Tom Choi is one of the world’s foremost supply chain scholars who has a history of leading rigorous research projects and supply chain conversations as a professor at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business.
As part of CARISCA’s bi-annual faculty workshop, Choi led a three-hour workshop about case study research, which is a valuable research tool for testing and creating theories about how supply chains work.
The goal of the workshop was to strengthen the research capacity of KNUST School of Business (KSB) faculty and PhD candidates. Although the workshop was geared towards KNUST faculty, scholars from the American University in Cairo, Egypt, also attended and were engaged in the conversation.
The first day of the workshop consisted of five presentations about case study methods and real-life examples that led to publications in top-tier journals.
Choi mapped major supply chain networks of auto manufacturers for decades, and he believes that supply chains are complex adaptive systems that are similar to bird migration patterns.
“There is no central entity that coordinates activities, the birds fly in a way that is most comfortable to them. They obey local rules, and the pattern simply emerges, and that is how supply networks form. Every company is striving to maximize their own gains, and the pattern appears.”
Choi emphasized the fact that case studies can be used to elaborate or test theories.
“Case studies may be used for exploratory purposes, in which case propositions actually emerge from the analysis of the cases, and it can be used for explanatory purposes as well,” he said.
At the end of each presentation, participants asked informed questions such as how to properly determine sample sizes, develop theories, and inform academic discussions with research findings.
Choi recommended that faculty dive into the data.
“Don’t be afraid to get dirty with data — the beauty of case studies is rich contextual information, and it’s important to enjoy it and keep an open mind as one thing will lead to another.”
Sound case study research will improve KNUST’s ability to solve complex problems by better understanding the nuances of highly complex health and agricultural supply chains.
Choi reminded faculty that case studies “make you a better teacher because it opens you to new experiences with business and executives.”
CARISCA’s executive director, Dale Rogers, elaborated on this point, indicating that case study research is also beneficial for creating long-lasting research-industry relationships.
“Beyond research methodology benefits, case studies create strong relationship bonds between the researcher and the organization.”
On the second day of the workshop, faculty formed six research teams to create one-year research projects that will address supply chain issues raised by stakeholders during CARISCA’s past engagements. The research topics include supply chain financing and digitization; transportation, inventory and warehousing; third party logistics (3PL); marketing and standardization; community supply chain network design; supply chain entrepreneurship; resilience and women and vulnerable groups.
The end goal of these research projects is to generate new knowledge that can inform supply chain practitioners, policy making, and new areas of research.