As the case method ramped up at Harvard, so too did the US economy and its corporate powers—until 1929.Following the stock market crash of that year, amid mass unemployment, falling prices, and economic instability, public opinion of corporations and their profit-seeking motives naturally soured.
As the case method ramped up at Harvard, so too did the US economy and its corporate powers—until 1929.
His support of hands-on training thus bolstered Donham’s approach to teaching business at a time when the academic community was questioning whether the school even belonged on its campus.
However, the great thinker also worried about the era’s preoccupation with capital and material goods.
Donham would change that by expanding what was then the research department of the school and tasking it with producing case textbooks.
Harvard would build a library of cases that reflected the businesses of the times, and in engaging with their predicaments, he hoped, scientific theories of management would emerge.
Enright et al., “Daewoo and the Korean Chaebol,” University of Hong Kong case no.
Even if you didn’t go to business school, you’ve probably heard of Harvard case studies and the Harvard case method, the pedagogical system of choice at one of the world’s most elite business schools. “Daewoo and the Korean Chaebol.” University of Hong Kong case no. HKU143 (University of Hong Kong, August 2001), via Harvard Business Publishing, accessed March 2007. (Whitehead instead offered his piece to magazine.) The dean also suggested that a third year be added to Harvard’s graduate program, a doctoral level year focused on the relationship between business and civilization.But the tragedy of the Great Depression, while demonstrating the need for just this type of reflection, also meant Donham couldn’t secure financing for that third year.Referencing the French philosopher Michel Foucault, they suggest that in such cases, the “truth” about a historical event is actually driven by present-day concerns, but that it becomes, as Foucault wrote, “the sort of error that cannot be refuted because it [has been] hardened into an unalterable form in the long baking process of history.”Bridgman and his colleagues’ intriguing counter-history of HBS begins when Donham arrives in 1919, becoming its second dean.The school was only 11 years old then, but it was already using what it called “problem solving” as a method for learning—to a degree.In the book (Mac Millan, 1925), Whitehead advocates for “concrete appreciation of the individual facts in their full interplay of emergent values,” in any discussion of how societies should be organized.The modern world had developed “a creed of competitive business morality,” he wrote.In slim booklets, the cases, of which there are tens of thousands, lay out the strategic questions facing a major corporation, like Amazon, GE, or Pepsi.The scenarios they describe are real, all ripped from the business pages.