Harvard Business School (HBS) is one of the most prestigious and influential institutions in the world of business education. HBS case studies are widely used by professors, students, and practitioners to learn from real-world scenarios and decisions faced by companies and leaders. HBS case studies cover a variety of topics, such as strategy, innovation, entrepreneurship, ethics, social responsibility, and more. In this article, we will explore 81 HBS case studies that span across different disciplines, industries, and regions. We will also provide some insights and takeaways from each case study.
Strategy is the art and science of creating and executing plans to achieve goals and objectives. Strategy involves making choices about where to compete, how to compete, and what to offer. HBS case studies on strategy help students understand how to analyze the external and internal environment of a business, formulate a clear and compelling vision and mission, craft a competitive advantage, and implement and evaluate strategic actions. Here are some examples of HBS case studies on strategy:
Apple Inc.: This case study traces the history of Apple from its inception in 1976 to its present-day status as one of the most valuable and innovative companies in the world. The case study examines how Apple's founder Steve Jobs and his successors Tim Cook and Jony Ive shaped the company's culture, products, and brand. The case study also explores the challenges and opportunities that Apple faces in the rapidly changing technology industry.
Tesla and Elon Musk: This case study explores how Tesla, the electric car company founded by Elon Musk, balances risk and opportunity in its quest to revolutionize the automotive industry. The case study examines how Tesla leverages its core competencies in engineering, design, and innovation to create distinctive products and services that appeal to environmentally conscious and tech-savvy customers. The case study also discusses the controversies and criticisms that Tesla and Musk face from competitors, regulators, investors, and the media.
Netflix: This case study analyzes how Netflix, the online streaming service company, disrupted the entertainment industry by offering a convenient, personalized, and affordable alternative to traditional cable TV and DVD rental. The case study examines how Netflix leveraged its data-driven culture, technology platform, and content strategy to create a loyal customer base and a powerful brand. The case study also explores the competitive threats and strategic challenges that Netflix faces from new entrants, incumbents, and changing consumer preferences.
Innovation is the process of creating new or improved products, services, processes, or business models that deliver value to customers, stakeholders, or society. Innovation involves generating novel ideas, experimenting with different solutions, and implementing them effectively. HBS case studies on innovation help students understand how to foster a culture of creativity, collaboration, and experimentation within an organization, how to identify and seize opportunities for innovation in various markets and contexts, and how to manage the risks and uncertainties associated with innovation. Here are some examples of HBS case studies on innovation:
Amazon.com: This case study examines how Amazon.com, the e-commerce giant founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, became one of the most innovative and diversified companies in the world. The case study explores how Amazon.com pursued a customer-centric vision, a long-term perspective, a frugal culture, and a relentless focus on experimentation to create new products and services that span across multiple domains such as retailing, cloud computing, digital media, artificial intelligence, voice assistants, smart devices, healthcare, and more.
Airbnb: This case study investigates how Airbnb, the online platform that connects travelers with hosts who offer unique accommodations around the world, transformed the travel industry by creating a new category of lodging that appeals to a variety of travelers. The case study analyzes how Airbnb leveraged its community-based model, user-generated content, trust mechanisms, design thinking, social impact initiatives, and global expansion strategy to create a distinctive value proposition for both hosts and guests. The case study also discusses the regulatory, competitive, operational, and ethical challenges that Airbnb faces as it grows its platform
Spotify: This case study explores how Spotify, the music streaming service company founded in Sweden in 2006, revolutionized the music industry by offering a freemium model that allows users to access millions of songs for free or for a monthly subscription fee. The case study examines how Spotify leveraged its technology platform, data analytics, personalization algorithms, content acquisition, and partnerships to create a superior user experience and a loyal fan base. The case study also evaluates the strategic options and trade-offs that Spotify faces as it competes with other players in the music ecosystem.
Entrepreneurship is the process of creating, launching, and growing new ventures that address unmet needs or problems in the market or society. Entrepreneurship involves identifying and validating opportunities, assembling and leading teams, acquiring and managing resources, developing and delivering value propositions, and capturing and sustaining value. HBS case studies on entrepreneurship help students understand how to apply entrepreneurial thinking and skills to various contexts and challenges, such as social entrepreneurship, corporate entrepreneurship, family business, women entrepreneurship, and more. Here are some examples of HBS case studies on entrepreneurship:
Spanx: This case study tells the story of Sara Blakely, the founder and CEO of Spanx, the women's shapewear company that became a global phenomenon. The case study describes how Blakely came up with the idea of Spanx, how she bootstrapped her business with minimal resources and no formal business training, how she built a strong brand identity and customer loyalty, and how she scaled her business while maintaining her vision and values. The case study also explores the challenges and opportunities that Blakely faces as she considers expanding her product portfolio, entering new markets, and managing her organization.
Warby Parker: This case study examines how Warby Parker, the online eyewear company founded by four MBA students in 2010, disrupted the eyewear industry by offering stylish, high-quality glasses at affordable prices. The case study analyzes how Warby Parker leveraged its innovative business model, social mission, customer service, marketing strategy, and organizational culture to create a competitive advantage and a positive social impact. The case study also discusses the strategic decisions and trade-offs that Warby Parker faces as it grows its business and pursues new opportunities.
23andMe: This case study investigates how 23andMe, the personal genomics company founded by Anne Wojcicki in 2006, pioneered the direct-to-consumer genetic testing market by offering consumers access to their own DNA data and insights. The case study explores how 23andMe leveraged its scientific expertise, technological innovation, customer engagement, and regulatory strategy to create a unique value proposition and a loyal customer base. The case study also evaluates the risks and opportunities that 23andMe faces as it competes with other players in the healthcare industry.
Ethics is the study of moral principles and values that guide human behavior and decision making. Ethics involves evaluating the rightness or wrongness of actions and outcomes based on various criteria, such as fairness, justice, rights, duties, consequences, virtues, and more. HBS case studies on ethics help students understand how to apply ethical reasoning and frameworks to various dilemmas and situations that they may encounter in their personal or professional lives. Here are some examples of HBS case studies on ethics:
The Volkswagen Emissions Scandal: This case study examines how Volkswagen (VW), the German automaker company, cheated on emissions tests for millions of diesel vehicles by installing software that manipulated the results. The case study analyzes how VW's culture, governance, strategy, and incentives contributed to the scandal, which resulted in significant financial, legal, reputational, environmental, and social costs. The case study also explores how VW's leaders responded to the crisis
Facebook's Libra (A): This case study explores how Facebook (FB), the social media giant company, announced its plan to launch Libra, a global digital currency that would enable billions of people to access financial services through FB's platforms. The case study evaluates the potential benefits and risks of Libra for FB, its users, its partners, and society a