MBA students from the Broad College of Business got a rare chance to see behind the curtain at the internal operations of one the world’s largest automakers as part of a specialized course called Extreme Green. Extreme Green is an annual short course built into the MBA program that is geared toward provoking creative and innovative thinking.

MBA students who participated in the Extreme Green course at GM.

MBA students who participated in the Extreme Green course at Broad gather for a photo at GM’s World Headquarters in Detroit

As part of the project, the Michigan State University students were given access to top-secret General Motors intellectual property in order for the students to brainstorm new ideas around real-world business concepts. Each team also received mentorship from GM executives as they shaped their creative vision. In the end, students spent 20–40 hours (on top of their traditional 50–60 hour academic week) to create and present on business ideas designed to leverage GM’s core competencies and the latest technology in innovative ways.

“It’s been inspiring to see, and be a part of, the future of auto,” Kristen Haugen (MBA ’16) said after pitching her group’s vision to their GM representative.

“From my perspective, the opportunity to create innovative business models and ideas in a live project situation, for a corporate partner, is a special experience,” said Wayne Hutchison, director of academic and program services for Broad’s Full-Time MBA Program.

GM pushed the students to imagine the future of automotive technology and innovate around where automotive technology and connectivity are heading in order to think of the next big idea. “You have to think of what you like, what you want to get out of it, and push yourself to do better,” Bimlesh Kumar (MBA ’16) explained.

“By asking for answers or solutions to an ambiguous problem, but limiting yourself in certain capacities, practical innovation is born,” said Daniel Napier (MBA ’16). “The exposure to how GM thinks, some of the new innovations they’re working on (that I can’t talk about), gives us a huge advantage in going into the automotive or other innovative manufacturing industry. Additionally, presenting an idea, that you came up with, to managers and vice presidents of a Fortune 10 company is an enormous opportunity very few people have the chance at to practice,” he said.

The winning team will be the guest of General Motors leadership at the 2016 North American International Auto Show.