For the most current (but uncommented) list – see here.

Case studies

The rise and fall of the alcohol Prohibition in the U.S.A. – Legislating Morality, Restricting Trade

Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol(work in progress; together with Amy Lemley and Paul Farris)

In 1920 the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.A. went into effect. It did not only affect an entire industry but the American society at large. What can companies and individuals learn from the events of the past for the present?



Magellan versus Quesada: The Mutiny on the San Antonio

Stacks Image 176(work in progress)

April 1520, the Spanish captains of an expedition searching for the passage from the Atlantic to (what is now called) the Pacific ocean mutiny against the Portuguese admiral Magellan. Are they justified in doing so?




IKEA in Russia

(Cases A-D; published in 2016)

IMG_0982Shortly before opening its first store in Russia, IKEA is faced with the demand for a bribe – otherwise the store would not be connected to the electricity grid. What should IKEA do now? Russia was promising very high demand and wonderful growth rates. But was IKEA ready for the level of corruption in Russia?



Dealing with Low-Cost Competition in the Airline Industry: The Case of Lufthansa

Lufthansa plane(Cases A-C; published in 2015; together with Francis Bidault)

In 2002 Lufthansa was not only faced with the overall economic crisis after the burst of the internet bubble but was simultaneously expecting the market entry of even more and new low-cost carriers into the German airline market. What should the airline do to defend its market position?


ESMT’s pitch to EAD Systems

(Cases A and B; published in 2015; together with Johannes Habel)
In 2007, Urs Müller and Christoph Burger were ready to make a proposal presentation to EAD Systems, a company that was looking for a potential provider for the design and delivery of an executive education program.


Deutsche Bahn AG: The heartless train conductor

Picture of train in snow(published in 2015; together with Ulf Schäfer)

In January 2010 a 16 year old girl was told to leave a train late in the evening at a closed train station because she didn‘t have a valid ticket – at about minus 19°C outside temperature. How could this happen after Deutsche Bahn had taken several initatives to prevent such events?


Axel Springer and the quest for the boundaries of corporateresponsibility

Entrance to Axel Springer HQ(published in 2014; abridged version in 2015; together with Anna Hoffmann and CB Bhattacharya)

In 2012 Florian Nehm, head of corporate responsibility at Axel Springer, one of the largest media companies in Europe, ponders whether he should actively take responsibility for the numerous ethical and social issues connected with digital reading devices (such as smart phones or tablets). While Axel Springer acknowledged to have a responsibility for the sources of paper for their newspapers and journals, it was less clear if the same was true for the electronic paper of the future.

Vodafone in Egypt: National Crises and their Implications for Multi-national Corporations

Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011(Cases A and B; published in 2014; together with Shirish Pandit)

January 2011 at the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution, Vodafone was requested to first disconnect the mobile and internet connections at certain areas and then later to also send pro-government text messages. Should the company comply with these requests from the Mubarak regime?
Winner of the “The Case Centre” Case Writing Competition 2014 in the category “Hot topic: Crisis as Opportunity”

Defining the Purpose for Borussia Dortmund GmbH & Co. KGaA

(BVB Fanpublished in 2013; together with Ulrich Linnhoff and Bernhard Pellens)

In its 100th year of existence in 2009, Borussia Dortmund (BVB) was the only German soccer club listed on the stock exchange. With three days to go before the annual shareholders’ meeting on November 24 of that year, the club’s managing directors, Thomas Treb and Hans-Joachim Watzke, went through the year-end figures one more time. Although the situation had improved since 2005 when the club was on the brink of insolvency, the closing accounts once again showed a negative net income. After nine years as a publicly traded company, the BVB had to report its fifth loss, this time for 5.9 million euros, which added up to a cumulative loss of more than 145 million euros. After the passing of a century, many stakeholders were concerned about the way forward. What was the organization’s purpose? What was more important, finally making a profit and meeting shareholders’ expectations, or playing for the fans and the club’s honor? What could the managing directors offer to their shareholders, who had seen the value of their shares drop from 11 euros at the IPO to less than 1 euro in November 2009?

Winner of the ecch Case Writing Competition 2013 in the category “Hot topic: The Business of Sport”

Waltraud Ziervogel at Konnopke’s Imbiss: Re-Inventing a Berlin Icon

Curry Wurst at Konnopke's Imbiß(published in 2012; together with Veit Etzold)
Early 2010 Waltraud Ziervogel, owner of Berlin’s legendary “currywurst”-stand (Currywurst is a typical Berlin saussage) “Konnopke’s Imbiss”, was asked to close the stand due to construction works. She was offered some money to move the business to a different location permanently. This was a great opportunity to rethink some of the fundamental decisions about the strategy and business model of Konnopke’s Imbiss.

Winner of the EFMD Case Writing Competition 2011 in the category “Family Business”

Motors for Munchao

Diesel Motor(published in 2011; together with Mark Young)

This case describes (as basis for a group negotiation exercise) a joint venture negotiation around the import of diesel generators between Hartmut Holgebretsen, VP Sales of Euroland Motors, and Mr. Wu Chang, Deputy Minister at Munchao Motors Import (MMI) in the country of Munchao. The case raises simultaneously business (negotiation), cross-cultural and ethical issues.

Norman Nicholls at “Seattle Management Consultants”

Bribe(published in 2011)
On October 26, 2004, Norman Nicholls ― partner of the consulting company “San FranciscoManagement Consultants” in London (UK) ― received a phone call from Jesper Lind, board member of Telco-Equipment-Experts. Jesper told Norman: “Unless you change your recommendation on the outsourcing job you are doing for Damotel, we will never use your firm as consultant at Telco-Equipment-Experts again.“


Anna Frisch at Aesch AG: Initiating lateral change


aesch-logo(published in 2010; together with Ulf Schäfer)

Anna Frisch observes changes in the purchasing behavior within the German market for medical devices. She proposes to change the marketing approach but gets refused by the people who are responsible for product related marketing. Why did her change initiative fail? Is there still hope for her initiative?

Winner of the “The Case Centre” Case Award 2014 in the category Human Resource Management / Organisational Behavior


Who’s responsible for the Drawbridge Drama?

madman(published in 2010; together with Ulf Schäfer on basis of a story that has been circulating for decades)
A baroness is killed by a madman after seeking help from her lover, a friend and a boatman, who all refused to help her. As she is afraid to get caught by her jealous husband, the baron, she tries to cross the drawbridge back to the castle, but is killed. Who is responsible?


,Do you really think we are so stupid?‘: A letter to the CEO of Deutsche Telekom

Stacks Image 240(Cases A to C; published in 2009; together with Konstantin Korotov and Ulf Schäfer)

In March 2007 René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, received an email sent by a field technician to the entire board. This email (complaining heavily about the ongoing change and cost-cutting initiatives) quickly circulated to almost all of DT‘s 250.000 employees. When the email even got published by journalists, René Obermann had to decide whether to answer to the email.


ecch Best Selling Case 2011
Winner of the ecch Case Award 2013 in the category Human Resource Management / Organisational Behavior

Books and book chapters

Combining Case Teaching and Case Writing Creatively (forthcoming)

(together with Martin Kupp)

In: Latusek, Dominika (ed.) (2016). Case Studies as a Teaching Tool in Management Education.

Minimal change can be best option: Why Berlin snack bar resisted change

(together with Veit Etzold)
In: Managing change. 2014. 6th ed. Ed Bernard Burnes. P.301-302. Harlow: Pearson Education.

Feldkontakte, Kulturtransfer, kulturelle Teilhabe: Winckelmanns Beitrag zur Etablierung des deutschen intellektuellen Felds durch den Transfer der Querelle des ancients et des modernes

(Only in German; translation of title “Field contacts, cultural transfer and cultural participation: Winckelmann’s contribution to the establishment of a German intellectual field through the transfer of the Querelle des ancients et des modernes”)
Book cover
Instead of looking at or comparing national cultures as separate entities this book demonstrates that cultural transfers can make it to the very core of the receiving cultures. This is true when the actor
s performing the import focus on getting successful in the target culture – as is shown using the case example of J. J. Winckelmann.



The Dirty Dozen: How Unethical Behavior Creeps Into Your Organisation

(together with Ulf Schäfer)

in: European Business Review July-August 2016, p.39-43 (also online:

Wie viel Bonus ist gerecht?

(Only in German; translation of title: “How much a bonus is fair?”)
in: Harvard Business Manager 2014:4, p.86-90.

Corruption by design? L’ArtiMarche’s struggles in Russia

in: Emerging Markets Case Studies Collection 2 (1): 1-10


Unkraut oder Blumenwiese?

(Only in German; translation of title: “Weed or wildflower meadow?”)
in: Forum Wirtschaftsethik 2014.

Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas

dealing with ethical dilemmas

Entrepreneurs usually start with great ideas and lots of energy. They need to focus on the development of their product or service, on their customers and on the market in general. This is the right focus! But in doing so, they shouldn’t forget to also watch out for ethical pit-falls inside their companies. And these pit-falls are typically connected to the internal development of the business: the basic challenges of start-up companies such as financing, recruiting and sourcing all lend themselves to unethical or illegal behavior such as corruption and fraud.

You can’t buy authenticity – ONLY IN GERMAN

Employer branding

Short blog article for the of Wolfgang Goebel, Vice President HR McDonald’s Germany, about key success factors for the transition from functional to general management. Amongst others, I believe the following four aspects to be particularly relevant: Humility, Multi-stakeholder management capability, integrity, authenticity.

What we can learn from the alcohol prohibition in the US from 1919 to 1933

what we can learn from the us alcohol prohibition

This short essay summarizes three main lessons that can be learned from the alcohol prohibition in the US from 1919 to 1933: identifying the harm your business causes to others, preparing your company and industry for state interventions, and expect (and preparing for) changes over time. (in ESMT Newsletter, November 2009)

Bookmarks – A recommendation by Urs Mueller: Jerry Newman‘s My Secret Life on the McJob


As someone who has designed customized programs for managers in the fast-food industry, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. I have experienced myself that a „McJob“ is certainly not „McEasy“. Even though many people have prejudices about low qualified jobs, Jerry Newman, Professor of Organization and Human Resources at State University of New York at Buffalo, has found in his research that we can learn a lot about the basic principles of leadership from burger restaurants. In his book „My secret life on the McJob – Management lessons from behind the counter“, Newman summarizes the results of his 14-months‘ field research at seven different burger restaurants. (in ESMT Alumni Magazine, September 2009)

Source of pictures: All pictures in this webpage are either in the copyright of Urs Müller or have been used on basis of a “creative commons licence”. All pictures not in the copyright of me have been linked to their original sources, mostly at Wikimedia Commons.