MBA for Professionals, Class of 2013
Dr. Kale sets the tone early in his classroom. We were going to discuss competitive strategy, and we were going to move quickly. He didn’t drag on about his accomplishments or credentials, but his reputation spoke for itself. Professor Kale is the Associate Professor of Strategic Management for the Jones Graduate School of Business who received his Ph.D. from Wharton taught at Kellogg, Ross, Wharton, and the Indian School of Business, and was rated among the ‘Top 10 Professors in US Business Schools’ in BusinessWeek’s annual survey of top B-Schools. Needless to say, he had our attention.
Case study analysis and discussion is Dr. Kale’s main teaching method, which in and of itself is not that unique. However, Dr. Kale demands his students understand, study, and thoroughly analyze each case before class. He enforced this policy by commanding the class’ attention by actively engaging all of the students during lectures as we diagramed the different elements of the business strategy. Professor Kale would ask the class a question regarding a theme of the case. One student would raise their hand and answer the question explaining their reasoning. Per typical, Kale would follow up after the student’s explanation with a series of “whys?”, “what facts from the case are you basing your decision?”, and more “whys?”. Next he would ask if anyone had an opposing view on the same question. As always, a student would speak up and get the same series of questions to explain their point of view. Interesting class debate ensued.
The second or third strategic case we discussed in class was a case describing Southwest Airlines. Using Kale’s case analysis lecture method, the class worked through each detail of the low-cost Southwest Airlines strategy. Professor Kale seemed to only ask questions of the class and write our answers on the board. After he did so, he would circle the main points and draw connections between strategic themes that were related. After a few hours, the student’s collective thoughts were captured on the whiteboard in a messy diagram that didn’t seem to mean much. Then Professor Kale encouraged us to quantify, as best we could, the savings or benefit gained from each strategic element. Again, within an hour or so we had estimated the value of the strategic advantage that Southwest Airlines held within its market.
Then it hit me. We were not all geniuses (although I think most of my classmates are pretty bright) or Southwest Airline executives, but only students who had read a twenty page case and spent a few hours discussing it. How had something so seemingly abstract and complicated as an airline’s successful business strategy become so easy to understand and quantify? And how had all of these ideas come from our minds and not the expert strategy professor teaching us? It was because of Dr. Kale’s uniquely challenging and thought-provoking lecture style. He had delivered an interactive lecture I will never forget.