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Last Updated: Jun 16, 2020     Views: 106

History of the HBS case method

What is the HBS case method?


The HBS case method presents real-life situations that business executives have faced and asks readers to consider how they would respond.

Verbal discussion of business problems have formed some part of the majority of classes at HBS since its founding in 1908. Dean Wallace B. Donham advocated for a formalized system of business instruction by the case method from the start of his tenure as Dean in 1919. The first case book, Marketing Problems by faculty member Melvin T. Copeland, was published in 1920. In December 1920, the Bureau of Business Research at HBS began to collect cases in the field of labor problems. The first case, “The General Shoe Company,” was published in 1921. During the first nineteen years of organized case collection, a total of 14,439 cases were collected. As the years passed, the demand for cases and for instruction in the case method of teaching grew. In 1954, with the support of the Ford Foundation, HBS began to conduct the Summer Case Writing Program, which encouraged professors from other universities and colleges to learn more about the case method and to contribute information about their own cases. Three years later, the School received a $120,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to support the development of an Intercollegiate Clearing House for the distribution of cases, through which cases developed at Harvard and at other schools were cleared for use in any school.

School publications contain information and articles about the HBS case method. Many of these early publications can be searched online: the Deans Reports and the HBS Alumni BulletinHBS Alumni Bulletin 1925-1941, HBS Alumni Bulletin 1941-1950, and HBS Alumni Bulletin 1951-1979.

For information on teaching and learning by the case method, please see HBS case method

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