The Case Centre’s bestselling authors

Mary Crossan

Mary Crossan
Ivey Business School

"I think of cases as if they were like plays in which the students end up taking on roles given their perspectives and experience. Great cases tend to have some drama or challenge that expose learning."

I think there are several keys to success in the art of case writing involving motivation, expectations, patience, and process. I aim for a profound learning experience in the classroom and therefore I am motivated to write great cases that fill the gaps that I see. I have high expectations for how a case should perform, but also realise that it is very difficult to identify or construct great cases in advance. The process takes some patience and some ‘learning while doing’ to develop a case that really sings.

Bringing the case to life

I think of cases as if they were like plays in which the students end up taking on roles given their perspectives and experience. Great cases tend to have some drama or challenge that expose learning. The best compliment I have received on a case is from a colleague who said, ‘you can teach that case with a paper bag over your head’, meaning that the learning unfolds without much facilitation from the instructor. Of course, that isn’t often so, and it is how we utilise the case that brings it to life. I wish my teaching notes were better than they are as I tend to constantly learn how to use a case but often don’t go back to revise a note. At Ivey, we have a strong culture of sharing our approaches and ideas for how we might teach a case and from that we really learn how to enrich it.

Favourite case

My favourite case among those I’ve written is one of my more recent ones. It is a video case series, Craig Kielburger Case: A Movement is Born. I find it works with a wide range of students from undergraduates to executives, and since it has a not-for-profit and a for-profit angle with a cross-enterprise leadership focus, it has broad applicability. But what I like most about it is that it reveals the importance of character and commitment, not just competence. Students marvel at the things Kielburger does and realise that they can’t account for it simply through a story of competence. This is profound learning for them. It shares a lot of qualities with the Sabena Belgian World Airlines (A) case, which many people have enjoyed.

Most admired

A case I have yet to replace (and would love to have written myself) is the Nestlé-Rowntree case written by Peter Killing, Jim Ellert and Dana Hyde. It provides an incredibly rich look at mergers and acquisitions and from a strategy standpoint puts a punctuation mark on what it means to merge two value chains with respect to resources, organisation, management preferences and strategy. I love the fact that you move from analysis right into the negotiation that is taking place in the case. 

View cases written by Mary

 
About the author

Mary Crossan is a Professor of Strategic Management at Ivey Business School, Canada. She teaches undergraduate, MBA, PhD and executive programmes and her research on organisational learning, strategy, leadership character and improvisation has been widely published in journals such as the Strategic Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, and the Journal of Management Studies. She has extended her research to management practice through a collection of over 50 cases, many of which have been published in a book she co-authored, Strategic Management: A Casebook. She is also an author of the Strategic Analysis and Action textbook.

She has worked with companies around the globe, including HSBC, Mattel Asia, Bank of Montreal, TD Bank Financial Group, CIBC, Sears Canada, Sun Life and Grand & Toy. Her prizewinning case on Starbucks has been a bestseller for many years.

e mcrossan@ivey.uwo.ca

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