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Harvard Has a Case Study Monopoly

“Business schools like to say they’re at the leading edge of corporate innovation, boasting on-campus incubators and electives on design thinking. But almost all rely on a teaching tool that’s barely changed in more than a century. To learn how to lead companies, MBA students read hundreds of case studies—stripped-down narratives about a strategy problem at a real company—and discuss how they would tackle the challenge,” according to Bloomberg.

“For Harvard Business School, which created and popularized the method— the school taught its first case in 1912—case studies are a cottage industry as well as a bedrock of the curriculum. Harvard Business Publishing says it sells to about 4,000 schools globally; its cases account for 80 percent of the case studies used.”

“HBP, which also publishes other business materials, had revenue of $194 million in 2014, according to the business school’s annual report, a 44 percent increase from 2010. The publisher, which doesn’t break out revenue from case studies, says it sold 12 million cases last year, to schools, companies, and others. Retail prices run from $9 to $15 for a basic case study; schools get discounts. Case sales far outpace sales of HBP’s other books and subscriptions to the Harvard Business Review, which it also publishes.”