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The case method

Back at University when I was doing my MBA, the classroom instruction was through, what is called, the case method. This is a type of instruction where rather the teacher doesn't simply espouse theory. Instead, she hand out cases that depict certain characters facing certain scenarios and puts the students in the shoes of those characters to see what decisions they ought to make. This way, the students will do the necessary reading of the underlying theoretical concepts as well as apply them in practice.

This is a method followed in most prominent universities world-wide and is a proven way for effective teaching. After all, we learn better by doing than by simple reading the theory.

Recently, a colleague of mine came to me with a problem he was facing and walked me through the options that he had, seeking help in making the decision.

As I was analyzing the situation along with him in an objective way, I realized that I haven't come to the same conclusions when I myself had been faced with a similar situation before. I had taken a different path that seemed to be the less optimal decision than the one I arrived at with him while looking at his situation objectively as an outsider.

It has been a proven concept that the farther removed someone is from a situation, the more likely they are to make the most optimal decision. And in my case, I had seen both sides of it.

When I was very close to the situation (when I was the one facing it), I had made a less optimal decision while I had made the more optimal one when I was guiding a colleague through a similar situation.

This has got me thinking about the case method and why it works so well. Since then, with a quick scan back, I could identify many more situations over the past few years when I had made less optimal decisions but would have likely done otherwise had I been looking at it from afar.

Before making any major decision, it perhaps helps to write down a narrative for the situation while replacing myself with a third person to trick my brain into considering the situation objectively, like it would do when presented with a case study.

I haven't tried this out yet, but intend to do so in the coming days.

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