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Making a Case Study Out of Nothing

Posted by on March 6, 2008

Making something out of nothing We’ve all had to create THAT case study. You know the one I’m talking about; it’s the case study you were asked to make in order to justify the companies most recent work. It’s the case study that talks about generating a few extra thousand dollars of revenue over the last year. Perhaps it is the case study about an implementation that generated a few extra clicks, trials, or other desired action. It’s really a case study about failure.

Why do case studies/examples/white papers/etc. have to be about successes? The old adage “you learn from your mistakes” speaks volumes, yet most businesses and individuals ignore it. There is nothing wrong with admitting you made a mistake, learn from it. Nobody is going to be right all of the time. By making case studies out of your mistakes, not only are you showing that you are learning from your mistakes, but you also helping to educate other companies or individuals.

The next time you make a mistake, don’t bury it, make a case study out of it and see what happens.

On a similar note, don’t try to make a case study out of nothing. Case studies are supposed to be remarkable not mediocre. If you generated a few extra thousands dollars in revenue over 6 months when the overall revenue is in the millions, then that obviously will not make for a great case study.

Making case studies out of the things that matter will show clients that not only are you willing to embrace your successes and your failures, but also that you are committed to improving yourself and educating those around you.

  • Brennan

    If only companies weren’t in the pathological “cover up our flaws” mode at all times!

    Great post! I think an open/honest “we learned from this failure” white paper would speak volumes about a company. The same way someone openly and honestly admitting a mistake is MUCH more likable than someone who’s constantly scheming and pointing fingers.

    Very good post. Just gave you some love on Mixx.


  • Jacob Morgan

    Thanks Brennan,

    I just find it so discouraging that companies are so headstrong on trying to prove that they are perfect. There really is no logical sense to this. People are supposed to learn from their mistakes, and so are companies and organization. I would have all of my failures framed and hung on the wall in my office, along with all of my successes to remind myself and everyone else at the company that success takes hard work, and failures happen along the way.


  • Abhilash

    Nice post, Jacob. First time i’ve heard of making case studies out of failures, but as long as someone’s not wrapped up & drowning in ego, it could be a really strong means of making a point.

  • Jacob Morgan

    Hi Abhilash,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for reading and hope to see some more of your comments in the future.


  • Google Search Sucks

    Maybe you should take that case study and make it an internal document to learn from not a client facing piece of collateral. When you are trying to get clients it is like trying to get some p!@#y on your first date. You have to put your best foot forward, wear your best clothes, style your hair. You wouldn’t point out your third nipple, well maybe you would but it would show what kind of person you and the date are.

  • Jacob Morgan

    Interesting analogy there Mr. Google. I agree, I wouldn’t necessarily make a case study about failure, a client facing document. I would use it as more of an internal learning tool.

    Failures (especially when made public) can lead to successes, just ask Dell or Nintendo.