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The Myth of Death: A Guide to Business Case Analysis


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When analyzing a business case, MBA students tend to extrapolate by concluding that whatever a successful company did was effective, and whatever a failed company did was wrong. At the heart of the problem is the classical confusion between correlation and causality.

This case demonstrates the pitfalls of such thinking through a parable, in which an alien who descended to earth concluded that lying on a hospital bed causes a person to die. It then provides several concrete examples of business analysis so students can discuss whether we can attribute commercial success to various practices or “visions” of a company. Finally, it suggests a choice-centered approach to case studies on how to draw a meaningful conclusion through observations (as opposed to rigorous statistical analysis). The suggestions include clarifying the purpose of case analysis, framing the central question as a choice, considering trade-offs, identifying external conditions, and going beyond a particular company.

The final part is an appendix, which goes beyond business cases by discussing similar confusions in war, art, health, and education, and scientific methods in natural sciences and economics.


本案例用故事来展示这种思维中的陷阱。故事中,一个来到地球的外星人得出结论,躺在病床上会导致人的死亡。接下来,本案将提供一些具体的商业分析范例,学生可讨论能否把商业成功归因于公司的不同实践或 “愿景”。最后提出一种以选择为中心的案例研究方法,即如何通过观察(而不是严格的统计分析)得出有意义的结论。本案例提供的建议包括明确案例分析的目的、将中心问题设为选择、考虑权衡、识别外部条件,且不局限于某个特定公司。


Learning Objective:

  • Understand the pitfalls of case study
  • Highlight logical flaws of some commonly held views in strategy and management
  • Clarify the confusion between correlation and causality
  • Develop a systematic and scientific way of interpreting observations and forming meaningful conclusions
  • Establish effective strategy and general management skills
  • Learn scientific methodology in natural science, social science, economics

  • 了解案例研究中的误区
  • 强调在战略和管理中某些常见观念的逻辑缺陷
  • 厘清对相关性和因果性的混淆
  • 建立系统、科学的方式来阐释观察到的结果并形成有意义的结论
  • 建立有效的战略,培养一般性管理技能
  • 学习自然科学、社会科学、经济学中科学的方法论

Year of Publication: 2022
Ref. No.: 22/723C
Discipline: Strategy & General Management
Industry: .
Country: N/A
Languages: English, Simplified Chinese
Pages of Text: 19