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Executive learning through case discussion

John C. Ickis (INCAE Business School, Alajuela, Costa Rica)
Arch G. Woodside (Marketing Department, Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Enrique Ogliastri (INCAE Business School, Alajuela, Costa Rica and IE Business School, Madrid, Spain)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 14 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to provide a framework with which to understand the issues that arise in the discussion cases included in this Special Issue and explains the role of case studies in the education of those responsible for leading organizations.


This paper is based upon the review of literature from a range of disciplines, all of which is relevant to executive learning; the analysis of the cases and papers in this Special Issue, and interviews with colleagues who use the case method.


The case method is useful in the education of managerial decision makers who face complex situations, but it is most effective when the cases contain certain essential ingredients and when the instructor is skilled in discussion leadership. These ingredients include the presence of a protagonist, the deep description of a problematic situation, the existence of at least two reasonable courses of action, and sufficient data to evaluate each alternative. The interactive nature of case discussions reinforces those values and behaviors that associate with civility.

Research limitations/implications

Since some of the discussion cases were in the process of completion, it was not always possible to evaluate the experience with their use in the classroom.

Practical implications

The introductory paper points to broader opportunities for the use of the case method, and for its adaptation to experiential learning, than is generally recognized in academia.

Social implications

The use of discussion cases in management schools, where future business leaders interact with professors and classmates in an environment of critical learning and respect for opinions of others, encourages behaviors of civility.


This introductory paper is valuable in providing a framework to integrate and make sense of the diverse topics, situations, and contexts described in the cases contained in the Special Issue.



The Guest Editors express sincere appreciation to the members of the review team including Luis Noel Alfaro, Juan Carlos Barahona, Esteban Brenes, Guillermo Cardoza, Arnoldo Camacho, Luciano Ciravegna, Forrest Colburn, Kenneth Hoadley, Mauricio Jenkins, Santiago Kraiselburd, Enrique Kramer, Luis López, Pablo Martín de Holan, Mauricio Melgarejo, Eduardo Montiel, Felipe Pérez, Andrea Prado, Mike Prescott, Carlos Quintanilla, Julio Sergio Ramírez, Pedro Raventós, Jorge Rivera, and Carlos Rodríguez, without whose dedication and experience the publication of this Special Issue would not have been possible.


C. Ickis, J., G. Woodside, A. and Ogliastri, E. (2014), "Executive learning through case discussion", Management Decision, Vol. 52 No. 9, pp. 1552-1563.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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