Words in Sentences (WIS)

This team exercise is drawn from pg. 648 of Gordon, Judith. Organizational Behavior. 5th ed.


Your team is a small company that manufactures words and then packages them in meaningful English-language sentences. Market research has established that sentences of at least three words but not more than six words are in demand. Therefore, packaging, distribution, and sales should be set up for three- to six- word sentences.

The words-in-sentences industry is going to be highly competitive. Several firms are about to enter the market, all using the exact same raw materials and pricing. This means that your ability to compete depends on two factors: volume and quality.

Your task is to design and then run an efficient WIS company. You will be given a fixed amount of time to design the structure of the organization and work out the technology, then you will actually start producing words.

Raw Materials & Production Standards

For each production run, you will be given a "raw material phrase". The letters found in the phrase serve as the raw materials available to produce new words in sentences. For example, if the raw material phrase is "dark, warm, narcotic American night" (from a Tom Waits song), then the letters {a,c,d,e,g,h,i,k,m,n,o,r,t,w} are all available, and you could produce a sentence like "More men eat meat than women."

However, there are certain specifications that your sentences must meet, or else they will not pass quality inspection. They are:

  1. The same letter may appear in a manufactured word only as often as it appears in the raw material phrase. For example, given "dark, warm, narcotic, American night" as the raw material, you would NOT be allowed to write "The common wart won't die" because "common" uses two os in the same word, yet the raw material phrase has only one o.
  2. Raw material letters can be used as often as you like in different manufactured words, even in the same sentence. For example, "More men eat meat than women", which uses 5 'e's in total, is allowed, even though the raw materials phrase only has only one e.
  3. A manufactured word may only be used once during a production run. For example, "The men eat more meat than the women", is not allowed because it uses "the" twice. And the pair of sentences "Men eat" and "Women eat meat" are not allowed because "eat" is used twice. Once a word is used in any sentence, it is out of stock and cannot be used again in any sentence.
  4. A word is defined by its spelling, not its meaning. So a sentence using the word "beat" (as in "I beat you in chess") and also "beat" (as in "I will beat you with this club") in the same production run will NOT be allowed.
  5. A new word may NOT be made by adding "s" to form the plural of an already used manufactured word. So if you have used "dog" you cannot then use "dogs". On the other hand, if you use "eat" you can also use "eats", because (if interpreted as a verb) eats is not the plural of eat.
  6. Nonsense words, phrases and non-grammatical sentences are not allowed. Hence "I ball walk now" is unacceptable. In addition, nonsense sentences are forbidden. For example, "colorless green ideas sleep furiously" is unacceptable. It MUST make ordinary sense.
  7. All words must be in the English language, and in a dictionary. Well-established "bad" words like s**t that have "correct" spellings are allowed, but words like "wuss" or "wassup" are not acceptable. The ultimate rule is that the word is legal if it is in my 1984 copy of Webster's II New Riverside Dictionary.
  8. Names and places are acceptable.

Measuring Performance

The output of your WIS company is measured by the total number of words that are packaged in acceptable sentences. Note that if any word in a sentence is unacceptable, the entire sentence is thrown out. If two different sentences use the same word, the words in the first sentence are counted, but the words in the second sentence are ignored.

Sentences must be numbered consecutively and easily legible. This means you need to be recopying sentences onto a final sheet as you go along.

The Quality Control Review Board (made up of representatives from each team) will then count up the scores for each company. If questions of acceptability come up, the board will vote. In the event of a tie vote, the outcome will be determined by flipping a coin.

Copyright 1996 Stephen P. Borgatti Revised: October 19, 2004 Go to Home page