Hollywood, storytelling and games – inspirations for case based teaching

The Hollywood sign.We spoke to Dr Neil Lambert, Senior Lecturer in Global Management at the University of Bristol Business School about inspirations for his teaching and advice for new students. Below, he discuses with us game, simulation and case-based teaching, as well as inspiration he draws from Hollywood filmmakers. 

How long have you worked at the University and what does your current research/teaching focus on?

I have been with the University for two years. I currently teach across several areas for our Strategy, International Management & Business, and Entrepreneurship (SIMBE) group in the business school, including academic, personal and professional skills development. My current research interests focus on aspects of education and pedagogy, particularly game-based learning and simulations, which I greatly advocate when appropriate for the intended learning outcomes, environment and experience. 

What inspired you to go into teaching?

I continue to be inspired by the opportunity within leading institutions such as Bristol to connect real-world practitioner insights and experiences and leading disciplinary, educational and pedagogical research and best practice in an accessible and inclusive learning experience.   

How do you bring applications from the real world into your teaching?

In many ways, whether from guest speakers and business simulations to live cases and scenarios to understand and integrate current events or case studies I have published or sourced focusing on real-world events, experiences and outcomes. As a member of the SIMBE group, these are often within a global context, particularly concerning global challenges and sustainability alongside issues of diversity and inclusivity.   

Where do you get inspiration for your case teaching?

In an online article I recently published with Harvard Business Publishing Education, I shared the inspiration I have drawn from Hollywood filmmakers for my case teaching. Compelling storytelling has risen in provenance across various aspects of management and leadership practice in recent years. I, too, have seen the value of compelling storytelling in this instance for engagement and learning. A good case study must tell a good story, like a good film. For this, I have drawn inspiration and insight from Hollywood filmmaking principles of compelling storytelling in terms of the value of empathy, the three-act structure and keeping the audience guessing. The correspondence and feedback I have received since this article was published suggest that the experiences and insights I shared resonate with those of other practitioners of case teaching method across different educational contexts. 

What makes Bristol different to other Business Schools?

During the interview process and since arriving at Bristol, one thing that has struck me has been the local and global civic service and connections the institution continually looks to develop and maintain across many fronts. 

Can you think of one stand out teaching moment from your time at Bristol?

Personally, one stand-out teaching moment was the palpable sense of learner excitement and engagement I witnessed when running a new game activity my teaching team and I had developed for a new skills development unit here at Bristol. Even with extensive planning, prototyping and practice, it remains unclear how learners will engage with an activity until that first class. Learners certainly did so in this instance – an outcome then replicated across all sessions on this particular unit. Building on this, my colleagues and I have recently had a paper outlining this activity accepted for publication. 

And finally, what advice would you give to new students, starting University?

Never be afraid to get involved. Your curiosity, future ambitions and interests guide us educators as much as our experiences, knowledge and understanding, research and engagement with other stakeholders, like employers, in shaping the learning experience. Indeed, many educational activities, games and cases I develop stem from the interests and experiences of learners. Take, for example, one soon-to-be-published case study I’ve written based on the experiences shared by a former student working for a French multinational in Southeast Asia.

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