Brainstorming - prioritisation vs creativity

brainstorming brainstorming questions Case Interview
New answer on Oct 31, 2023
10 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Feb 10, 2021

Hi all,

In brainstorming questions in case interviews, is it generally better to give a few (2-3) good ideas that cover the most important points, or more (6-8+) ideas that are a bit more creative, but perhaps not that relevant and might miss the main key ideas.

I realise that both versions need to be structured and grouped cohesively, and also realise that there isn't a strict trade-off between the two options I've suggested, but within the context of a case where you might get 30 seconds to come up with ideas, I feel myself not sure which one to lean towards.

Any ideas would be much appreciated, cheers!

(edited)

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Anonymous replied on Feb 10, 2021

Hi,

I would recommend following a step-by-step approach to impress the interviewer without knowing their intention to ask this brainstorming question. Sometimes the interviewers want to evaluate your creativity, sometimes they would like to understand your judgement for most important drivers. Here is what I mean with step-by-step approach:

  1. Ask for a short time (10 secs) and take quick notes about 6-8 ideas you can find in that topic. Even unrealistic ones make sense to be included in this long list
  2. Choose the most relevant and critical 3-4 ideas, group them in your mind under sub-topics
  3. At the end of 10 secs, explain the groups (sub-topics) and support them with 3-4 critical ideas
  4. If interviewer would like to evaluate your creativity, they would ask for more ideas. Then, use the remaining ideas in the long list, deliver them using the same grouping (sub-topics) you have determined at the beginning
  5. If the interviewer asks for more ideas, don’t panic. Try to find more ideas instantly, as you speak and don’t limit yourself. Try to be as creative as possible
  6. If you are stuck and out of ideas, you can kindly say that that’s all you can find

Hope this is clear and it helps!

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Norah
Expert
replied on Feb 10, 2021
I am here to get you an offer! | Ex MBB interviewer Expert in MBB and Tier 2, Deep knowledge of EU & Middle East regions

Hi Anonymous, thanks for the interesting questions.
I would recommend acting as follows:
1. If not clear, ask the interviewer to clarify the question
2. ask the interviewer for a moment (10-30 seconds) to think about a structure of ideas
3. think about MECE buckets of ideas. For example, "you are at home and angry, what do you do" answers could be:
a - Order food
b- Cook food
c- Eat snacks
d- Wait for later
this is MECE and action-oriented
4. If they ask you for more ideas, it's fine just take time to think about it. The goal is to keep being structured
Feel free to send me a message if needed Thanks

Norah

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Gianluca
Expert
replied on Feb 10, 2021
zeb | Goldman Sachs | Bocconi | HSG

Hi,

as in most situations, the best approach is in the middle. This means that you should always begin from the key points/ ideas needed to give a meaningful answer, but, at the same time, you should also go in as much depth as possible, as consulting interviews are frequently very detail-oriented and if your answers are too "superficial" then you may be prompted for a more comprehensive answer.

Of course, if you only have 30 seconds, you should focus mostly on the ideas that have the highest impact on the case. However, please note that, even if at first you are given a short time frame to provide an answer, you will often receive follow-up questions where the above considerations apply. Additionally, it is usually also ok to ask for a minute or two to gather your thoughts.

Best,

G

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Ken
Expert
replied on Feb 10, 2021
Ex-McKinsey final round interviewer | Executive Coach

Great question! I must say that its most likely both but I would typically start with the fewer priortised and relevant ideas first (i.e., 3-5).

If you share 2-3 prioritised ideas in a structured and MECE way, your interviewer will most likely ask "anything else" where they will push you for more. On the other hand, if you initially give them more (i.e., 6-8+) then they will probably ask you to prioritse and assess which of your ideas makes most sense.

Good luck!

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Florian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Feb 10, 2021
Highest-rated McKinsey coach (ratings, offers, sessions) | 500+ offers | Author of The 1% & Consulting Career Secrets

Hey there,

Both concepts are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the strongest candidates are able to combine them for an excellent answer.

First, focus on breadth, depth, and inventive ideas (while being MECE, communicating top-down, and using signposting), then clarify what you would prioritize in the next step.

Cheers,

Florian

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Gaurav
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Feb 10, 2021
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hi there,

I agree with the coaches - it is somewhere in between , and yet the interviewer will try to push you into giving you more options.

Even a lit of stories should be well- structured. Again, MECE is a great approach.

Cheers, GB

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Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Feb 10, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

It´s not either/or.

You need to:

  • Try to say as many ideas as possible
  • make them as original as you can
  • Don´t forget the obvious either, even if they are not original!
  • Group them/structure them in a comprehensive way

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Ian
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Content Creator
replied on Feb 10, 2021
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

I'm sorry but there isn't a yes/no answer here! Unfortunately, the Q&A is much more nuanced than you're making it!

There are situations where 2-3 ideas is what's needed, and others where 6-8 are.

Ultimately, you need to have a structured, mostly comprehensive set of ideas that directly address the objective/question and are communicated in a clear way.

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Vlad
Expert
updated an answer on Feb 10, 2021
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

In creativity questions several things are important:

  • Structuring the ideas
  • Being able to provide as many ideas as possible
  • Being able to see the big picture, i.e. your ideas can be broad in scope

Thus, the more the better. But make sure that they are more or less realistic.

Hope it answers your question

Best

(edited)

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Oct 31, 2023
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Ideally, you'd give many options that are creative and all should be relevant.

I wouldn't make it and either or sort of question :) 

The most important thing to begin with is to listen to the question closely and then seek to come up with points that are really specific to the client situation (i.e., making the answer as insightful as possible). 

Sharing with you a guide on structuring techniques that you might find useful to review:


Best,
Cristian

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