Cookie and Privacy Settings

This website uses cookies to enable essential functions like the user login and sessions. We also use cookies and third-party tools to improve your surfing experience on preplounge.com. You can choose to activate only essential cookies or all cookies. You can always change your preference in the cookie and privacy settings. This link can also be found in the footer of the site. If you need more information, please visit our privacy policy.

Data processing in the USA: By clicking on "I accept", you also consent, in accordance with article 49 paragraph 1 sentence 1 lit. GDPR, to your data being processed in the USA (by Google LLC, Facebook Inc., LinkedIn Inc., Stripe, Paypal).

Manage settings individually I accept
expert
Expert with best answer

Anton

100% Recommendation Rate

4 Meetings

1,087 Q&A Upvotes

USD 179 / Coaching

6

How can I improve my performance on brainstorming? How to develop “our-of-the-box” thinking?

6 answers

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best Answer
Book a coaching with Anton

100% Recommendation Rate

4 Meetings

1,087 Q&A Upvotes

USD 179 / Coaching

Hi,

Great question. Strong brainstorming approach is something that can add a lot to your performance and separate you from other candidates.

There are typically 3 stages of any brainstorming exercise at MBB:

1) Prepare a long list of potential solutions to a problem

You need to create a MECE list of relevant ideas, which can solve the problem. Ways to approach:

  • Zero drafting - this technique helps establish what you currently know and get your initial ideas out of your brain and onto paper
  • SCAMPER technique
  • Substitute - take a part of the product, service or process etc. that you could replace with another to see whether it will result in improvements, such as efficiency gains
  • Combine - one idea might not work alone, but you could combine several ideas, processes or products into one more efficient output. A great example for a combination of two different products are cell phones with an integrated camera
  • Adapt - an idea that worked to solve one problem could also be used to solve a different problem. An example for the successful adaption to a new situation is Netflix. The company started out in 1999 as a DVD rent provider, but they quickly realized that the future belongs to online streaming and changed their product
  • Modify - Changing part or all of the product or process, or distorting it in an unusual way
  • Put to another use - put the current product or process in another purpose or use the existing product to solve problems. For example, this technique can be used to learn how to shift an existing product to another market segment or user type
  • Eliminate - eliminate inefficient processes with the goal of streamlining them. An example for eliminating is Apple’s approach to not include an optical CD drive in their laptop to make them thinner and lighter
  • Reverse - explore the innovative potential when changing the order of the process in the production line
  • Analogy thinking - explore inspiring cases and mix their top features with your industry, to come up with new powerful concepts
  • Forced connections - take two unrelated concepts and forge a relationship between them

2) Prepare a shortlist of solutions

You need to select solutions that would be financially adequate, could be achieved in the foreseeable future and do not face any constraints of the client situation.

3) Prioritize solutions

Apply 80/20 rule to select 20% of initiatives that would generate 80% of the upside effect.

Best,

Anton

Hi,

Great question. Strong brainstorming approach is something that can add a lot to your performance and separate you from other candidates.

There are typically 3 stages of any brainstorming exercise at MBB:

1) Prepare a long list of potential solutions to a problem

You need to create a MECE list of relevant ideas, which can solve the problem. Ways to approach:

  • Zero drafting - this technique helps establish what you currently know and get your initial ideas out of your brain and onto paper
  • SCAMPER technique
  • Substitute - take a part of the product, service or process etc. that you could replace with another to see whether it will result in improvements, such as efficiency gains
  • Combine - one idea might not work alone, but you could combine several ideas, processes or products into one more efficient output. A great example for a combination of two different products are cell phones with an integrated camera
  • Adapt - an idea that worked to solve one problem could also be used to solve a different problem. An example for the successful adaption to a new situation is Netflix. The company started out in 1999 as a DVD rent provider, but they quickly realized that the future belongs to online streaming and changed their product
  • Modify - Changing part or all of the product or process, or distorting it in an unusual way
  • Put to another use - put the current product or process in another purpose or use the existing product to solve problems. For example, this technique can be used to learn how to shift an existing product to another market segment or user type
  • Eliminate - eliminate inefficient processes with the goal of streamlining them. An example for eliminating is Apple’s approach to not include an optical CD drive in their laptop to make them thinner and lighter
  • Reverse - explore the innovative potential when changing the order of the process in the production line
  • Analogy thinking - explore inspiring cases and mix their top features with your industry, to come up with new powerful concepts
  • Forced connections - take two unrelated concepts and forge a relationship between them

2) Prepare a shortlist of solutions

You need to select solutions that would be financially adequate, could be achieved in the foreseeable future and do not face any constraints of the client situation.

3) Prioritize solutions

Apply 80/20 rule to select 20% of initiatives that would generate 80% of the upside effect.

Best,

Anton

Book a coaching with Adi

100% Recommendation Rate

47 Meetings

4,198 Q&A Upvotes

USD 149 / Coaching

Hey there, great question and am sure a lot people think about this aspect.

Creativity comes naturally to some people - they have the ability to unlock trapped energies within themselves and create a beautiful design, art, music etc. If this is something that doesn't come naturally to you then certain aspects can be learnt & applied relentlessly-Brainstorming/Out-of-box thinking is similar. I am the latter :).

Here are some tips you can use which worked for me over the past years:

  1. Learn about design thinking (google IDEO) and their frameworks and start using them to solve problems (even in personal life)
  2. Stop yourself from jumping into solutioning mode straight away when you encounter any task/activity/problem. Take a few extra minutes to think about all the various aspects associated with that task/activity/problem. Forece yourself to think end to end. Try this: If you leave the car unlocked, it will get stolen. Is this always true? Again practice this every day if not every week
  3. Calm the mind- best ideas come when the number of thoughts in your head are manageable and not when the mind in racing. Meditation/Sports/Music whatever works for you- practice being calm everyday
  4. Focus on the process and less on the outcome. Give your best and with enough persistence, the solution will come to you- this is more of an attitude/mind-set that you can adopt
  5. Be well read generally- books, journals, blogs, news etc etc. Be informed as much as possible

I recommend this book-100 Diagrams That Changed the World by Scott Christianson.

Good luck brainstorming!

Hey there, great question and am sure a lot people think about this aspect.

Creativity comes naturally to some people - they have the ability to unlock trapped energies within themselves and create a beautiful design, art, music etc. If this is something that doesn't come naturally to you then certain aspects can be learnt & applied relentlessly-Brainstorming/Out-of-box thinking is similar. I am the latter :).

Here are some tips you can use which worked for me over the past years:

  1. Learn about design thinking (google IDEO) and their frameworks and start using them to solve problems (even in personal life)
  2. Stop yourself from jumping into solutioning mode straight away when you encounter any task/activity/problem. Take a few extra minutes to think about all the various aspects associated with that task/activity/problem. Forece yourself to think end to end. Try this: If you leave the car unlocked, it will get stolen. Is this always true? Again practice this every day if not every week
  3. Calm the mind- best ideas come when the number of thoughts in your head are manageable and not when the mind in racing. Meditation/Sports/Music whatever works for you- practice being calm everyday
  4. Focus on the process and less on the outcome. Give your best and with enough persistence, the solution will come to you- this is more of an attitude/mind-set that you can adopt
  5. Be well read generally- books, journals, blogs, news etc etc. Be informed as much as possible

I recommend this book-100 Diagrams That Changed the World by Scott Christianson.

Good luck brainstorming!

Book a coaching with Francesco

100% Recommendation Rate

3,275 Meetings

11,947 Q&A Upvotes

USD 449 / Coaching

Hi there,

Whenever you get a question on 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.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

Best,

Francesco

Hi there,

Whenever you get a question on 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.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

Best,

Francesco

Book a coaching with Ian

100% Recommendation Rate

194 Meetings

16,190 Q&A Upvotes

USD 289 / Coaching

Hi there. I have a few general suggestions:

  1. Practice/Prepare - The more you practice cases, read case studies and articles (The Economist, The FT, etc), the more "example" 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.

I hope this helps!

Hi there. I have a few general suggestions:

  1. Practice/Prepare - The more you practice cases, read case studies and articles (The Economist, The FT, etc), the more "example" 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.

I hope this helps!

Well creativity unfortunately doesn't come from nowhere. You need to build some fundation to develop it. And for this i would tend to work on four different aspect that are all complementary:

1) understanding of different industries

You will not make sound and interesting suggestions if you don't understand an industry. For instance, if you deal with IT company you can have huge costs coming from servers and data centers. If you deal with retails and clothing, shipment can be done through boats which takes months to arrive and so on. So you need to read. Whether news articles business oriented or Mc Kinsey/Insead review. You'll find a lot of interesting information. Market studies from Deloitte are also interesting (few are free though). Read them, a little bit every day and that will help. Don't select specific industries.

2) practice it actively during your case preparation

When you're practicing cases, takes notes about what you did but more importantly what the person you interviewed did. What suggestion did he/she make and why? Always keep notes. Their ideas will become yours. By understanding their way of reasoning you'll be able to think of new things on your own. Give the same case to multiple people. You'll see that you'll get very different answers. Each of them will help you grow

3) Discuss with friends

Do you have friends that are already working? Discuss of their jobs, what do they do, how are decision being taken and why? Real life experience is very good. In particular during those uncertain times, most companies needed to develop new ways to deal with the pandemic. Ask your friends/family how it went in their companies. Did they like what was put in place? And more importantly why did they like/dislike it?

4) Be curious


This is maybe the most important thing. Be curious. Even in your real life. Ask yourself the question "WHY?". And try to find the answer (on your own but also by looking for it later). Being curious is maybe the best way to develop some out of the box solution. Because it leads you to read and discover a lot of new things. And you never know when you'll be able to put them to good use.

Well creativity unfortunately doesn't come from nowhere. You need to build some fundation to develop it. And for this i would tend to work on four different aspect that are all complementary:

1) understanding of different industries

You will not make sound and interesting suggestions if you don't understand an industry. For instance, if you deal with IT company you can have huge costs coming from servers and data centers. If you deal with retails and clothing, shipment can be done through boats which takes months to arrive and so on. So you need to read. Whether news articles business oriented or Mc Kinsey/Insead review. You'll find a lot of interesting information. Market studies from Deloitte are also interesting (few are free though). Read them, a little bit every day and that will help. Don't select specific industries.

2) practice it actively during your case preparation

When you're practicing cases, takes notes about what you did but more importantly what the person you interviewed did. What suggestion did he/she make and why? Always keep notes. Their ideas will become yours. By understanding their way of reasoning you'll be able to think of new things on your own. Give the same case to multiple people. You'll see that you'll get very different answers. Each of them will help you grow

3) Discuss with friends

Do you have friends that are already working? Discuss of their jobs, what do they do, how are decision being taken and why? Real life experience is very good. In particular during those uncertain times, most companies needed to develop new ways to deal with the pandemic. Ask your friends/family how it went in their companies. Did they like what was put in place? And more importantly why did they like/dislike it?

4) Be curious


This is maybe the most important thing. Be curious. Even in your real life. Ask yourself the question "WHY?". And try to find the answer (on your own but also by looking for it later). Being curious is maybe the best way to develop some out of the box solution. Because it leads you to read and discover a lot of new things. And you never know when you'll be able to put them to good use.

Book a coaching with Clara

100% Recommendation Rate

50 Meetings

12,384 Q&A Upvotes

USD 229 / Coaching

Hello!

TBH there is no magic recipie here, just lots of practice with different case types.

Cheers,

Clara

Hello!

TBH there is no magic recipie here, just lots of practice with different case types.

Cheers,

Clara

Related BootCamp article(s)

Interviewer-Led vs Candidate-Led cases

Case Interviews can be led by the candidate or by the interviewer: In Candidate-led cases the main challenge is the structure. In Interviewer-led cases the main challenge is to adapt quickly

Related case(s)

McKinsey Questions

Solved 39.0k times
McKinsey Questions Tell me of a situation where you had an opinion and no one seemed to agree with you. What was your goal when you decided to join university / work / clubs / a sports team? Did you have a goal that you were not able to reach? What did you do? What do you want to be remembered for and how are you achieving it? What is your typical way of dealing with conflict?
4.5 5 862
| Rating: (4.5 / 5.0) |
Difficulty: Intermediate | Style: Fit Interview | Topics: Personal fit

Tell me of a situation where you had an opinion and no one seemed to agree with you. What was your goal when you decided to join university / work / clubs / a sports team? Did you have a goal that you were not able to reach? What did you do? What do you want to be remembered for and how are you ... Open whole case

BCG Questions

Solved 26.9k times
BCG Questions What arouses your interest when you are working / studying / doing another activity (from the CV)? Tell me of a time where you had no idea what you were doing. When did you use an uncommon approach to do something? Have you ever had responsibility for other people? Tell me of a situation where you were not the official leader.
4.5 5 212
| Rating: (4.5 / 5.0) |
Difficulty: Intermediate | Style: Fit Interview | Topics: Personal fit

What arouses your interest when you are working / studying / doing another activity (from the CV)? Tell me of a time where you had no idea what you were doing. When did you use an uncommon approach to do something? Have you ever had responsibility for other people? Tell me of a situation where ... Open whole case

MBB Final Round Case - Smart Education

Solved 15.3k times
MBB Final Round Case - Smart Education Our client is SmartBridge, a nonprofit educational institution offering face-to-face tutoring services. The client operates in the US. The mission of SmartBridge is to help as many students as possible to complete studies and prevent that they drop from the school system, in particular in disadvantaged areas. The client is considering starting operations for its services in the Chicago area. They hired us to understand if that makes sense. Due to the nonprofit regulation, SmartBridge should operate on its own in the market, without any partnership. How would you help our client?
4.6 5 528
| Rating: (4.6 / 5.0)

Our client is SmartBridge, a nonprofit educational institution offering face-to-face tutoring services. The client operates in the US. The mission of SmartBridge is to help as many students as possible to complete studies and prevent that they drop from the school system, in particular in disadvant ... Open whole case

Espresso, Whatelse?

Solved 9.0k times
Espresso, Whatelse? Espresso Whatelse is an Italian company that produces coffee and espresso machines since 1908. It is the Italian market leader and has a strong presence overall in Europe. In 2019, Espresso Whatelse has increased its revenues but it has seen declining profit margin. Your client wants to understand the root causes of this 2019 trend and how to increase its profit margin again.  
4.6 5 455
| Rating: (4.6 / 5.0)

Espresso Whatelse is an Italian company that produces coffee and espresso machines since 1908. It is the Italian market leader and has a strong presence overall in Europe. In 2019, Espresso Whatelse has increased its revenues but it has seen declining profit margin. Your client wants to understand ... Open whole case

Hot Wheels

Solved 4.8k times
Hot Wheels Problem definition: Our client is Korean Car Parts (KCP), a multi-national original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of car parts based in Korea. They've recently seen a decline in profits and have brought us in to understand how to address this falling profitability.
4.6 5 284
| Rating: (4.6 / 5.0)

Problem definition: Our client is Korean Car Parts (KCP), a multi-national original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of car parts based in Korea. They've recently seen a decline in profits and have brought us in to understand how to address this falling profitability. Open whole case