How do Partners/APs deconstruct cases?

case structure
New answer on Jul 31, 2022
4 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jul 28, 2022

Hi everyone,

I have heard quite often about “First Principles” (breaking things down to fundamental truths and building up from there) and how it is used by Elon Musk and consulting firms to solve problems. Could you show an example of how that is done in a real project? 

Thank you.

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Ian
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updated an answer on Jul 28, 2022
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Hi there,

It's really hard to write down an example here! Normally this requires a live back-and-forth. But let's see what we can do here.

Let's use GM (General Motors) as an example. Tesla was/is threatening their market (combustible engine). Question: Can we do nothing? No, we'll be extinct in a matter of decades. So, what can we do? Only thing we can do is try to compete. Can we compete? Not as we currently are. What are we missing? Well, we need AV AND EV tech. Can we build EV tech? Probably…we're engineers. Can we build AV tech? No way…we're not developers/coders/AI specialized. Ok, so how can we then build AV? We need help. Should we partner or buy/merge? We'd like full ownership + we want to build a platform for AV+EV across GM. Ok, so we have to buy/merge. Who should we buy? Someone who is already working on AV and shows promise. Cruise looks good. Ok, how do we integrate? Well, we don't want to “ruin” them and their culture. They're doing something that is working, we just need to enable them and make sure we can leverage what they're already doing. Ok, so let's buy, but not quite merge. We'll give funding + support, and coordinate so that their tech can fit into our cars, but otherwise let's go with more of a Disney + Pixar model.

Make sense?

The above is a lot of text, but I have dozens of video recordings where I talk through these topics in depth. Feel free to reach out if interested!

How do I use frameworks in a case?

If there's anything to remember in this process, is that cases don't exist just because. They have come about because of a real need to simulate the world you will be in when you are hopefully hired. As such, remember that they are a simplified version of what we do, and they test you in those areas.

As such, remember that a framework is a guide, not a mandate. In the real-world, we do not go into a client and say "right, we have a framework that says we need to look at x, y, and z and that's exactly what we're going to do". Rather, we come in with a view, a hypothesis, a plan of attack. The moment this view is created, it's wrong! Same with your framework. The point is that it gives us and you a starting point. We can say "right, part 1 of framework is around this. Let's dig around and see if it helps us get to the answer". If it does, great, we go further (but specific elements of it will certainly be wrong). If it doesn't, we move on.

So, in summary, learn your frameworks, use the ones you like, add/remove to them if the specific case calls for it, and always be prepared to be wrong. Focus rather on having a view, refering back to the initial view to see what is still there and where you need to dive into next to solve the problem.

Here's some more reading on casing: https://www.preplounge.com/en/articles/how-to-shift-your-mindset-to-ace-the-case

 

(edited)

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Rami
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replied on Jul 28, 2022
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Hi there, excellent question!

“First Principles” help you distill the fundamental elements behind a problem, to make them more manageable to solve. This is typically used in consulting projects to logically crack problems and communicate them clearly to clients. It is essentially scientific thinking, or the alternative you may have heard as “hypothesis-driven thinking”.

A few tangible examples to help:

  • To build a table - you need wood, nails, and a hammer/saw
  • To buy a house - you need a seller, a contractual agreement, and a witness
  • To re-use an empty can of coke - you can either recycle its material, its shape, and/or its brand

A few conceptual (consulting-related) examples to help:

  • To increase profits - you can increase revenues and/or decrease costs
  • To develop a new product - you can either build from scratch or outsource
  • To address a dying business - you can either turn it around or dispose of it

Once you have these “fundamental principles”, then you can expand on the second-order implications. Taking the dying business example (third consulting one above):

  • Turn around: what is the investment needed? what capabilities are needed? what is the required timeline?
  • Dispose of: what is the residual value/how much can I salvage? how can I increase it? who can I sell it to?

This is how the methodology is applied in consulting to push the thinking further through logical framing sequences.

Hope this helps!

Rami

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Clara
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replied on Jul 31, 2022
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Great answers were given here already. 

To add my two cents: try to always think about any problem as an issue tree, so you start in the left of the whiteboard with the problem. Then start building branches from that problem, of the different components of it, and so on. 

Cheers, 

Clara

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Cristian
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replied on Jul 31, 2022
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Hi there,

On a very very simple level, thinking from first principles is literally just thinking about the problem and trying to break it down into its component parts as opposed to applying an already existing framework to a problem (e.g., market entry framework). 

Best,

Cristian

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Ian gave the best answer

Ian

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