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How to respond to creative thinking question?

Conceptual thinking
Recent activity on Mar 21, 2018
2 Answers
3.0 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Mar 20, 2018

Hi guys,

In many cases, there is typically a creative question in the latter part of the case, e.g., pros and cons of an initiative, why would you do or not do something, ways to reduce a risk from something, generating additional sources of sales etc.

Do you have suggestions how to train for such questions and how to approach them?
This is what I could think of:

1. Take time to brainstorm.

2. Bucket ideas to show structure and help yourself with thinking.

3. Creative questions can be very wide in nature, but I frequently found helpful to look at such questions through the lenses of capabilities, finance and core activities. Is it something that you'd want to do right now or can do later? Can you do it easily or you'll need more capabilities? Do you want to do it yourself or can you outsource and focus on more critical activities that will define your success?

4. Improve business judgement

Please share your take on how to approach and train for this question.

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Best answer
replied on Mar 20, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Several tips here:

1) Always ask an interview for a minute to think

2) Think of several buckets of ideas (e.g. organic growth / non-organic growth / differentiation). Remember to think as big as possible

3) Narrow down to each bucket and generate as many ideas as possible within each bucket

4) Present the structure (buckets) and then your ideas

Creativity is in direct correlation with your business judgment. Business judgement is directly related to industry knowledge. Focus on the most common industries in the following priority (sorted by probability of getting a case): 1-retail and CPG; 2-airlines; 3-Telecom; 4-banking; 5-natural resources; 6-tech

There are several sources of infotmation to develop industry knowledge:

1) Cases - you simply solve 50-70 cases and get a broad knowledge of different industries, common pitfalls and questions. The key here - find good partners who already had case interviews with MBB companies

2) Company reports, equity reports, IB roadshow docs - usually have a good overview of company and industries. Annual company reports are probably the bast source of information about the industry

3) HBS cases - quite useful, but not sure if lot's of them available publically. Probably worth buying

4) Books - one good book about airlines with numbers and industry analysis can give you all needed industry knowledge

5) News, Industry blogs

For each industry, you should understand:

  • Revenue streams
  • Cost structure
  • Margins
  • Key performance indicators
  • Key revenue drivers
  • Industry trends

Also some comments about particular industries:

1) Retail - make sure you understand key retail metrics (P&L lines, same store sales, revenue per square meter and per person, etc) and how distribution works as well as its metrics (share on shelf, etc)

2) Airlines - read about profitability issues, different routing models, cost structure, industry metric s like load factor and make sure you know all possible additional revenue streams

3) Telecom - I would read industry reports and try to understanf how telecom is transforming with internet penetration and tech innovations

4) Banking - you should know the key products in corporate and retail banking and how they earn money (Interest, commision, transactional)

5) PE / M&A - go through available case examples and read about different PE strategies

Good luck!

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replied on Mar 21, 2018

Hey anonymous,

Your approach is already a very good one!

Tackling your 3rd point: throughout my consulting career I'm finding the following 3 points as some of the most helpful ones when breaking down problems: 4Cs, value chain and customer journey.



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