Until you get really good at preparing cases, each one takes 2-3 hours to read, analyze, and write-up. That means that you’ll need to prepare 6-9 hours in advance of a typical three-case-day.
A few people each year come to business school purely for the academic experience and gleefully invest this time in their classes. However most people don’t, and the thought of academic demands taking away all the time that someone might otherwise spend on productive activities such as networking and recruiting might make them reconsider going to business school.
So how do you fix this problem? Two words: Case Captains. Here’s how it works.
1. Divide work, assign responsibility.
On Friday, have your discussion group assign each case coming up in the next week to a different member. That person will serve as the “case captain” for that class on that day. Your discussion group can choose to rotate the assignment for each class, assign cases to members who have prior work experience that is relevant to the topic of that case, or even allow members who want to grow in certain areas (e.g. accounting and finance) to take the lead on those. Just make sure that every case has one person assigned to be in charge of it.
2. Write-up and read-ahead
While the expectation is that everyone will still read the case and come to discussion group prepared to discuss it, the case captain will conduct special analysis on it. The case captain will send out a “read-ahead” quickly summarizing the case and their key findings ahead of the conversation. If there is an excel model, they will send that out too, taking special precaution to do a thorough job on it and to format it in a way that will be easily legible to others.
3. Captain the ship
On the day of the case, the Case Captain will lead that conversation in discussion group and answer as many questions as they can. Of course, other members of discussion group will come with their own analyses, which may challenge that of the Case Captain, but at least one person will take responsibility to become an expert in that subject.
Case Captains give you peace-of-mind to take advantage of all the important extracurricular offerings of business school without having to sacrifice sleep or exercise to do your school work. On nights when you’re not the case captain, you can go out safe in the knowledge that you will have a lifeline if the case turns out to be especially hard to crack. The Case Captain system is also flexible; if you know you’re going to spend a night out later in the week at a recruiting event, you can move around your Case Captaining responsibilities so that you’re not on-duty the morning after. Lastly, the Cast Captain system is fairer. In some discussion groups, one or two people might otherwise take the lead for analyzing every case. With this system, the duty is spread out and the problem of free riders is fixed.