Vol 4, Issue 02, May 2022 Icmrindia.org



Raymond Paquin is a Professor of Management and Director of Case Publications at John Molson School of Business-Concordia University, and Adjunct Professor at Indian Institute of Management-Shillong. An award-winning case writer, his approach is to bring research-minded students and faculty new to case writing together to develop cases which highlight interesting Canadian companies.

In addition, Raymond researches issues of sustainability, strategy, and social innovation, often in the context of environmental and social collaborations. His research has been funded through Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and MITACS, and published in outlets such as Organization Studies, Long Range Planning, Business and Society, Organization & Environment, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Journal of Cleaner Production, Project Management Journal, Business Horizons, etc. Raymond is fellow and former Interim Director of the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre and fellow and former Principal of Loyola College of Diversity and Sustainability, both at Concordia University.

Why, according to you, is the case method of teaching so popular in Management education?
Given the applied nature of management and business education in general, cases offer a nice way to bridge the classroom with the world around us. Cases provide students with opportunities to explore real organizational challenges, allowing them to apply and adapt course concepts as they develop recommendations for actions. Through case discussions, instructors can help students to more deeply understand how to approach and address complicated, and even perhaps complex, problems complicated challenges, which can help students develop greater insight into the world around them.

Please share your experience of writing cases and teaching with cases with us.
I think cases are a great way to bring some of the outside world to my students and do so in ways in which they may not have considered. It is actually the opportunity for ‘hidden’ learning opportunities which most inspire me in both writing and teaching cases. Though there are many variations, I find three main types of ‘hidden’ learnings, which I really enjoy bringing to my classes. One is when the well analysed and considered recommendation the class discussion ends on is not actually what happened. Here, the wrap up becomes an interesting opportunity to discuss what did happen and why – highlighting that the world around us is not always what we expect it to be. Another is when you can use a case to bring a different yet important topic into the discussion. I have used this approach for many years to bring sustainability-related topics into my courses. An example, a case I’m currently working on involves insect-based foods. For many Western students, eating insects may seem strange, but the case offers the opportunity to discuss a number of important side points – e.g., food customs, food security, climate/environmental impact of different diets – within what is otherwise a straightforward product marketing case. The third type, and one of the reasons I advocate case writing, is when you can bring out local context and insight through your cases. As I am in Quebec (Canada), many of the cases I write are about Quebec- and Canada-based firms and I use them to highlight the Quebecois and Canadian business context. I think it is important that our students are educated both on general business principles and their local contexts. Finally, though this is not individual cases, I enjoy curating my cases for a course so that I can draw out connecting concepts across seemingly disparate cases – e.g., diverse industries, problems, etc. – as the course progresses. In doing so, I hope to support students in developing more transferable insights from their course work.

How important is case writing to effective teaching of Management subjects?
Paraphrasing one of my former professors – If I want to learn something, I teach about it. If I want to understand something, I write about it. I feel like case writing is a great way to better understand what I teach. For teaching notes, in particular, I try to put myself into the shoes of someone teaching the case, and perhaps even the course, for the first time. As such, I try to clearly articulate what is core about the case and focus on how to build the analysis through an effective approach for classroom discussion. I feel that I’ve become a better teacher because of my case writing. As well, of course, for the cases I write, I can adapt them to how and what I teach, which gives me greater control of the classroom content and experience.

John Molson School of Business has been running a very prestigious student case competition for years. Tell us about this competition? How do such competitions help the MBA students?
That would be the John Molson MBA International Case Competition (ICC). It is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious case competition of its kind in the world. First organized in 1982, it has grown into an annual week-long case competition involving MBA students from dozens of schools around the world. However, since 2003, we have also run the John Molson Undergraduate Case Competition (JMUCC), also an annual week-long case competition, involving undergraduate students from dozens of schools around the world. While these are perhaps JMSB’s best known case competitions, the school organizes many smaller internal and regional case competitions each year and supports dozens of top undergraduates and MBA students to compete in case competitions around the world.

The benefits to the students are profound. As all JMSB’s case competitions are student-run with only high-level faculty supervision, those involved get hands on experience - everything from outreach, judge and sponsorship recruitment, planning… to running the events themselves – in managing these events. For those students who wish to compete, these events provide some of the many case competition opportunities available to JMSB students. As well, the school provides regular training and coaching support for students who wish to compete. Whether as an event organizer or case competition competitor, these events also offer students networking opportunities with students from other schools, competition judges and sponsors, and engagement with their JMSB faculty (often as case coaches) outside of the classroom.

How do you foresee the role of case method in online teaching necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic?
This is an interesting point, and I may not be the best person to ask as my ‘learning’ here was less about the role of the case method than the connection between strong lesson planning and case writing. JMSB transitioned rapidly to a remote teaching model and spent about 1.5 years entirely remote. For me, the biggest change involved how I planned my individual case discussions. I didn’t necessarily run cases differently, but I needed to prepare more for the discussions because I could no longer intuitively ‘read the class’ as I would when in-person. To account for that, I started developing more in-depth lesson plans, almost scripts for leading case discussions. As well, I began curating online materials (e.ag., videos, blog posts, etc.) which offered different ways to approach the course material. And, though I didn’t anticipate it, I found these lesson plans could rather easily be expanded into formal teaching notes for those cases which I tested in the classroom. In the end, while I find it to be more work upfront to teach cases remotely, the upfront work, I think, made me better at case teaching.

Any comment about IBS’s Case Research Centre? https://www.icmrindia.org/
I am a big fan of what is done through IBS Case Research Centre. I’ve been impressed with IBS cases and case writers. In addition to hosting case competitions for students, JMSB hosts case writing competitions for case writers, and IBS case writers regularly place well in those competitions.

Anything else you would like to say:
First, it’s an honour to be invited to discuss cases with you. IBS Case Research Centre does amazing work developing new cases and supporting case writing.

Second, I’d like to take a moment to highlight two JMSB case writing competitions. JMSB sponsors two case writing competitions annually, which are open to anyone.

The John Molson Business Ownership Case Writing Competition, which has just launched its 2022 call for submissions, is now in its fourth year. In partnership with the Bob and Raye Briscoe Centre for Business Ownership Studies, this competition supports the development of business ownership themed cases and notes which are subsequently published as part of the Ivey-John Molson case library. We construe the theme of business ownership broadly - where the protagonist is both the owner and active manager of the firm. The rationale is that most businesses in Canada (and likely around the world) are private owner/manager-run SMEs, yet the most popular cases are often of well-known, publicly traded companies. We felt there was a disconnect between the types of firms our students were studying and where their careers took them. In a small way, we are providing cases which more readily reflect the business environment and are more accessible to students’ own experiences. This competition offers prizes from $1,000-5,000 CAD plus royalties once subsequently published as part of the Ivey-John Molson co-branded cases distributed by Ivey Publishing. Submission deadline is July 31, 2022.

The JMSB ICC case writing competition is our older case writing competition. The goal of this case writing competition is to provide new and previously unseen cases for the ICC itself (one of JMSB’s major case competitions, discussed above). The theme varies from year to year, with prizes ranging from $1,000-10,000 CAD to case authors. You can find more about this competition here. Submission deadline for this competition tends to be around September 30 each year.