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Guest Post: Spicing Up the Assignment Problem in Class at Washington State U.

April 22, 2011

Chuck Munson is Associate Professor of Operations Management at Washington State University. He is also the author of the Instructor’s Resource Manual for our OM texts. Here Dr. Munson describes an interesting class exercise for Ch.15.

In an attempt to generate student interest in the assignment problem, I recently created a little in-class exercise called “Celebrity Apprentice,” where the task for the students was to assign each member of a celebrity team to a specific task for a rich potential client. The goal was to secure business from this client, who’s managers are accustomed to responding positively to bribery and favors. The six tasks were: (1) handle the money, (2) take the managers to a bar and drive them home, (3) sing to them in a private concert, (4) take them golfing, (5) locate female escorts for the managers, and (6) negotiate the contract. The six celebrities on the team were: (1) Lindsey Lohan, (2) Tiger Woods, (3) Mel Gibson, (4) Lady Gaga, (5) Charlie Sheen, and (6) Chuck. (By inserting yourself in the list, you can provide several self-deprecating remarks that the students may enjoy regarding your respective abilities to perform tasks.)

When I tried the exercise, the students laughed a lot, and they enjoyed shouting out ratings and arguing with each other about the scores. Some tasks led to ambiguous ratings, depending on the celebrity. For example, for the “take them to the bar and drive them home” category, certain celebrities might be rated high based on their respective partying skills; however, several of the same celebrities have been picked up for drunk driving or even getting into car accidents while drunk. So what rating would be appropriate? In some cases, the instructor can even assign ratings outside of the normal range for extreme fit or lack thereof (again, this is where self-deprecating remarks can draw some laughs). The students seemed to get a kick out of the whole thing, and I expect to repeat this exercise in the future. If you try it, have fun! The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

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