Harvard Business School, which invented both the first MBA program and the business case method, remains king of the case study 100 years later, according to the latest international ranking of case authors.
The Case Centre, a nonprofit that distributes the largest collection of management case studies to business schools across the world, today (October 25) unveiled its 2020-21 Top 50 Bestselling Case Authors. HBS had more case authors (nine) on the list than any other business school. However, ICFAI Business School in India was close behind with seven authors, including all three top individual spots. INSEAD had four authors in the top 10, while Harvard has two top-10 authors.
Case studies, which use real-life problems faced by business executives, are still one of the most widely used education tools for MBA students across the globe. More than 8,800 faculty are registered as authors with The Case Centre. This year’s list of best-selling cases includes each author’s top-selling cases — and though MBA students may not recognize the names of a case study’s author, the titles are more likely ring a bell.
SIX YEARS AT NO. 1, BUT A POSTHUMOUS HONOR
Debapratim Pukayastha of ICFAI Business School (IBS) in India topped the Case Centre’s list of bestselling authors for the sixth straight year. He has earned the distinction every year since the Case Centre began issuing yearly awards for case writing. But this year’s award was a bittersweet honor, as Pukayastha passed away in May from Covid-19.
“Selling over 100,000 copies from an extensive back catalogue of cases since the list was introduced in 2016, Debapratim’s undoubted impact on the case method and management education will live on for years through the many case authors and teachers he has inspired,” the Case Centre announced, “and the vast number of students whose education has been enhanced by learning through his cases.”
Among Pukayastha’s best-selling cases are an examination of safety lapses at a BP oil refinery in Texas City that led to one of the most serious workplace accidents in U.S. history; a case looking at Netflix’s leveraging of Big Data to predict hits; and a case examining how Procter & Gamble develops new products. Besides his annual plaudits for bestselling case, he also won the Case Centre’s Outstanding Contribution to the Case Method Award in 2015, 2018, and 2019.
“I believe that one can be a good teacher without being a good case writer, but it’s not possible to be a good case writer without being a good teacher,” Pukayastha wrote in an author profile on the Case Centre website. “However, I have also found that regularly writing cases can greatly improve classroom teaching. Case writing can be a lonely activity and even hard work, but if you have the passion, it’s worth it! It means you can have a positive impact in classrooms around the world where your case is taught.”
WHERE TO TOP B-SCHOOL CASE STUDIES COME FROM
The UK- and U.S.-based Case Centre has released its bestselling case author list every year since 2016, ranking authors whose cases have sold the most copies during the previous academic year. This year, it raised the number of bestselling authors from 40 to 50.
Of this year’s list, authors came from 19 different business schools in nine separate countries. That includes 42% each from Europe and the United States, and 16% from Asia.
“As the list increases from 40 to 50, we see a change in the geographic dynamics,” the nonprofit announced. “European and U.S. schools each have a 42% share of the 2020/21 Top 50, down from 45% in 2019-20. While the representation of schools in Asia rises to 16%, up from 10% last year.”
Eighteen percent of the authors are women while 82% are men. While the list does not break down bestselling cases by the race, ethnicity or gender of its protagonists, finding case studies that represent the increasing diversity of business students (and in business executives) has been an ongoing concern for many B-schools’ diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. For example, Harvard Business School published more than 70 cases with Black or African-American protagonists this past year after long-standing criticism that its studies ignored Black business leaders, according to a Poets&Quants article published in June.
It also produced 90 cases featuring Hispanic, Asian or Asian-American/Pacific Islander, or Native-American protagonists. HBS faculty write about 400 case studies per year.
“Our students are right that protagonist diversity matters,” Jan Rivkin, HBS senior associate dean and chair of the MBA program, said in June. “By studying cases with a wide diversity of protagonists, students learn that talent and leadership come from all backgrounds and identities. If students don’t understand that, they’ll worsen inequities, miss out on opportunities for themselves, and miss chances to create opportunities for others.”
DEBUT AUTHORS EARN TOP SPOTS
ICFAI Business School also had the No. 2 and No. 3 authors, and both are new entrants to the Case Centre’s list.
Second-ranked author Indu Perepu is an assistant professor specializing in human resource management. Her best-selling cases include “Airbnb: A Disruptive Innovator” and “Snapchat Turns Down Facebook’s Acquisition Offer.”
“What makes the case study method even more meaningful is that in developing countries like India where teaching through cases is picking up, case studies help the students with limited international exposure to learn intricately about multinational corporations and the world’s largest companies,” Perepu says.
Third-ranked author Syeda Maseeha Qumer is an assistant professor specializing in business strategy. For her top-selling cases, she looked at the integrated marketing strategy of HBO’s Game of Thrones and the impact of conflict palm oil on deforestation, human rights violations, and climate pollution, and PepsiCo’s use of it in its products.
“Case-based learning is unmatched in its ability to engage students and teach essential concepts that are relevant to practicing managers,” Qumer says. “Innovation in the case method is essential to enliven any classroom and to obtain better learning outcomes. I have always endeavored to develop diverse cases on contemporary issues that offer students an opportunity to explore complex real-world management challenges in the classroom, allowing them to assess their decision-making skills before taking the plunge into the corporate world.”
France’s ESSEC Business School had the top climbing author, Ashok Som, who moved up 26 places to No. 11 from last year’s ranking.
See the full list of this year’s case-writing winners on page 2, including links to their bios.