Finding creative ideas

creativity
New answer on Sep 09, 2020
5 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Sep 05, 2020

Hi all, in my case practices, I find that I am weak on coming up with creative ideas, which is becomes increasingly important as you get to the partner rounds.

An example would be 'how can free wifi services make money?' and the obvious answer would be various forms of advertisements.

Does anyone have good ideas on how to come up with creative ideas on the spot? Thanks!

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Robert
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Sep 06, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

What is oftenly labelled as 'creative ideas' or 'brainstorming' should be translated on your end to 'structured approach for answering this question'. There is hardly anything like a creative list of ideas to be presented in a case interview.

So the underlying issue is not really a question of creativity, but much more an issue of being able to structure such a question. That's why I am a big fan of standard business concepts and frameworks, because they support most candidates in coming up with some structured response on the fly to such questions.

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

Robert

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Francesco
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replied on Sep 05, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

Whenever you get a question on creativity or brainstorming in the case, I would recommend the following:

  1. Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
  2. Present a first level of the structure with MECE buckets
    1. You can do that even if you have never seen that question before. If you have no idea on how to structure a first level, you can use a structure as X vs Non-X.
    2. Potential examples include: Long term vs short term; Current vs New; Financial vs Non-financial.
    3. The more you practice cases in the right way, the more you will be able to derive appropriate MECE buckets fitting a case.
  3. Brainstorm options in each bucket
    1. Your creativity in this area is directly correlated with the number of cases you have done.
    2. If you are weak in creativity for one specific industry, the most effective strategy is to go through cases of a good consulting MBA casebook for that industry.
    3. There are many casebooks available for free online – although not all are good. Screen the list for the industries interesting for you and work on them. MBA casebooks are not good in terms of the structure of the case but can help to develop creativity.

Below you can find an example of how to brainstorm in a structured way.

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Interviewer. So, generally speaking, how would you decrease the cost of raw materials?

► STEP 1: ASK FOR ONE MINUTE OF TIME

Interviewee. That’s an interesting question. Do you mind if I take 1 minute to think about it?

Interviewer. Please take your time.

► STEP 2: IDENTIFY MECE BUCKETS

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 into these two components.

(Note that even if you are brainstorming, you are first presenting a list of the MECE areas. This is fundamental to brainstorm correctly)

► STEP 3: BRAINSTORM OPTIONS IN EACH BUCKET

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:

  1. We may negotiate a lower price;
  2. We may look for other suppliers.

In order to decrease the number of units, we may do the following:

  1. We may start to use a more efficient technology for our raw material, so that we have less waste;
  2. We may use a new kind of raw material for which there is less waste.

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If you want to learn how to brainstorm and structure all the common questions, please feel free PM – I do a session exactly on that.

Best,

Francesco

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Ken
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replied on Sep 09, 2020
Ex-McKinsey final round interviewer | Executive Coach

Great question and one that I think many find challenging even once hired at a consultancy. You will likely make this judgement based on my 5 min brain dump below... :) Not sure I would agree with your point on "increasingly important" where it's an important aspect worth preparing for in general.

More holistically, as an interviewer, I used the "anything else" question in a few different ways; 1) wanting the candidate to go deeper or missing obvious ideas,
2) lacking uniqueness where the ideas come across as a typical framework where you don't get the sense that the candidate is really thinking fundamentally about the problem,
3) wanting to 'challenge' the candiate to push their thinking as they are doing well or wanting to see how they balance the confinement of their structure vs. thinking outside the box.

1) push yourself to go into the details - e.g., breakdown "various forms of advertising" into 3-5 discrete categories and go deeper in each - a) product tiering where you pay for a premium version, b) commission where you earn a comission when users visit or make a purchase on a specific website, c) sponsorship where companies sponsor your product, d) ad based, e) product/service offering that benefits from free wifi, etc.

2) combine with your observation of an analogous product/service/company - e.g., Google offers several free services offerings through an ad-based model, data monetisation, premiumisation, etc. or Amazon offers a Prime as a subscription based product that comes with offerings that are perceived to be "free", etc.

3) re-structure and prioritise your laundry list - e.g., highlight additional areas which might be less realistic/logical but worth a consideration (e.g., GPS based offering such as Pokemon Go, satnav, where you can make money through direct purchases that are enabled by offering free wifi) and also be able to draw the line/prioritize the more feasible ideas that you would recommend 'the client' to pursue further. This also allows you to deviate from quantity to quality of your 'creative ideas'

One final point would be my personal view is that it's important to enjoy the problem solving and coming up with creative ideas on the spot, or at least convince yourself you do. This comes across to the interviewer - if you enjoy 'problem solving' cases, you will likely enjoy and be successfully 'problem solving' real-life client problems too.

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Antonello
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replied on Sep 09, 2020
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi, coming up with non-standard solutions is one of the key area to work for. In addition to the advices of other coaches, I recommend reading business journals etc. that includes ots of hints adopted by companies

Best,
Antonello

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Ian
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Content Creator
replied on Sep 08, 2020
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep
  1. Practice/Prepare - The more you practice cases, read case studies and articles (The Economist, The FT, etc), the more "examples" you'll have, as you just have more base knowledge to work with.
  2. Repivot and Frame - Pause. And look at the ideas you've come up with. Talk to the interview with you frame/group them. This 1) Shows them you can organise your thoughts 2) Helps you gain some time AND identify potential holes yourself 3) Gives them a window to point you in the right direction (they might say "Ok, that's a good bucket, but it's missing something" or " You're missing a bucket that relates to what you';ve said here")
  3. Ask for Help - This is a tricky one to navigate, but you can ask questions or make statements that try to glean more information from them. For example, "I'm out of ideas, but have any competitors excelled in any areas"..."Do we have any analysis on this?"..."etc. etc.
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Robert gave the best answer

Robert

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McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author
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