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Extreme Green: Where MBAs Use Kids’ Toys to Creatively Problem-Solve

“Everyone builds. Everyone shares. Everyone listens.” These were the three rules given to the room full of first-year Broad College of BusinessFull-Time MBA students participating in Extreme Green, a three-part course designed to hone skills in strategic visioning, problem resolution, team development, and structured communication. How would they be doing this? With Legos, of course.

Full-Time MBA students began “Extreme Green,” a three-part course that teaches students to think creatively to solve business problems.

The week before, MBAs were given a case study and worked with their smaller teams to solve a business-focused problem in a more traditional setting. This week, they were led by facilitators Tamara Christensen and Karen Lynch to tackle a business case study for Meijer and P&G, in which each team had three hours to devise a solution to three problems. Each group gave a presentation, followed by a Q&A session with their peers.  “The workshop will help you think in new ways. You’ve already solved the problem before. We’re giving you a new slate,” said Christensen, founder and partner of Idea Farm.

The students began the session with a series of tasks to familiarize themselves with the Legos, as well as the fast-paced environment at which they would be moving throughout the course of the day—which reinforced the importance of flexibility and quick-thinking. This warm-up portion of the day showed how some students preferred no guidelines, while others felt anxious without instructions; some students have used Legos their entire lives, others have never touched them.

Whether experienced with the childhood toys or not, the students quickly grasped the intent of the workshop. “The Legos allowed us to better visualize the problem at hand and combine our solutions in an integrated fashion,” said Christine Price (FT-MBA Supply Chain Management ‘18).

One particular advantage of the day’s agenda was the atmosphere it created—which seemed a welcomed change of pace from the rigorous curriculum. Lynch explained this by she called the Play Theory:  “When you are at play, you are at a more relaxed state of mind. This allows us to trust and enhances communication in a safe space,” she said.

The students found these methods, which are backed by years of research and practice, beneficial to their growth. “It was helpful stepping away from a business setting to something more casual where we focused on visual learning and being as creative as possible,” said Brandon Maat, (FT-MBA Marketing ‘18). “It was a good interruption to our normal routine, having the time to step back and see things differently.”

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