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Rethinking the Case Study in International Business and Management Research

Edited by Rebecca Piekkari and Catherine Welch

This important and original book critically evaluates case study practices and calls for a more pluralistic future for case research in international business (IB) and international management (IM).
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Chapter 3: Fifty Years of Case Research in International Business: The Power of Outliers and Black Swans

Yair Aharoni


Yair Aharoni INTRODUCTION I started my acquaintance with case studies at Harvard Business School: as part and parcel of the requirements of my doctoral research I wrote several dozen cases on firms considering investments in Israel. Since then, and additionally, I have written more than 150 cases. The home countries of the case firms were the United States, Europe and Israel. I have also used case research methods in numerous studies, for example on subsidiaries of multinationals and their relationships with headquarters. I am deeply convinced that – at least in some of my studies – I would not have understood many business phenomena, or the way decisions are made, had I used any other method. Case study enables the researcher to gain a holistic view of a certain phenomenon or series of events, such as cultural systems of action (Feagin et al. 1991) – the latter referring to sets of interrelated activities engaged in by the actors in a social situation. Of course, in other studies I used other research methods that were more appropriate. Thus, in a study of all MBA graduates or of all Israeli managers, I used a carefully designed questionnaire. When I was a doctoral student at Harvard Business School, MBA students took three classes a day and for each one of these classes they had to read a case study and prepare themselves for a heated discussion in class. Harvard strongly believed that generalizations reached from studies of individual cases are the best way to distil pearls...

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