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Asking questions under brainstorming questions

Anonymous A asked on Oct 12, 2018 - 2 answers

Hi!
In the case you have got a brainstorming question, and realize that you do not know enough about the industry or particular issue at hand to discuss all potential sides of the question: Is it ok to ask questions about how part of the industry works to gain knowledge about that part of the industry?

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Vlad
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updated his answer on Oct 12, 2018
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Hi,

Usually, you have brainstorming questions in the middle / end of the case when you should already know a lot about the objective / business industry. Thus you should be asking the right clarifying questions at the beginning of the case:

You should ask the following questions:

1) Clarify the business model. Ask how the company actually makes the money. For several reasons:

  1. Even if you think you understand the business model, you need to make sure that you understand it correctly.
  2. Some cases have pitfalls related to a business model (re profitability cases with several revenue streams
  3. You need to understand the revenue streams to make a proper structure. E.g. if the case is about oil&gas company which revenues are declining, ask if it is Up / mid / down-stream problem. In this case, defining a revenue stream is critical to setting up the right structure. (At the end of the day it may be the decline of snack sales at the gas stations:). In case of telecom company it may be the problem of the core business (wireless) or non-core (landlines, internet)

2) Clarify the objective. Here make sure that your goal is:

  • Measurable
  • Has a time-framed
  • Has / has no limitations

e.g. Should I invest 100k in this business for 1 year if I want to get 15% return?

3) Ask the questions that will help you build a relevant structure and remove ambiguity.

E.g. in the market entry case ask whether we are entering the country organically or non-organically

!!! Finally - do the recap after asking the clarifying questions. Although most of the case books suggest to do it immediately at the beginning of the interview, it makes much more sense to clarify the situation first and then to make sure that you understand everything correctly.

Best!

(edited)

Guennael
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replied on Oct 12, 2018
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Yes, you obviously want to know something about what you will have to brainstorm about. If you haven't had time to learn about it in the case so far, definitely do ensure you are roughly on the mark now. Note that being a newbie in a specific industry / issue may actually be an advantage.