for what concerns the structure for brainstorming, I would suggest the following:
- Recap the situation until that moment
- Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
- Identify some key MECE areas. Potential division includes: Number of units - Price per unit (eg to identify the components to reduce costs); Current-New (eg to structure product, customers, distribution channels); Financial-Non financial (eg to compare ways to enter a market)
- Brainstorm inside each of the areas. Your creativity in this area is directly correlated with the number of cases you have done
I provided an example below:
Interviewer: So, generally speaking, how would you decrease the cost of raw materials?
Step 1: Recap the situation
Interviewee: So, if I understood correctly, you would like now to move to the elements that could decrease this cost. If it is fine for you, I would like to do a small recap and then move through the key elements that can help to do so. At the beginning you asked me what brought a decline in profits. We have identified the problem lays in Product A, and in particular in the cost area. We then found out that the main increase in cost was related to raw material.
Interviewer: That’s right.
(Notice you may have gained 30 seconds of additional time summing up information)
Step 2: Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
Interviewee: Do you mind if I take 1 minute to think about it?
Interviewer: Please take your time.
Step 3: Identify some key MECE areas
Interviewee: Thanks; I believe there are two key areas to decrease the cost of raw material; we may decrease the cost of each unit, or we may decrease the number of units we buy. I would like now to go a bit deeper in these two components.
(Notice that even if you are brainstorming, you are first presenting a list of the MECE areas. This is fundamental to brainstorm correctly)
Step 4: Brainstorm inside each of the areas
Interviewee: Well, in order to decrease the cost per unit we may do a couple of things, keeping in mind we want to maintain revenues at the same level:
- we may use lower quality material;
- we may negotiate with the supplier;
- we may look for someone else as supplier.
In order to decrease the number of units, we may do two things:
- we may start to use a more efficient technology for our raw material, so that we have to buy fewer units;
- we may also substitute some of the units with other type of materials, ideally cheaper.
For what concerns the conclusion I would recommend the following:
- Repeat the question. As an example: "Our goal was to understand (i) why profits are declining and (ii) how we could increase profits"
- Answer first solution. As an example: "After our initial analysis, we found out that:
- As for your first question, profits are declining due a decrease in profits in division 1. More specifically…[SPECIFIC FINDINGS]
- As for your second question, in order to increase profits. We would recommend shutting down division 1. That’s for the following reasons…[SPECIFIC FINDINGS]"
- Provide next steps. As an example: "As additional elements to explore, we would like also to consider the following elements…[RISKS/NEXT STEPS]"
It also seems you may improve your communication. The best way to properly communicate the structure in a brainstorming question would be the following:
- STEP 1: mention first the macro areas of your framework. “In order to help our client, I would like to focus on three main areas. Number 1 we may work on [FIRST TOPIC], Number 2 on [SECOND TOPIC], Number 3 on [THIRD TOPIC]. If this is fine for you, let me go deeper in each of them”
- STEP 2: provide details for each macro point. “In area Number 1, this is what I would analyse. First, I would like to cover [FIRST STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]; second, I would like to focus on [SECOND STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]; next, I would like to work on [THIRD STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]. In area Number 2, this is what I would analyse. First,(…)”
The fastest way to improve on structuring AND communication is to find great partners or experts specialized on that, as this allows you to improve on both the content of your structure and the way you present it.