How would you quantify the difference between two very different things?

approaching a case asking questions Framework teamwork
New answer on Aug 08, 2020
3 Answers
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Mike (Mustafa) asked on Aug 06, 2020

Hi all.

Recently, we had a team meeting, and some interesting topics were put on the table.

However, our team leader gave an exciting question for the team to solve.

How would you quantify the difference between THE Blue Pill "that one" and an M&M's candy?

The propose of this question is to test our approach to an unusual problem.

I am thinking of actually looking at like this:

  • the active ingredients in each
  • what is the documented impact
  • target market
  • selling price
  • where to find

I am curious to learn how different your approach would be.

Cheers.

(edited)

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Sidi
Expert
replied on Aug 06, 2020
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi!

This is a very nice example of a question that is too undefined to structure. So the precondition to come up with any meaningful approach is ot nail down the person who asked the question on the reference point of his question! So you have to ask:

"Difference with respect to WHAT?"

Otherwise your structure is nothing but pure speculation, and most likely a complete waste of time. Once you know what the focus is (e.g., nutritional value, perceived quality of taste,...), then you can translate this into a quantifiable focus metric (you could also call this "KPI"), then deconstruct this focus metric into its components (by using a logic tree), and then research/estimate/calculate the values for each branch of the tree.

Cheers, Sidi

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Mike (Mustafa) on Aug 06, 2020

Hi Sidi... Great response. Really appreciate it. Do you have any other examples of similar questions/problems?

(edited)

Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Aug 06, 2020
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi Mike,

Great question!

I agree with Sidi in that, you forgot to ask your clarifying questions! We need to know what difference we're looking for. Perhaps even asking "why do we need to quantify the difference" would help.

That being said, lacking an answer I actually think your approach is quite good. I would just add "physical characterists". So, taste, touch, smell, look, feel. Pretty important in my mind :)

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Mike (Mustafa) on Aug 07, 2020

Hi Ian, thank you so much. I have actually discussed this question and asked my manager some clarification questions, it was pointed out to the team that we should decide on the method and with respect to what. The only hint is choose qualities that can be quantified. If taste can be quantified, then no issues. I chose three parameters to compare: the active ingredient, age of targeted market segment, and selling price. It seems to be an acceptable approach.

Anonymous replied on Aug 08, 2020

Dear Mustafa,

Actually nice approach you have.

And also I would like to agree with other experts, that for better out comes of discussion it's needed to clarify the objective of discussion. Especially "What specifically difference you want to quantify"

Best,
André

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Mike (Mustafa) on Aug 10, 2020

Hi Andre. Thanks for sharing. The question was intentionally left with an open-ended objective. This way, we (team members) would have to decide on our unique approach. I used multiple points of reference to create my comparison. Since there are no restrictions, I focused on the following: A) the most prominent active ingredient of each product and the quantity of that ingredient; B) target segment information and age of the consumers; and finally, C) the known selling price. I was able to tabulate the comparison efficiently. Others brought excellent points as they chose other parameters to compare. Example: one member used the physical appearance to quantify the difference, another member was able to quantify by sales figures and where each product is sold. At the end of the exercise, each member brought something different, which helped us create an excellent overview of each product's differences.

Sidi gave the best answer

Sidi

McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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