maker. But the case method is the antithesis of how entrepreneurs create a startup.

Cases teaches pattern recognition tools for static patterns — and has limited value as a tool for teaching entrepreneurship. Analyzing a case in the classroom, removed from the realities of a new venture, adds little to an entrepreneur’s preparation for the chaos, uncertainty, and conflicting customer responses that all entrepreneurs face.”

Well, not so fast, Steve. This is exactly where I have a problem with such a statement. Do all the case studies aim at a singular objective of CREATING A STARTUP?

Walking Down The Case Study Memory Lane

Nitin Nohria, the former dean of Harvard Business School, explains:

“Harvard Business School pioneered the use of case studies to teach management in 1921. Cases expose students to real business dilemmas and decisions. Cases teach students to size up business problems quickly while considering the broader organizational, industry, and societal context.

Students recall concepts better when they are set in a case, much as people remember words better when used in context. Cases teach students how to apply theory in practice and how to induce theory from practice. The case method cultivates the capacity for critical analysis, judgment, decision-making, and action.

There is a word that aptly captures the broader set of capabilities our alumni reported they learned from the case method. That word is meta-skills, and these meta-skills are a benefit of case study instruction that those who’ve never been exposed to the method may undervalue. Educators define meta-skills as a group of long-lasting abilities that allow someone to learn new things more quickly”.

The Evolution of Case Methodology

And it’s not that the case methodology sat still over the last 100 years. It evolved the same way watching movies doesn’t mean anymore loading a tape into a VHS player…

What started as enhancing the Audio/Visual experiences with the AV effects — evolved into a fully immersive and extremely powerful content delivery…

As I recently wrote in my LinkedIn post: “Content Is Eating The World” — the combination of Digitization, IT, and Artificial Intelligence, all wrapped up in the Social Media cloth — lets us take the education level to the Star Trek territory — “where no man has gone before”…

And I wrote: “Exactly 10 years ago, Marc Andreessen coined his famous phrase “Software is eating the world”. And he wrote in a Wall Street Journal that: “We are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy.

Marc Andreessen was right. Not all the executive statements are created equal, and what he observed so accurately 10 years ago — most definitely takes the cake. Guess what, 10 years later, we are facing a brand-new phenomenon that is equally profound and far-reaching. IMHO, this is the decade of: “Content is eating the world” — for several reasons”…

So, how far can the case evolution go? Well, I found many organizations building a remarkable, mile-deep, domain-specific knowledge at their case departments. What is sometimes missing, is the proper balance between KNOWLEDGE & IMAGINATION. But don’t just take my word for it. This is why I often quote Albert Einstein on the above:

And in a loose translation: sky is the limit! Moreover, you may ask, if cases are usually describing a business problem and deal with real-life situations written in co-operation with the real company — how useful is it to learn about such issues?

Based on my own experience… it is EXTREMELY useful. For example, I wrote in: “To Do, Or Not To Do An MBA… That Is The Question” about numerous case studies that stayed with me… for the rest of my life.

And I wrote: “The Executive MBA (EMBA) offers a completely different set of experiences. You learn much more from the collective “knowhows” of the other 50 CEOs in your class. And in many cases, this will bring a completely different perspective on problem-solving — for you to consider…

Without such a diverse environment, you would have never learned so much about other industries. Some, are facing diverse problems, you never knew existed. And hearing about such complexities from the “horses’ mouth” — is uncanny…

I wrote extensively about some of my EMBA experiences in many LinkedIn posts. For example, you can find the description of the decision-making process and tough calls — when there is very little information available. You go through such an exercise once, and it will stay permanently engraved on your brain — forever. See: “The Power Of The OPPOSITES

And in another post, I brought my vivid recollection about another case that thought me how to deal with powerful hold-ups and obstacles that are well documented in behavioral economics. It’s the so-called “DO NOTHING” decision and the gravitational pull of the “STATUS QUO”.

I also reminded entrepreneurs that for years, the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman (DK), offered several theories describing cognitive biases that are hard to overcome. It includes: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Biases. And all thoroughly explain why we are often faced with inaction that is hard to stomach…

Hence, in “My 1001 Entrepreneurial Tales: Keyword Spotting & The Magic Of Closing The Deal” — I introduced a brand new concept of turning costs into profit centers.

Closing the deal and overcoming the status quo bias have nothing to do with a specific situation. In the same way case studies have nothing to do with rote learning and memorizations based on repetition. After all, good case studies are a lot like stories. And the best entrepreneurs are great storytellers in their own right…

Storytelling Never Gets Old…

According to Wikipedia: “Storytelling is the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics or embellishment. Every culture has its own stories or narratives, which are shared as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation or instilling moral values. Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters and narrative point of view. The term “storytelling” can refer specifically to oral storytelling but also broadly to techniques used in other media to unfold or disclose the narrative of a story.

Modern storytelling has a broad purview. In addition to its traditional forms (fairytales, folktales, mythology, legends, fables etc.), it has extended itself to representing history, personal narrative, political commentary and evolving cultural norms. Contemporary. storytelling is also widely used to address educational objectives. New forms of media are creating new ways for people to record, express and consume stories.”

And great entrepreneurs learn to exploit the power of great narrative all the time. They use it in: Marketing, Networking, Negotiations, Conflict Resolutions, PR, and Sales…

As Dan Gartlan says: Case studies are similar to testimonials in that they provide audiences with an account of previous customer experiences with the brand. However, testimonials are typically basic interviews that function as little more than positive reviews. Case studies are more in-depth and concern the entire process that the customer went through. Basically, it’s a depiction of their buyer journey and how your business helped to fulfill their needs from beginning to end. This allows for an element of storytelling that’s much more engaging.

Simply having customers tell the audience that your product is great is just a basic customer testimonial. It’s not that interesting, nor is it very engaging. Case studies are more concerned with telling the story of the customer. The customer is the hero, their problem is the conflict and your brand’s solution is the resolution. The use of storytelling helps to make a brand much more relatable and will allow your audience to see how you fulfilled that customer’s need at every stage of the buyer journey”.

The last time I checked, entrepreneurs are still human beings — even if some of them occasionally get too excited in telling their story and look like they just swallowed a kitten…

In Conclusion

In homage to Mark Twain, the reports of case studies’ death are… “greatly exaggerated”. Since 9 out of 10 startups fail, the entrepreneurs need all the help they can get — Lean LaunchPads, Experiential Learning, Case Studies, and so much more…

And there is nothing wrong with getting better at seeing the “big picture and learning from others how to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff…

Smart people learn all the time — take it from my Socrates-inspired quote: “The best entrepreneurs learn all the time. Average ones, only learn from their experience. The worst entrepreneurs — already have all the answers”…

For More Information

Please see my additional posts on Linkedin, Twitter, Medium, and CGE’s website.

AI Boogeyman

You can also find additional info in my book on amazon: “AI Boogeyman — Dispelling Fake News About Job Losses”, and on our YouTube Studio channel… Thank you.

“BODs Serve Investors, Advisory Boards Are CEOs’ Best Friends”

• By definition, entrepreneurs… solve problems. And I’ve been solving a lot of problems over the last 30+ years.

• Some problems thought me the most effective ways to expedite customers’ “buy-in” by solving the so-called “DO NOTHING” decision-making and the bias of the “STATUS QUO”. So, I wrote about it in my LinkedIn post: “The Curse Of Doing Nothing”.

• Other challenges made me realize how to deal with ambiguity and make decisions despite the insufficient data — please see: “The Power Of The OPPOSITES”. And since imitation works best in karaoke bars, not in business, I join Advisory Boards to unlock Radical Innovation.

• Good advisors help increase REVENUES & reduce COSTS. Great ones, turn COST into PROFIT centers — so I deliver the right KEE (Knowledge, Experience, and Expertise) to do so.

• Warren Buffett once said: “predicting rain doesn’t count; building arks, does”. So, while in the past, I helped thousands of Cleantech companies to succeed — now, I design & deploy our own organically grown startups.

• We launch organically grown moonshots — but instead of flying the rich to the moon, we bring the moonshots down to earth…

• Moreover, I am convinced that Digitization, IT, and Artificial Intelligence are causing the greatest disruption of the last 50 years. I welcome such ambitious transformations and my goal is to help progressive entities to embrace BusinessAI™ advice.

• As a founder of Canada Green ESCO Inc. (CGE), I used BusinessAI™ strategies in Cleantech — focused on fighting Climate Change & utility-scale Environmental Risks. In total, CGE raised $1B+ in project finance linked to solar, wind, geothermal, Waste-To-Energy (WTE), energy efficiency, and more.

• Now, I help maximize returns also in Fintech and other sectors. And I apply the same structured finance expertise I acquired through financing Cleantech projects.

• My pattern recognition abilities allow me to see what is still missing & how to maximize business offerings & profitability. And as a coach & mentor, I bring unparalleled business savvy to separate the wheat from the chaff…

• What I learned over the years is that it is not just technology innovation that makes all the difference. Business Model Innovation is as disruptive as Technology Innovation and yet I see too many companies focused on pushing their product out the door — while losing ~70% of untapped revenue streams…




I used #AI in #Technology, #Finance, & #Renewable #Energy for 30-yrs. Now, I help #VC/#CVC during due diligence of AI investments & advise their portfolio Cos.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Are you motivated by avoiding penalties?

Future of Work — A More Balanced Future for Female Employees

Why your profession can’t make you rich?

Role of a Learning Experience Platform for On-the-Job Training

Embracing Change — How Technology is Fuelling the New Normal

10 perfect holiday gifts for workaholics

Aligning Developer Incentives with the Business

“We Can’t Stop Here, This is Bat Country!”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Oleg Feldgajer

Oleg Feldgajer

I used #AI in #Technology, #Finance, & #Renewable #Energy for 30-yrs. Now, I help #VC/#CVC during due diligence of AI investments & advise their portfolio Cos.

More from Medium

Shareholder victory against Microsoft over sexual harassment concerns

Future Founders’ Lab: An Interview with Clarence Tan

Wise and the rise of active advertising

5 Ways to Create an Employee Experience that Keeps Customer Service Agents Engaged

contact center agent