The Case Centre’s bestselling authors

Sandra Vandermerwe

Sandra Vandermerwe
Gordon Institute of Business Science

"Once I tried to write the teaching note first because I felt that would help me write a better case! I think teaching notes are as important as the case itself. I always spend as much time on them as the cases."

The art is spotting the case, then collecting the material and not spending too much time asking the wrong questions or getting sidetracked. If that is done well, the actual writing is much easier. I try and collect what I need by first thinking very carefully about what I want to achieve. Of course, one has to be open and organic in the process as well.

Talking about what’s important

The interview process is also very important… getting people to talk about what’s really important instead of a whole lot of facts which one can always collect afterwards. I also try and visualise how the case will be taught, ie the process the instructor will have to go through. Once I tried to write the teaching note first because I felt that would help me write a better case! I think teaching notes are as important as the case itself. I always spend as much time on them as the cases.

Three essential factors

The three essential factors for writing a successful case are:

  • know the teaching objective of the case
  • engage people with a storyline
  • leave room for debate.

Favourite cases

Of the cases I have written, I have three favourites:

Cases are stories about successes, failures and options on how to get there. I have always stuck to the successes because I find them more exciting. I don’t like cases that debate just for the sake of it. Cases are a tool and should have a strong message and specific objective. It’s possible to use debate to get to that objective. 

View cases written by Sandra

 
About the author

Sandra Vandermerwe is an Extraordinary Professor at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), University of Pretoria, South Africa; an Associate Fellow at Imperial College Business School, London; and an Adjunct Professor at the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT), Germany.

Sandra has held managerial and executive positions in retailing and marketing research. Her teaching, research and consulting interests emphasise the transformations needed to achieve customer-focused strategies through value-added services in global environments. Sandra is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (RSA) and serves on several editorial boards. She has published numerous articles and many books, including Customer Capitalism (Nicholas Brealey, 2001) and Breaking Through: Implementing Customer Focus in Enterprises (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). Sandra has won many international awards for her case studies.

sandra.vandermerwe@btinternet.com

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