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How to Solve a Case Study and Create A Strong Solution

Hi everyone! I hope you are having a fantastic morning, afternoon, or evening from wherever you are reading this blog! My name is Rizwan Tahmeed, a Grade 11 student at Woburn Collegiate Institute. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate Leadership Academy Lecturer James Quinlan’s presentation on case studies.

Before getting into the highlights, it was an honor to attend James's lecture. The session was a more technical and roleplay-based presentation compared to the past speakers. This lecture focused on the overarching theme of case studies and how they are a more interactive form of learning versus a textbook. Through this lecture, I learned three key things, which are: the process to solve a case study, how to choose my answer, and the strategy triangle.

One of the key takeaways from the lecture was the process of solving a case study. As I was listening, it was more in-depth and detailed, which surprised me since I already did several case studies this year, but I did not utilize or know the process James taught us. The process itself is a four-step process that starts from analyzing the data and information to selecting the right decision for the implementation plan that includes data and facts. With that being said, the steps are as follows:

Step 1 - Introduction, Executive Summary, and Defining the Issue: This step involves reading the case thoroughly, identifying key ideas, facts, or information needed to make decisions or come up with solutions, and defining the overall issue and our role. All of this identification set the foundation for the remaining steps and are crucial to master when opening, reading, or solving a case study.

Step 2 - Analyzing the Data: This step involves analyzing the data from three vantage points, which are external, internal, and opportunity. The external analysis focuses on the market conditions and changes that can drastically impact or alter the way the market functions or does business. The internal analysis focuses on the business itself, such as core competencies and constraints. Opportunity analysis focuses on where the business currently lies, what position it is in, and where there is an opportunity for growth and impact.

Step 3 - Alternatives, Recommendation Details, and Decision-making: This step is based on the analysis. It is crucial to have the previous step done productively and effectively to perform this step. In this phase, the individual doing the case study identifies alternatives and possible solutions. He or she also creates a criterion and assigns a weight to each solution to find which one is the best one.

Step 4 - Implementation Plan: This final step focuses on flushing out the details and fine-tuning the selected solution. It also focuses on factors that can challenge the solution, countermeasures, timelines and frames, costs or financials, risks, mitigation plan, and labor or strategies to execute the solution.

Another one of my key highlights was how I should choose the option or idea that is innovative, implementable, and feasible. When making decisions regarding case studies, it is often hard to choose the solution that is right or most feasible since we doubt whether it is truly the right one. When I did case studies, I often had this dilemma where I had to choose between two of my best solutions. However, James's strategy to make it easier to find the right solution and backing it up with data changed my way of picking the solution. He mentioned creating a decision criteria where we identify key indicators and assign a weight to each one. As a result of performing this step, we can differentiate bad ones from the good ones and back up our decision or choice with facts or data.

One final key highlight was the strategy triangle. In other words, this means keeping things as it is with absolutely no changes or minor changes/adjustments. The strategy triangle is a triangle where each vertex focuses on a particular aspect of the business, which are the goals of the business, product-market focus, and core activities. When all three of these aspects align, there is a clear value proposition and no misaligned areas. However, when one does not align with the other, it means that there are problems that need to be solved. From this, we can clarify, find areas that the business is struggling in, immediately recognize the problem, and work towards a suggestion that helps the business stay in business.

During the presentation, James also gave us a case study to follow along and made us work with a group of three or two people to form a solution. Due to this being an unofficial competition, the solutions were thought out quickly, and the case was not analyzed deeply. Our case study was focused on a business that wanted to achieve a specific goal, but did not know what to do due to external factors and influences. As the person identifying alternatives for what the business can do, we had to utilize the process and techniques mentioned above. We started with reading the case, mentioning the key facts, data, or sentences that helped us understand the situation, and distinguish our role in the case and purpose. From there, we looked at the various areas and conducted an analysis in all three spots (see step 2 for more info), and utilized the strategy triangle to recognize where we should focus our efforts. Once we pinpointed the aspect, we came up with some solutions and created a criterion as a group. From there, we broke off into groups to explain why one solution was better than the other and reconvened to present our recommendation with an implementation plan. Again, there are numerous solutions and ideas, which is the beauty of case studies, but you must be confident in your one; the one you picked.

In closing, I can most definitely conclude that James’s presentation and techniques helped me understand the process of solving a case, strategies to make a clear and strong recommendation, and how to determine value proposition. James's lecture was informative, relatable, interactive, and one that I won’t forget.


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