|Real Live Solutions to
Real Live Company Challenges
The unique GSBA Zürich “Living Case Study™”
By Albert Stahli
Dr. Franken, chief information officer of the Zürich Retail Bank (SRB)*
was giving a presentation on the strategic challenges of his company. The
question he posed was one which his company was currently deliberating: How
can SRB Bank make its retain mortgage business more profitable?
His presentation was not to a business club in London or a group of
consultants, but to a class of Executive MBA students at the Graduate School
of Business Administration Zurich (GSBA Zürich), the European partner of the
Smith School in offering a global executive MBA. His presentation was part
of a “living case,” a unique methodological approach GSBA Zürich developed
over 20 years ago to allow EMBA students to apply what they learn in class
to a real live problem faced by a real live company.
Unlike traditional case studies, living cases are real company situations
that are actually happening and the concepts for solving these problems are
made by faculty and students. News and market developments have to be taken
into consideration in real time.
may come to class in the morning and find news effecting the SRB situation:
a takeover, a change in the lending rate, a market study about the structure
and patterns in the Swiss mortgage market. In historical cases, these bits
of information would be of academic interest—good to know. But for the
real-time living case, late-breaking news may change the whole strategy of
one or more of the groups working competitively on case solutions. Those
changes must be taken into account even if it is the day before they give
their final presentations.
Students must agree on a solution and translate it into reality. Should
SRB close expensive branches and handle the mortgage application process via
an Internet platform? How could this work and what would it cost? What would
this save the bank the first year, next year, in five years? Setting the
strategy is already difficult but doing the research and crunching the
numbers is tedious.
And just when the strategy is set and everyone has his or her task,
students learn something new in class the next day that gives them a new
perspective or a new tool to produce even a better solution. Back to the
Working on a living case is always a challenge, but it gives executive
MBA students an invaluable lesson in real-life, real-time problem-solving.
Dr. Albert Stahli is dean of the Graduate School of
Business Administration in Zurich, Switzerland, which has partnered with the
Smith School to offer the Global EMBA degree.
Read more about the Global EMBA
* Name changed for the sake of confidentiality.