Use Case Studies to Accelerate Learning

One of the best ways to deliver learning in a workplace is through a well-designed case study.

Think of a case study as a training course that’s more interactive and embedded than most courses. Instead of sitting quietly and listening passively, the participants engage actively every step of the way. Of course, a well-run training session also involves active participation, and might even include case studies. The difference here is that the case study is the training, and your job as a leader is to facilitate the discussion rather than to teach or train.


Because you will be facilitating the discussion, it’s useful to give your participants a structure for the case study, rather than just making it a free-for-all discussion. If you’re just starting with case studies, use my QUASAR formula, which gives you a simple structure to build a compelling case study:

  • Question: Describe the situation, the people involved, and their problem, challenge or question.
  • Understanding: Dig a little deeper to understand and quantify the implications of the problem, both negative (costs) and positive (missed opportunities).
  • Alternatives: Describe various options available to solve the problem.
  • Solution: Choose a solution from the options, and discuss why it’s better than the other options.
  • Approach: Describe the approach used to implement the solution (If the solution is the What, this is the How).
  • Results: Describe the results of the process, the outcome achieved, and how this affected the people concerned.

Using this structure means you work through the case study in an orderly sequence, while still allowing enough freedom for everybody to participate at each step.


There are a number of ways to facilitate the process, depending on the complexity of the case study, the time available, your skill as a facilitator, and the interests and needs of the team.

If you only have limited time, you could just choose a scenario, stand up at a team meeting, and present the case study by going through those six steps, with your team members passively listening. With very limited time, that might be your only option. However, it doesn’t offer anywhere near as much value as the team working through the steps (facilitated by you).

You don’t require much more time to do it in a more interactive way that involves your team in more depth.

For example, you could facilitate the entire case study in a one-hour team meeting like this:

  • 10 minutes: Briefly describe the scenario and problem (Question).
  • 5 minutes: As a group, identify implications (Understanding).
  • 15 minutes: Work in small groups to discuss Alternatives.
  • 15 minutes: Bring them back together to share their ideas and then choose one Solution.
  • 15 minutes: Share the actual Approach chosen and Results achieved, and discuss pros and cons when contrasting it with their chosen solution.

With more time, you can do a more in-depth version of the case study. Follow the same broad structure as the one-hour version, but allocate more time for the activities. For example, instead of the groups only having 15 minutes to list alternatives, they could have a week. That gives them time to identify alternatives, analyse them in more detail, perhaps even do some real-life testing (for example, using social media), prepare a PowerPoint presentation, and report back to the team a week later.

Get started!

You might feel a bit uncomfortable the first few times you lead your team in this process. But there’s no better solution than practice. Besides, even if you’re clunky and clumsy the first few times, your team will still get value from the process because they are doing most of the work themselves.

So try it – you won’t regret it.

Watch my webinar “The Future of Learning”

For more about the future of learning and development for high-performance teams, watch my webinar “The Future of Learning”, which will help you go beyond the traditional training course as a tool for learning and development.

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