Business Communication Case Studies

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Why case studies? To provide context. In Burkean terms, to provide a “scene” having its own acts, agents, agency, and purpose. Case studies are developed scenes that satisfy, inform, educate, and entertain. Most basic business communication textbooks include snippets of workplace examples, which are inadequate for detailed rhetorical examination of workplace communication problems.

Description of the Case Method

(from Harvard Business School website)

The case method forces students to grapple with exactly the kinds of decisions and dilemmas managers confront every day. In doing so, it redefines the traditional educational dynamic in which the professor dispenses knowledge and students passively receive it. The case method creates a classroom in which students succeed not by simply absorbing facts and theories, but also by exercising the skills of leadership and teamwork in the face of real problems.

Recommended Textbook

O'Rourke, James S. Management Communication: A Case-Analysis
Approach.
3d ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2006.

A quote from the book:

You can memorize lists, procedures, and attributes; guess at the answers of a multiple-choice question; but you cannot memorize the answer to a problem you have never encountered, nor can you guess at the options for an ambiguous, complex situation.

Case Examples

  • Odwalla, Inc.: crisis communication after an e. coli outbreak
  • Starbucks: breastfeeding in a coffee shop
  • Whirlpool: persuading company employees to avail themselves of a free mini-physical

Teaching Components / Modes

  • “Cold calling”
  • Class / group discussion
  • Instructor-facilitated question-answer session / listing of issues
  • Case-based in-class writing / writing assignments
  • Current situation
  • Film / Internet

—Anish Dave