How to efficiently / effectively learn a brand new industry or topic?

Industry experience
New answer on Oct 31, 2022
6 Answers
Anonymous A asked on Oct 29, 2022

Hi, I'd like to seek your advice on how to efficiently and effectively learn a new industry or a new topic (ex: digital strategy, operation, M&A…)?

I'm working in a foreign market with very different dynamic compared to my home country. I find it challenging to be able to absorb useful information and “form a view”. Quite often, I study a lot of material but was not able to effectively grasp the core issue of this industry / topic. As a result, I wasn't able to clearly identify core issues and come up with a good structure / storyline. 

Are there any tips on how to systematically learn new industry / topic effectively? Understand that I need to be purpose driven (forming hypo / knowing what specific info to look for), but very often at the start of a project I feel a bit “lost” in tons of information. What be great to learn from you - how to be consiously aware on the key areas to look into and form a view?

Thank you!

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Content Creator
replied on Oct 31, 2022
#1 McK Coach by rating & recommendation rate| Honest feedback: no sugar-coating | Success stories ➨

Hi there, 

I definitely empathise with the situation. I felt like that often when starting projects, especially when I was more junior. 

There are four things that I would attempt:

  1. Search for ‘industry primers’. Most consulting firms have an internal knowledge platform where you can find lots of information or sanitised documents from previous engagements. In McK there were always industry primers - short presentations of 20 or so slides - that gave you a crash course in that particular industry. They gave you just enough information so you wouldn't get lost in those initial conversations. 
  2. Read the LoP for the client. Whenever you start a new project, as for the proposal that was pitched to the client for that particular project. That will help you understand a bit better what was the problem that the client had, how we thought about solving it, why, etc. It will give you a better grounding as to why you're at the client in the first place doing the things that you're doing.
  3. Carve time in the first week of the project (or ideally beforehand) to go through all of the documents on the common folder. First go quickly through them to get a general understanding of the volume of information and how it's structured. Then go again through it with the purpose of actually understanding it. Focus primarily on the workstream that you're working on, but it also helps to get an overall view of what the others are doing. 
  4. Set some time with your manager and other consultants who have been for longer on the project. By this point prepare questions with things that you haven't understood or would like to learn more about. These more experienced consultants will give a more granular understanding of the industry and what is happening at the client. 



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Content Creator
replied on Oct 30, 2022
Ex McKinsey EM & interviewer (5 yrs) USA & UK| Coached / interviewed 200 +|Free 15 min intro| Stanford MBA|Non-trad

I agree with a lot of what others have said - a great way to learn a new industry is to speak with an expert who can give you a 101 lowdown on the industry and answer the specific questions that you have. Often consulting firms have budget in the project to do this or their own internal resources. 

If this isn't an option then you'll want to tackle the learning from a number of sources:

1. Reach out to people in the company you're in and ask them for a teach-in

2. Look for any industry-specific journals / online news sites / blogs 

3. Get on twitter - honestly - and follow people who tweet about the industry 

4. Just a good old google can get you quite far

Good luck! 

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Content Creator
replied on Oct 30, 2022
BCG Project Leader | Former Bain, AlixPartner, and PE | INSEAD MBA | GMAT 780

My suggestion is to do three things:

  1. Try to build a mindmap or an issue tree on the topic you want to lear
  2. Study some relevant material about the subject
  3. Speak with experts on the sujbect

Between each step, you should review your issue tree/mindmap.

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Content Creator
updated an answer on Oct 30, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

1) A coach can give you a full deep-dive/debrief on an industry in 20-30 minutes. I often do this with my candidates if they are struggling with an industry. Often all you need is a 20-30 min run-down

2) You can book a session with a non-coach expert

3) Google

4) Youtube

5) Investopedia

6) Primerli

7) Your peers at the company

8) The company's online portal

9) A company paid expert (you can often book these in in the 1st week or 2 of a project)


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replied on Oct 29, 2022
Ex-Mckinsey (analyst->associate->manager) and now in tech (Bytedance) + Part time interview coach and mentor

The easiest way to learn about a new industry or topic is by locking in a session with a Subject Matter Expert. Strong experts are able to summarize the key findings you're looking for without overwhelming you with details. They can also adapt the style and technicality based on your current level of knowledge.

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replied on Oct 31, 2022
Seasoned project leader with 7+ years of consulting and recruiting experience in USA and Europe

Whenever having to learn an analyze a new market or industry, it helped me a great deal to first get an understanding of the underlying value chain. I would try to create a chart for myself that showed the relevant value chain steps (and sub-steps if applicable) and highlighted key market players and their participation along the value chain. I would also want to understand the power dynamics in terms of who the deciders/influencers are and how the players generally interact along the value chain. There may be different value chains for different products/services of course.

Based on that, I could more easily do deep dives where needed, analyze overall industry trends with better context and “form a view”. 

Consulting firms have internal databases where a lot of such “industry know-how” is usually stored. So before re-inventing the wheel, it's always good to check what's available. 

When you are talking about learning new functional topics, it's good to look at old project examples and general concept roadmaps (what is the sequence of steps that needs to be taken during the process?). Reach out to colleagues who have worked in that field before and ask them for a brief voiceover and some guidance for follow-up

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Cristian gave the best answer


Content Creator
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