The first exercise of the new school year for Eli Broad College of Business Full-Time MBA students? Just to solve a real challenge for a global corporate behemoth. And do it by the end of the week.

studentThat’s the goal of “Extreme Green,” an experiential business case competition series, of which the first installment launched Wednesday, Aug. 22. The current edition is partnering MBA students with General Motors staff on an issue facing the Big Three automaker. A solution is due to GM executives by Friday, Aug. 24.

“This is a no-kidding” project “for a live employer,” Wayne Hutchison, director of the MBA program and academic services for the Broad College, told students at an event kickoff this week. “This is why we do this. We have a big deal company that has asked us to partner with them. We’re going to learn from each other. We’re going to work very hard. And we’re going to create some cool stuff.”

Shana Redd

Shana Redd

GM is asking the Extreme Green team to work with its employees to create a real go-to-market strategy for an actual, new business opportunity at GM.

“The goal is to help us build creative confidence and to understand paths to innovation, and then to take that fuzzy front end of innovation and turn it into real, tangible business models,” said Shana Redd, a Broad College professor of practice in the Department of Management who is helping to lead the immersive learning event.

“It’s one thing to read concepts in a book. In order to truly internalize it, understand it, and understand how volatile business is, and how things change and you must be flexible, we really need to experience it first-hand,” Redd said. “GM offers us the opportunity to step into their world, to address a real business opportunity with a real business answer, and we cover all that in 56 hours.”

Student teams will have Wednesday and Thursday to work on their proposals before a final pitch meeting Friday at the GM Tech Center in suburban Detroit, where winners will be selected. Members of the team with the best idea will win $850 each from GM. Runner-up team members will get $400 each, and members of the third-place team will each earn $200.

GM finds great value in such partnerships with the Broad College, said Mohammad Ehaab, who co-founded the iHub innovation program at GM, which is working with the Broad College MBAs.

“The first thing (of value) is building relationships with universities like Michigan State. We value the fact that they have great MBA students that will come out and eventually will work for us,” Ehaab said. “We think this is a great place to play. I feel like this is a sandbox.”

Ehaab said Extreme Green brings together “a lot of great minds in one single room … What better way we can use the 70 MBA consultants to solve a problem for us in three days?”

Extreme Green team members will also have an opportunity to network with GM representatives. “You’re basically interviewing for a job … (with) instant feedback and conversation about what possibilities could be,” Redd said. “This program has been a proven pipeline for hiring talent at GM.”