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Five minutes with Kamran Kashani

Kamran Kashani is Professor Emeritus of Marketing and Global Strategy at IMD.

Kamran, what is it you like about the case method so much?

Unlike lectures where the teacher is the central actor in the learning space, the case method puts the students - the learners - at the centre, thereby engaging them intellectually and emotionally in the learning process.

From my experience, the method not only helps develop real-world managerial knowhow and skills; the learning that it stimulates has a lasting effect.

The reason? The passive student in the lecture hall is now an active participant in his/her own learning.

Your teaching topics include marketing, strategy and innovation; why does the case method work so well in these areas?

One can count on cases to help develop analytical and decision-making skills in both Marketing and Strategy (I combine them in my own courses as Strategic Marketing). Company cases are great tools for that.

When it comes to innovation, especially those that are true breakthroughs, I find that our ability to employ company cases to develop ‘skills’ for breakthrough innovations are very limited.

Cases can showcase examples of effective or ineffective innovation, and they are useful and should be used, but they don’t necessarily promote a creative mind-set, the key ingredient for innovations.

One is better off using exercises focused on a company problem and inviting teams of students to look for out-of-the-box solutions to that problem while respecting company and market realities. I have found such exercises highly energising for students who articulate their valuable take-ways on innovative thinking during debriefs.

You’ve worked with the case method for nearly 45 years – what changes have you seen during this time?

A few trends have taken place since I began my career in 1974.

Perhaps the most important one is that over time students have become far more informed about what goes on in business. They know a lot more about managerial issues than those of a generation ago.

As a consequence, they have become sceptical of any management education that is not close to business or the managerial world they will shortly join.

A direct result of this trend is that the business schools are under constant student pressure to teach them how the real world works, and what managerial skills they need to prosper in that world. And that’s the good news for the case method!

The bad news is the second trend that has taken place during the same period.

Young teachers are less prepared today to meet the demands of their students than they were decades ago. Their doctoral education has prepared them more for academic research than for teaching real-world management.

Furthermore, they are more likely to be evaluated for rank promotion based on their academic output than their teaching excellence.

The two opposing trends described here have produced true career dilemmas for many teachers who attend my case method workshops. They find themselves having to excel in two different worlds with two different sets of criteria for excellence. I fully sympathise with them.

If you could be transported into another profession for one week, which would you choose, and why?

I would love to be an accomplished painter for a day – let alone a week!

As a newcomer to painting I find that the empty canvass demands skills, creativity and intuition, all combined, to deliver a great piece of visual art. In many ways, these ingredients are no different from effective management – which in my mind is more of an art than a science. And like in management, skills alone don’t make a Picasso out of a painter!


How do you relax?

Exercise, painting and listening to Gregorian chants.

Do you have a favourite quote or guiding principle?

An advice to young teachers from Peter Killing, my colleague and a great case teacher: “It’s not about you (the teacher). It’s all about them (your students).”

About Kamran

Kamran teaches topics in marketing, brand building, global strategy and international management, with his special interests spanning across industrial, business-to-business, and consumer marketing.

Kamran is a great advocate of the case method. He has researched and written more than 50 cases, won the Outstanding Contribution to the Case Method Award in 2011 and tutored on many of The Case Centre’s case writing and teaching workshops.

Furthermore, Kamran coaches the art of the case method to new teachers joining IMD.


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