Having finished the brutally busy first year, I’m now weighing what we learned. Over the past nine months, we have gone through 270 cases in 10 classes, making the same difficult decisions the case protagonists had to make. It is my habit to write down 3-5 key takeaways after each class, and the document exceeds 50 pages. This will be my guiding light after graduation.
Although there were a plethora of cases that I enjoyed, my favorite has to be “Erik Peterson”, a legendary case in our Leadership class. The case has been taught for more than two decades at HBS and was our first. Not only did this case teach me important lessons as a leader, but it also taught me the dynamics of the case method – the HBS way.
The case was actually an eye-opener and a bit of a rude awakening. The protagonist, a young HBS graduate, joins a medical device company, taking a key leadership position, and is ordered to implement an important strategy. The situation reflects, fairly accurately, what we can expect after graduation – vividly depicting a young over-achiever failing miserably in a complex organization. Knowing the case protagonist is similar in age to an HBS graduate, we couldn’t help but identify with him, feeling deep empathy and disappointment.
I won’t divulge further details here as future HBS students are expected to learn it in their class, however the case is available online and worth the read for any business professional. Recently I had a chance to talk with an HBS alum, Class of ’98, who whole-heartedly agreed - “Erik Peterson” was the best case ever.