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Javier Silva on Writing an Award-Winning Case

Posted By Page Schindler Buchanan, Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012

For GBSN's Case Method Month the staff at Emerald interviewed the winner of their Emerging Markets Case Studies Competition, Javier Silva, a marketing professor at IAE Business School in Argentina. 


Javier Silva

Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies (EEMCS) is a collection of teaching cases with accompanying teaching notes. What made you decide to write a teaching case (with teaching notes) rather than a research case?

Javier: We work in a teaching focused Business School in an emerging market environment so we are always looking for good cases adapted to our environment to teach in our courses. This was the main reason we decided to write a teaching case.

Your case is written about a company from Argentina, Latin-America. What are your thoughts on the availability of quality assured teaching cases with a focus on Latin America? What would you like to see improved?

Javier: Many of the cases written for Latin American markets are very low quality. The main reason is that the writing community is small, but this is changing fast. We have noted that case production has increased in our school and our Latin-American academic network over the last few years. EEMCS will motivate and encourage the Latin-America academic community to produce better cases.

The teaching note of your winning case contains cultural information about Argentina. Why is this cultural knowledge important for business students? What role can educators, academics and publishers play in raising awareness about local cultures in high-growth economies?

Javier: As teachers with experience in developed and emerging markets we know that the awareness of the cultural setting is very important for all business students around the world. The management literature and frameworks underpin this issue which has caused failures in global companies for years.

When an author is preparing to research and write a case study, what considerations should be given to the amount of time required and resources needed?

Javier: Writing a case is a serious (and passionate) business. The most important resource is the access to senior management. By being there you can access the relevant information about the problem, the company and the competition. Then you need a solid academic framework to discuss the case and to prepare the teaching manual. These need development and a group of peers willing to challenge the early drafts.

Your case study is about San Antonio, a company founded in 1977 in Buenos Aires which, with Argentine funding and management, provides services for the oil and gas industry. You do not disguise the company you write about, how did you go about forming a relationship with San Antonio?

Javier: Our school is one of the tops schools in the region, our alumni are the best source of access to companies.

What advice would you give to authors wishing to build a productive relationship with the protagonist/ organization featured in their case?

Javier: Authors must document interviews and all the interactions with the protagonist and executives of the organization. All materials are confidential and private to the company you are writing about so all the drafts and published material must be approved by the company.

Tell us about your case study: what were your initial objectives? Did they change as your work progressed? What came first: an interest in the subject area covered or an interest in the company?

Javier: We always start with a teaching objective in mind. Then we look for companies whose situation might fit the bill. This helps to focus the research and the relationship with the executives involved in the case.

Teaching cases are intended for use in seminar/lecture rooms to engage students and so require a strong pedagogical focus. Did you test out your case study in class? If so, how did this contribute to the evolution of the case itself, with a particular focus on the teaching note?

Javier: The most convenient way to create a teaching case is to run some test classes before finishing and publishing the case. Even with experience in teaching and writing, the reaction of students is essential to a good case. We start developing the teaching note in parallel with writing the case study.

Sound key account management and effective marketing are crucial for the success of business in uncertain economic climates. What top tips would you give for companies working in Argentina?

Javier: In uncertain economic climates you need to build flexible organizations that scan the environment and adapt their business planning to suit. Inflexible and rigid organizations suffer in these uncertain economic environments.


Javier Silva co-authored a case entitled: "San Antonio: Assessing the Key Account Management System." It is the winner of the EEMCS 2012 international case competition and is now available on the Emerald website

His co-authors are Fernando Zerboni; Maricruz Prado and Natalia Moscardi.

Tags:  Case Method  case studies 

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