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Brainstorming Question - McKinsey

BCG Bain McKinsey
New answer on Oct 31, 2023
4 Answers
1.4 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Aug 10, 2020

Dear all,

I have three questions regarding the brainstorming part of McKinsey's interview:

1. If I'm asked to brainstorm some factors to increase something (eg: sales, profit) would it be okay to ask for time and take around 1 minute or I have to give him an answer in 10-15 seconds?

2. When structuring the brainstorming is it okay to go with one layer to solve the problem or do I have to go two layers deep?

3. After communicating my structure to the interviewer, what do I do? Do I link it to the big picture and objective or give a hypothesis on what to do next? I really don't know what to do exactly

Thank you!

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Content Creator
replied on Aug 11, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

1. For any brainstorming mid-case (i.e. not the begining) 1 minute is way too long! You should really be aiming for 10-15 seconds.

2. You should first summarize at one layer, but then go a second layer deep. "Layers" here really just mean that you're structuring your thinking.

3. So now I'm confused :). When you say "Brainstorming part" of the interview do you mean the framework or do you mean midway through the case? After brainstorming and after framework you should have a view as to where to go next (however, with McKinsey they should direct you)

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

Great questions. 

In short, yes, you can and always should take time.

How many levels deep should you go? There's no set number. It rather depends on the granularity and scope of the question.

I'd say that 80% of brainstorming questions can be solved by just having a couple of high-level areas and then going straight into presenting the ideas.

Sharing with you a resource here with the core brainstorming techniques:


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Content Creator
replied on Aug 13, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

I guess the key issue to point out here is that there is nothing like a real "brainstorming" question at McKinsey. ABS - always be structured, even if it sounds like a creative brainstorming question.

10-15 seconds is ok to think about the top layer(s) of your hopefully structured answer. The remaining parts of the structure you need to figure out on-the-fly once you are there.

Once you are finished try to integrate the findings of that "brainstorming" into the overall picture of the case and proceed as planned by your initial structure.

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!


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Anonymous replied on Aug 12, 2020

Dear A,

1. Brainstorm means not taking so much time for your thoughts. So 10-15 is ok.

2. I would recommend you to start with one layer and then gradually you can go deeper.

3. Actually, you should have a viw where to go next.


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Ian gave the best answer


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