What would you do in the case of...?

01100 Years of the Case Method

Being a leader means making decisions. And although you can get better at decision-making the more you do it, you can also make a lot of bad decisions. This is why at IESE we recommend honing your decision-making ability in the classroom through the case method, using real business cases to prepare you for the problems and situations faced in the real world. By analyzing business problems both individually and with a diverse set of peers from many different sectors, cultures and backgrounds, you develop your capacity to analyze problems from multiple perspectives, appreciating that no problem has a single solution – so when you finally make your decision, you can do so in an informed way, with conviction.

2021 marked 100 years since Harvard Business School produced the first written case study. IESE Business School, as one of the academic institutions that spearheaded the case method outside the United States, marks over 60 years of using this method. Here, we present some of the more recent challenges from cases that we have produced.

Take a moment to ask yourself: What would you do in the case of…?

1. Competing with Amazon, Netflix and Hulu

Susan Wojcicki has built a career taking risks – from joining Google when it was just a garage startup, to advocating for the acquisition of YouTube, which she now leads. As the CEO of YouTube, she has transformed it into the world’s largest provider of internet video services.

The dilemmas

> What is the best strategy for YouTube to stay competitive as a global, social, on-demand content provider in an increasingly crowded landscape of streaming services?

> Is Susan Wojcicki still the best person to carry it out?

The case study “YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki: Can She Deliver Again?” (SM-1649-E) by IESE professor Marta Elvira is available from IESE Publishing.


2. Balancing customer orientation and profit with employee satisfaction

Amazon’s remarkable growth is attributed to its customer centricity, standing out for easy ordering, rapid delivery, and use of personalized data to maximize the shopping experience. Legend has it that Jeff Bezos always left an empty chair in business meetings to symbolize the customer’s presence. Yet, despite Amazon’s success at dominating e-commerce, analysts question its profit model and whether employees are benefiting from all the perks.

The dilemma

> Is the hyper focus on customers that got Amazon to where it is today compatible with taking care of employees and sustainable profit and growth in the long run?

IESE has published various case studies on Amazon, all of which are available from IESE Publishing.

3. A data scandal

As the world’s largest database of human activity, Facebook has incredible abilities to microsegment and monetize its social network. However, data privacy concerns, present since Facebook’s inception, are front and center of a growing political debate. After various scandals, including the one involving Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s role in undermining election integrity and amplifying fake news, Facebook is now facing trickier choices and raised stakes regarding the responsible use of its data.

The dilemmas

> What are the responsibilities for managing user data?

> What changes should Facebook make before regulators bring the hammer down?

4. Not achieving the results that you expect or need

Despite Spotify’s success, the balance sheet tells a different story. Operating expenses are high while revenues rely on two main sources: advertising, to offset the cost of letting millions of people listen to songs for free; and premium subscribers, who pay for an ad-free experience. But as with other freemium business models, converting the free-riders to paying customers is never easy.

The dilemmas

> How to gain competitive advantage?

> How to generate new income streams?

> Should Spotify sell itself to a bigger company?

The case study “Spotify: Face the Music” (SM-1685-E) by IESE professor Govert Vroom is available from IESE Publishing.