Ranking The Top 50 MBA Cases Of The Last 50 Years

To mark its 50th year, the Case Centre has released a list of the best-selling cases of the last 50 years

Harvard Business School launched the very first MBA case study more than 100 years ago, and with it, modern graduate business education. Every year since then, professors and researchers at HBS have authored more cases than their counterparts at any other higher education institution.

Harvard doesn’t just churn out cases — it consumes them, too. Harvard MBA students read 500 cases over the course of their two years in the program.

It’s no surprise, then, that HBS is the source of nearly half of the 50 best-selling cases over the last 50 years according to the Case Centre, the nonprofit “independent home of the case method” which has announced the list to mark its 50th year of operation. Going back to 1972, Harvard-affiliated academics have authored 22 of the top 50 cases, and four of the top 10; one professor, Christopher A. Bartlett, now emeritus professor of business administration at HBS, alone accounts for an incredible six cases on the list. Harvard’s top-selling case and the No. 3 case on the Case Centre’s list, is a 1997 case examining managerial dilemmas faced by a German beer company subsidiary in Ukraine.

INSEAD, one of the premier European B-schools, is second on the Case Centre’s top-50 list with 14 cases, including six of the top 10. Its best-selling case, the No. 2 case out of 50, is a 2007 case examining marketing strategies for multinational consumer goods company Unilever in Brazil.


Nirmalya Kumar: easyJet case “can be used by faculty in a variety of disciplines like strategy, marketing, operations, innovation, and entrepreneurship”

But neither Harvard nor INSEAD can lay claim to the top honor in the Case Centre’s list — the best-selling, No. 1 case of the last five decades. Among tens of thousands of cases, that distinction goes to the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In 2000, two IMD authors, Nirmalya Kumar and Brian Rogers, published easyJet: The Web’s Favourite Airline, a case that examined the profitability of a London-based budget airline in the late 1990s and asked what founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou could do to grow and survive in a highly competitive market.

What about this case made so many professors at B-schools around the world snatch it up for classroom instruction? It’s hard to explain, says Kumar, now the Lee Kong Chian professor of marketing at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University.

“It is an easy-to-identify category, elucidating a strategy, low-cost airlines, that was just emerging in Europe, and had a colorful protagonist in Stelios,” Kumar says. “It is also a case that can be used by faculty in a variety of disciplines like strategy, marketing, operations, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, it is easy to read and with a detailed teaching note. The first time I taught it, the student reaction told me that we had a hit. But for it to be so successful, luck is also involved as there are so many great cases.”

Adds Rogers, who at the time the case was written was a research associate at IMD: “This is a fun case that features a charismatic CEO, an exciting business challenge and a product that most people have a strong opinion about and often enjoy. It’s also a case that stirs emotion. For so many, an emotional attachment to something is often a springboard to learning. I’ve never come across a student who’s read the case and doesn’t remember it, or an educator who’s taught the case and didn’t have fun teaching it.”


Making the Case Centre’s top 50 is an incredible feat given that the membership organization distributes more than 73,000 cases. Other schools represented in the ranking include HEC Paris, London Business School, UCLA Anderson School of Management, Georgetown McDonough School of Business, Virginia Darden School of Business, and Warwick Business School in the UK. Overall, 11 B-schools and 77 authors made the list.

Across the top 50, 42% of cases are in the area of Strategy and General Management. Marketing follows at 26%, while Production and Operations Management accounts for 14%. Other categories represented include Entrepreneurship; Finance, Accounting and Control; and Human Resource Management/Organizational Behavior. Industries featured on the list include food and beverages and the automotive industry, each of which lead the way with six cases, followed by the airline industry and fashion apparel, both with five cases. Zara, the Spanish multinational retail chain, is the most popular company, appearing in four of the top 50 cases.

The majority of cases (74%) are based on field research, “underlining the significance of case writing in bringing the real-world experience of companies and their key players into business education classrooms across the globe,” according to the Case Centre. Nearly half (44%) of the cases were published between 1994 and 2003; only 2% were published from 2014 to 2023. The oldest case on the list belongs, naturally, to Harvard: Benihana of Tokyo, published in 1972 by W. Earl Sasser Jr. and John R. Klug, is the No. 10 best-selling case in the ranking. It examined the challenges of expansion faced by the Japanese restaurant chain’s President Rocky Aoki.

See the next page for a complete list of the Case Centre’s 50 bestselling cases of the last 50 years, including links. Visit the Case Centre’s website for more.

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