For most classwork, the end result is knowledge banked for the future. But for Eli Broad College of Business Full-Time MBA students, their latest lessons were being put to use by one of the world’s titans of industry just as they were being learned.
The creation of a go-to-market strategy for an actual, new business opportunity for Big Three automaker General Motors was the outcome of the most recent chapter of “Extreme Green,” an experiential case competition series that took place in late August.
“Our promise to every student, regardless of their functional expertise, was to provide a unique, real-world experience to help them build their confidence, competence, and credibility in open innovation practices,” said Shana Redd, a Broad College professor of practice in the Department of Management who helped lead the immersive learning event.
“We believe we delivered on this promise by developing a challenging and industry-agnostic business opportunity, training on a process that stimulates creativity, supplying tools to build an actionable business model, and with the support of GM’s leadership team, providing an audience of experienced professionals from whom our students received feedback and guidance,” Redd said.
During the two-year MBA program, each student participates in four Extreme Green competitions, themed on confidence, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. This competition was the third of those four.
The particulars of the winning idea are a secret, as it will be used in a real-world, competitive situation. Winning pitches were selected Friday, Aug. 24, by GM officials at the GM Tech Center in suburban Detroit, after the teams spent the preceding two days developing their concepts.
“The winning ideas were best able to understand GM and iHub’s strengths and how we would leverage them in their proposed solution,” said Mohammad Ehaab, who co-founded the iHub innovation program at GM, which worked with the Broad College MBAs. “They were able to clearly articulate their value proposition and how they would position this solution in the market to gain competitive advantage.”
“This has ignited new conversations which will help GM and iHub make future decisions about how to generate revenue and prove the value of innovation,” Ehaab said.
“We gave students a chance to tackle a real business challenge we face at General Motors. “The challenge was to make innovation sustainable by generating revenue,” Ehaab said. “Often, when a company needs to cut costs, innovation is one of the first things to go as focus shifts to big-money products. This is why it’s so important to prove the business outcome of supporting innovation.”
Seventy-three Broad College student teams were divided into 13 teams of up to a half-dozen students each. “This provided us with 13 new perspectives and possibilities in how to tackle this challenge,” Ehaab said. “We focus on doing. This was ‘design doing.’ We spoke less and emphasized the power of action-oriented learning, or learning by doing.”
And each team was “diverse in professional experience, functional expertise, and thought,” Redd said. “They worked relentlessly for 56 hours, challenging themselves to understand and use human-centered design training to develop desirable, feasible, and viable business solutions.”
“I am impressed with the extraordinarily high level of engagement and intellectual rigor displayed during this event,” Redd said.
The MBAs utilized skills taught at Broad College and imported from GM.
“We showed them how we, at iHub, use ‘the iHub Way’ to tackle problems,” which combine human-centered methods and design principles “to go from understanding pain points to creating a business case and pitching it to decision-making senior leaders,” Ehaab said.
The winning teams were:
- First place: Eric Preston, Vivek Sidagam, Robby Multani, Krish Mehta, Evan Annis, Andrew Hoefer.
- Second place: Sean Creighton, Kelly Huston, Mitchell Owens, Hysen Parampil, Lizzy Kennedy, Mohit Bhake.
- Third place: Dustin Reid, Joseph Holmes, Jason Siegfried, Prikshit Ravesh, Kartik Gupta, Anirudh Gupta.
Members of the first-place team won $850 per person. Runner-up team members got $400 each, and members of the third-place team each earned $250.
The next installment of Extreme Green will launch in the spring of 2019, and it will be centered around entrepreneurship.
“I’ve watched the Extreme Green (innovation) program evolve exponentially over the last few years, increasing our visibility to leadership, equipping us with dedicated coaches who provide feedback and guidance, and immersing our students in GM’s culture,” Redd said. “It’s an event unlike any I’ve seen in this role, and I’m thrilled to see what’s next.”