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The Case Rip Cord Graduates

Oh, how should the Case Rip Cord rap things up? First, a few general observations.

A Research Associate who is also an HBS 2000 grad should never, ever, write a 27-page case. But that’s what happened with “To hell with the future, let’s get on with the past.”: George Mitchell in Northern Ireland. Sure, the case is interesting and all, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to read it all, and there’s no way you could ever cover all the elements of it in an 80-minute class.

Not to be outdone, this case was followed up the next day in the same course by a 30-pager on the Bosnian Peace Accords in Dayton. And this case was accompanied by an optional note on Balkan history of about the same length. In the immortal words of Shaggy, soon to appear on the big screen in the Scooby Doo movie, “Zoinks!”
On the subject of long cases, Wil Cardon (HBS ’98C) is the protagonist in The Cardon Family, which is about his family’s Arizona real estate business. In class, Cardon thanked the case writer for keeping the case under ten pages. While the Rip Cord agrees with this guideline in general, there are some page-long quotes that could stand to be culled. But the family’s tales of colonizing the Southwest under orders of Brigham Young are slightly entertaining, as are these quotes: “Dad was very strong on petroleum. We would build service stations. That was his vision.” “We don’t pretend to be developers. In general, we do not develop anything higher than a curb.” “A piece of raw ground generally only has more than marginal increases in value when you can flush a toilet on it.”

But the point of this case is really for graduates to think about the tradeoffs associated with expanding their families, for the large Cardon Family has reached a dilemma. In a few short decades the company leadership has passed from Wil’s grandfather and his two brothers to Wil’s generation. After adopting many children in Brazil, they must decide how to divide the governance and earnings of the business among over one hundred cousins!

And for those graduates looking for advice on apartment hunting, The Holland House outlines some pitfalls you might wanna avoid. “Some of the bathrooms were incorrectly installed and the showers drain out into the rooms. In a masterpiece of design, the hall closets have been installed with the doors opening inward-making it impossible to store anything in them.” That explains why the classified ad in the Times sounded so inexpensive.

Before graduation, HBS organized a Capstone Class, which was an excellent way to get back together with old sectionmates. So why not touch on the assigned case, The HBS Classes of 1949 and 2002: Comparisons and Contrasts? The case contains data on the Class of ’49, which came from a survey conducted in conjunction with their 45th reunion. “Many [’49ers] complained of the Clinton Administration’s performance.” Wonder if they were happy that President Clinton was the keynote speaker at the reunion?

Speaking of ex-Presidents, the case also talks about the state of the world while the ’49ers were at school and quotes President Eisenhower. The Rip Cord is pretty sure Ike didn’t assume that office until 1953, but the quote sounded relevant anyway, so what the heck? Also, an exhibit shows that in 1949 President Harry Truman earned $100,000 per year, which was then about 28 times greater than the average HBS grad. Now that ratio has fallen to about 4 times, which raises the question, “Is an HBS grad worth much more now, or is the President worth much less?” Oh, wait, the President is an HBS grad. Strike that question.

The most disturbing quote from the case exhibits is this piece of advice from a ’49er, “Between the hours of 3:00 and 4:00 AM every night, think of how they’re going to get you, and what you’re going to do about it. That’s how I survived.” The Rip Cord has consulted some doctors on this one, and four out of five recommend sleeping at this hour instead. For those who insist on following Andy Grove, the doctor recommends pushing this activity back until at least 5:30 AM.

It has been a pleasure ripping on cases with you here for the past two years. I only hope that the (not always so) subtle hints dropped about possible improvements to the cases can help to make future cases more enjoyable and just as full of learning. Congratulations to everyone on graduation, and we’ll see you at our first reunion!

June 3, 2002
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