25 Oct 2013  Working Papers

Management: Theory and Practice, and Cases

Executive Summary — The author reflects upon his diverse experiences throughout his career with the benefits and challenges of case method teaching and case writing. The case method is undergoing tremendous innovation as students in the twenty-first century engage in learning about corporations, management, and board oversight. In particular, the creative and analytical process of writing the novelAdventures of an IT Leader is examined. The book's "hero's journey" foundation continued in a second Harvard Business Press book, Harder Than I Thought: Adventures of a Twenty-First Century Leader, focusing on CEO leadership in the global economy and the fast-changing IT-enabled pace of business. A third novel is in preparation: It concerns corporate leadership challenges into reinventing boards of directors for the twenty-first century. Key concepts include:

  • A novel-based series of books is incorporating the "hero's journey" classic story structure along with the creation of associated fictional case characters designed to engage readers in the dimensions of human behavior, decision making, and judgments in carrying out the work of the modern corporation.

 

Author Abstract

This working paper reports on a major Harvard Business School project designed to enhance MBA and practicing executives in case learning. The work is built on the foundation of HBS field cases employing the monomyth "hero's journey" classic story structure along with the creation of associated fictional case characters designed to engage readers in the dimensions of human behavior, decision making, and judgments in carrying out the work of the modern corporation. A most fortuitous event in starting the project was the engagement of our research assistant who has a theater academic background and experience as a scriptwriter and director at a repertory theater. Shannon O'Connell noted that our collection of field cases on learning to become a successful functional manager had the potential to be organized into an executive's "hero's journey." This set off a process: (1) completing our field cases to encompass the issue domain of an IT functional manager; (2) recrafting the cases from multiple industries to include one industry; (3) integrating the key characters of monomyth hero's journey; and (4) writing the case dialogue for the protagonist, Jim Barton, hero's journey. The result was our novel-based Harvard Business Press book: Adventures of an IT Leader (2009). In our Adventures book, we experimented with mechanisms to facilitate active learning such as Jim Barton's "living whiteboard," whereby Barton kept a running list of ideas associated with a set of evolving principles of IT management. Another mechanism we used to facilitate reader/student introspection was end-of-chapter/cases Reflections. Also, we experimented with audio versions of book chapters in the classroom. We went on to continue Jim Barton's hero's journey in a second Harvard Business Press book using the same novel format but a different industry and executive context: Harder Than I Thought: Adventures of a Twenty-First Century Leader (2013). The book focuses on CEO leadership in the global economy and the fast-changing IT-enabled pace of business. We extended the mechanism of Barton's living whiteboard to interludes in the book of simulations and avatars to explore CEO decision making.

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