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Sidi

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How to improve creativity and thinking broad

Hi all,

I receive feedback from my first round of case interview to improve thinking broad and creativity when answering brainstroming question and even structure any good suggestion to improve this area before next round?

Thanks a lot!

Hi all,

I receive feedback from my first round of case interview to improve thinking broad and creativity when answering brainstroming question and even structure any good suggestion to improve this area before next round?

Thanks a lot!

6 answers

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Hi!

Brainstorming questions in MBB interviews are essentially exercises in top-down thinking.

  • As for all brainstorming questions, you have to first define your objective (usually this is a quantifiable metric).
  • Then you have to disaggregate each element of the definition into its components.
  • Then you derive the potential influencing factors for each of the components, before then developing ideas on how to affect these influencing factors into the desired direction.

This is also true for non-profit situations. E.g.:

"How to improve the education system in country XYZ?"

  1. You have to define, what improvement means! Otherwise structuring is impossible! It could, e.g., be number of children entering the school system, or number of graduates generated by the school system, or quality of these graduates, etc. So let's for example assume it is "number of children going to school"
  2. Then you disaggregate this definition into its logical drivers (which determine whether families send their children to school). E.g., you could structure drivers into financial reasons (school fees, cost of school material, opportunity cost of children not helping generate family income anymore), logistical reasons (distance of schools, etc.), psychological reasons (attitude towards "western" education, etc.)
  3. Then you can develop ideas how to influence each driver in the desired direction (e.g., making school fees cheaper, creating a secondary market for school books, subsidizing families that send their children to school, organizing bus transfers, making the school network more granular, etc.). Here you can become very creative - and you will develop MUCH more ideas then if you would have just tried to generate a laundry list without a top down structure.

Cheers, Sidi

Hi!

Brainstorming questions in MBB interviews are essentially exercises in top-down thinking.

  • As for all brainstorming questions, you have to first define your objective (usually this is a quantifiable metric).
  • Then you have to disaggregate each element of the definition into its components.
  • Then you derive the potential influencing factors for each of the components, before then developing ideas on how to affect these influencing factors into the desired direction.

This is also true for non-profit situations. E.g.:

"How to improve the education system in country XYZ?"

  1. You have to define, what improvement means! Otherwise structuring is impossible! It could, e.g., be number of children entering the school system, or number of graduates generated by the school system, or quality of these graduates, etc. So let's for example assume it is "number of children going to school"
  2. Then you disaggregate this definition into its logical drivers (which determine whether families send their children to school). E.g., you could structure drivers into financial reasons (school fees, cost of school material, opportunity cost of children not helping generate family income anymore), logistical reasons (distance of schools, etc.), psychological reasons (attitude towards "western" education, etc.)
  3. Then you can develop ideas how to influence each driver in the desired direction (e.g., making school fees cheaper, creating a secondary market for school books, subsidizing families that send their children to school, organizing bus transfers, making the school network more granular, etc.). Here you can become very creative - and you will develop MUCH more ideas then if you would have just tried to generate a laundry list without a top down structure.

Cheers, Sidi

Hi A,

I would recommend you to structure your brainstorming. Simple 2by2 matrix might help you. So, if you can provide an initial framework, which you would like to brainstorm, in the very beginning, it would be helpful just to settle down your brainstorming. And then, you would be able to communicate it.

Just to give you an example. Let's brainstorm according to the value chain on the options. So we start with research and development, brainstorm on these topics, continue with supply, then with production, then with sales and marketing and then with after-sales.

This is typical framework, which you can use in brainstorming.

Hope it helps.

Best,
André

Hi A,

I would recommend you to structure your brainstorming. Simple 2by2 matrix might help you. So, if you can provide an initial framework, which you would like to brainstorm, in the very beginning, it would be helpful just to settle down your brainstorming. And then, you would be able to communicate it.

Just to give you an example. Let's brainstorm according to the value chain on the options. So we start with research and development, brainstorm on these topics, continue with supply, then with production, then with sales and marketing and then with after-sales.

This is typical framework, which you can use in brainstorming.

Hope it helps.

Best,
André

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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

(edited)

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by being proactive during mock cases and - also after the end of the simulation - try to add non-conventional solutions to the case. Newspaper and business journals help a lot in building a business sense and some innovative solution useful during the case resolution

Best,
ANtonello

by being proactive during mock cases and - also after the end of the simulation - try to add non-conventional solutions to the case. Newspaper and business journals help a lot in building a business sense and some innovative solution useful during the case resolution

Best,
ANtonello

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  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.
  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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Hi there,

There are also some techniques which can help you to boost your creativity:

  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone. It will help your brain to think outside the box.
  • Put more effort into rethinking the problem from different sides.
  • Move mentally away from the problem. Try to see it from above.
  • Make your brain work on something absurd to shake it up.
  • Move more. It saturates the brain and makes you feel better.

All the best,

GB

Hi there,

There are also some techniques which can help you to boost your creativity:

  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone. It will help your brain to think outside the box.
  • Put more effort into rethinking the problem from different sides.
  • Move mentally away from the problem. Try to see it from above.
  • Make your brain work on something absurd to shake it up.
  • Move more. It saturates the brain and makes you feel better.

All the best,

GB

(edited)

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