Undergrads Advise Executives In New Ross Class


On a recent Friday afternoon, executives from P&G listened to ideas on how to expand the market for one of their core product lines. Teams presented results from their original market research and offered wide-ranging suggestions on how P&G could meet its ambitious goal.

But the teams presenting the ideas to the P&G execs were not highly paid professional consultants — at least not yet. They were undergraduate students taking a new class that serves as a great example of the Michigan Ross dedication to hands-on learning.

The Action Learning Projects course — an elective available to Ross undergrads — calls on students to employ a number of important business skills.

‘A Complex, Urgent Problem’

“I wanted students to solve a complex, urgent problem that is of importance to the client, understand the inherent ambiguity of the situation, and use qualitative and quantitative skills to develop actionable recommendations relevant to the client,” says Professor Anuradha Nagarajan. “Along the way, I wanted them to develop their personal strengths, learn how to be an invaluable team member, and develop leadership skills.”

A student taking part in the Action Learning Projects
course addresses P&G executives

For the P&G project, students tackled the problem of dramatically increasing the number of millennial customers buying Swiffer cleaning products — 1 million new users by next summer.

As the students presented their final project to a team from P&G, all the course objectives were on full display. Students used both existing research and their own primary research, including two different surveys and several focus groups, to get a handle on the issue. Then they offered a number of specific recommendations to reach the goal, covering topics like market segmentation, tailoring both advertising platforms and messaging, and ways to boost sales via online outlets.

After the presentation, David Loux, an assistant brand manager for P&G, complimented the students’ work.

“You have to talk about cleaning in a whole different way if you want to reach that group,” he says of the millennial market. “I thought that they did a very good job of taking ideas and turning them into how we would execute that game plan. They were incredibly professional.”

‘As Real as it Can Get’

“This class helped me to address an abstract problem in a tangible way,” says Haider Malik, a junior in the Ross Minor in Business Program. “Really, we did in this class what big-name consulting firms do for their clients. We broke down P&G’s problem into smaller parts, figured out which pieces are the most important, collected primary data, and conducted analyses to figure out the solutions. At the end, we were able to roll it all back into a cohesive, big-picture presentation.

When you’re presenting this stuff to leaders from the visiting companies, they’re going to ask you some pretty tough questions.

- Haider Malik, Junior
Ross Minor in Business

“These classes are as real as it can get. You’re working with actual data and real companies with millions of dollars at stake. When you’re presenting this stuff to leaders from the visiting companies, they’re going to ask you some pretty tough questions about how you came to the conclusions that you did. To me, those stakes and that experience are what made it all worth it.”

Nagarajan concluded, “Based on the reports and presentations, the students have definitely achieved the goal of satisfying the sponsors. The sponsors were amazed at the depth of the primary research and the innovative recommendations. I am amazed at the outstanding quality of work delivered by our students and am proud to have been their faculty lead.”

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