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Five minutes with Richard McCracken

Richard McCracken, Director, The Case Centre

Who or what is the inspiration behind your achievements?


The question supposes a goal and a plan. I’m still looking for what I’d like to do when I grow up. In the meantime, I have to manage my short attention span as best I can and rely on ‘does this look interesting?’.

If you push me, let’s say a primary school head teacher who painted, sang, and acted professionally in the Lyric theatre in Belfast and on the BBC.

You’re a ‘convert’ to the case method – why are you so passionate about it now?

I experienced a case being taught in the classroom. It’s as simple and as complex as that. All of life is about people, how they think and feel and fear and want and find ways of getting along, or not. The case method gives one practice in using the theoretical tools needed to make sense of business but combines it with the life experience necessary in order to work with other people.

How do you see the future of the case method?

I think it’s going to take over the world. It’s an approach to learning that’s ideally suited to social technologies. We can deliver facts more efficiently by other means. The classroom is too precious to waste time on that. All it takes is for faculty to be confident and brave enough to step out from behind the lectern.

globeCould the case method be more widely used beyond business education? If so, how and where?

It is already being used beyond business education, particularly but not limited to areas of study that combine the practical application of theory with a strong oral tradition. Law, for example, was the cradle of the early development of the case method and continues to use case law and moot courts as its preferred means of learning.

In sports coaching, the respected rugby coach Brian Ashton uses the case method – what he calls ‘Game Understanding’ – to teach decision-making skills that players exercise as the game changes.

rugbyOther subjects like medicine and veterinary science, disaster and emergency relief studies, music and literature, science and technology make common use of the case method. 

But much of this is hidden behind different subjects using different ways of describing essentially the same thing: the working through of challenging situations to gain a better understanding of decision-making, how to formulate it and what theoretical models and tools can assist to the point where theory becomes instinct – all meaning what we in business education call the case method. 

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

artistI’d like to be an artist, an oil painter, one who paints the same theme, the same scene, over and over again, working off small degrees of difference between one day and the next. Then I could be like Kurt Wallander’s father. 

How do you relax?

Playing and listening to music, especially jazz, reading poetry and novels, travelling, being with family. None of these is guaranteed to relax me, by the way. 

Herbie Hancock

Do you have a favourite quote or guiding principle?

I like stories and I get a lot out of this story told by the piano player Herbie Hancock about playing in the great Miles Davis Quintet and, well, let’s listen to Herbie telling it himself …


Richard McCracken is Director of The Case Centre. Follow his blog

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