Harvard Business School and MICA, Ahmedabad, develop first photonovel case study

These are people who have seen their growth from childhood to adulthood coincide with the spread of the Internet and visually stimulating technologies, such as high-definition television and sophisticated video games.

June 07, 2013 7:30 IST | India Infoline News Service

A photonovel is a story told with photos and dialogues / thoughts presented in speech balloons/ thought bubbles just like in comic books. This combination makes it a very entertaining and easy-to-read medium. The present innovation has converted a typical text-based business case study into a photonovel format. It is strongly felt that this visually appealing version will greatly engage the "virtual generation" studying in business classrooms today leading to an enhanced learning experience.

The young generation of , also termed generation Y, and born roughly between 1982 and 2003, suffers from short attention spans and is in constant need of stimulus. This presents unique challenges before educators as they grapple to attract the attention of this virtual generation. These are people who have seen their growth from childhood to adulthood coincide with the spread of the Internet and visually stimulating technologies, such as high-definition television and sophisticated video games. According to academic-cum-graphic novellists, Ketchen and Short, both logically and empirically many Gen Ys can be regarded as visual learners. Further, authors Murphy and Smark have discussed how student learning can be positively impacted by the incorporation of visual elements.

The first conversation on this idea happened in early 2010 between Prof. Das Narayandas of Harvard Business School (HBS), USA and Prof. Kallol Das of Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA), India. The conversation centered on the possibility of developing the photonovel version of a well-known Harvard case study authored by Prof. Narayandas and Kerry Herman (revised version published in year 2009). 

The original text-case dwells on the decision problem faced by the CEO of Eureka Forbes Ltd, a leading Indian direct sales organization. As per the case, the CEO must decide which changes to the sales compensation systems would better motivate his sales reps and improve their sales performance. The case attempts to deliver learning on key issues such as salesforce management, motivation, incentives, benefits and compensation, etc.

Prof. Narayandas found the idea of a "photonovel case study" intriguing and he sought for a sample before taking a final call. In November 2010, a three-page miniature photonovel version of a section of the original case was emailed to Prof. Narayandas, who found it worth taking a chance. He then emailed the same to Mr. Suresh Goklaney, Managing Director, EFL for the latter's consent, which came immediately. 

Then started the challenging process of converting the original case in essay format into a dialogue format, with well developed characters and scenes. In making the script, Prof. Kallol Das made several visits to various EFL offices and customer households to better visualize their salesforce management practices. Plenty of EFL archival material was made available to the authors so that the organizational dynamics can be studied in detail and properly portrayed. In the process, efforts to build a visually rich, emotively strong, and also data-thick case study took place.

After plenty of iterations, the final script was co-created by the three authors in May 2012. This was sent to EFL CEO for approval, which did not take much time. All efforts were done to make the script engaging for the restless young generation of today. In fact, the authors have tried to keep the script fast-paced just like a fiction thriller! Additionally, the authors have tried to also design the case study from the perspective of a very key stakeholder - the faculty using this case study to deliver valuable learning! In fact, faculty members using the photonovel case study will realize how this version makes their facilitation exercise all the more satisfying and enjoyable. 

Subsequently, planning for the shoot started. The shoot finally took place in mid-October 2012. Mr. Goklaney and a few other characters in the orginal case played their respective parts in the photonovel version! And they did it very effortlessly - after all, they were reliving their own past!

The entire shoot took place in real locations and all efforts were made to give the reader an insider's feel of the organisation and the business problem faced by it. Post-production (page composition, editing) took significant time. The case is now available to readers across the globe for purchase and download through Harvard Business Review (HBR) website.

All production work (shoot, editing, etc) was done under the close supervision of Prof. Kallol Das who kept Prof. Das Narayandas and Kerry Herman of HBS constantly updated for advice and feedback. The MICA production team comprised seven PGP First Year 2012-14 batch students viz. Neha Goel (director), Jayati Grover (assistant director), Karan Gaikwad (photographer), Nigel Menezes (assistant photographer), Bhuwan Kathuria (production manager), Megha Rajeev (chief editor), and Ritika Malhotra (editor). Alok Brahmbhatt, Research Associate, MICA served as the director of photography. 

A preliminary study done in India (published in April 2012 in the very prestigious Journal of Marketing Education, Sage Publications, USA) by one of the creators (Prof. Kallol Das) has revealed that photonovels connect better with business students. Further, they make the classroom experience more engaging for both the educator and the learner. 

The university student of today is more restless and demanding than ever before. Educators are rising to the occasion by trying to make learning more experiential. In this direction, the traditional case study method also needs to change. It has to move from being a verbose and dull narrative to an exciting and colorful exposition of a complex business situation. This format allows a greater degree of simulation than textual cases. 

The photonovel version will be a great help to students who have no work experience. They will get a "real" feel of the workplace. The students with work experience will also benefit as they get a "cultural immersion" of sorts because no two organizations/ markets are alike. Thus, the present format delivers more value to students and educators. 

The photonovel case study has 72 pages in full color. It is available in both PDF as well as hard copy format. It is hoped that the launch of this innovation will lead to the creation of a large "market" (which was waiting to be tapped) and then an entire "photonovel industry" to cater to the same! Welcome to the world of business edutainment!!!

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