April 24, 2006
Harvard Conference on Case Studies
Posted by Victor Fleischer

This Wednesday I will be presenting The MasterCard IPO: Protecting the Priceless Brand at a conference on case studies hosted by the Harvard Negotiation Law Review.  Guhan Subramanian will present his study of the Oracle-PeopleSoft deal, followed by his commentators, and I will follow with my MasterCard presentation, followed by comments by Gordon Smith, Scott Peppet, Josh Wright, Susan Scafidi, Laura Heymann, and Mark Fenster

One of the challenges of using case studies is figuring out what lessons to draw from them.  At a minimum, qualitative empirical work can be useful for generating hypotheses.  I look for unusual cases and try to find patterns and theories that might explain what's going on.  But when we present case studies as scholarship, or use them in the classroom, aren't we implicitly suggesting that they are representative of a broader pattern?  But how do we know if these case studies are a sample of a broader phenomenon, or the universe of such cases?  Should/must case studies be accompanied by proper quantitative research before they are taken seriously?   If not, aren't we encouraging our students and fellow scholars to violate the rules of inference?   When one stumbles across an interesting case like MasterCard, or Google, or Ben & Jerry's, what's the best way to proceed?  I'm looking forward to the discussion Wednesday as I try to shape my summer research agenda.

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