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Is mind mapping for solving a case study ok?

Case Interview case study issue tree MECE Structure
Recent activity on Jan 31, 2017
2 Answers
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Laura asked on Jan 26, 2017

Hello everyone,

After going through some case studies I have realised that the suggested strategy of structuring your thoughts by using an issue tree and/or a common framework first "limits/hinders" my ability to think broad and see the big picture. The fact that issue trees are meant to be MECE makes it sometimes difficult for me to include other important aspects which should be investigated but are either not captured explicitly by the issue tree/framework (e.g. customer segmentation in an otherwise profit-equation based problem) or are not MECE (e.g. analysing growth potential and competitiveness in a market entry case). Consequently, I found myself forgetting to analyse other important areas simply because the issue tree or framework was too specific to capture them.

What really helped me here was to do some mind mapping of all the relevant aspects/areas I wanted to investigate right after the case was presented to me. After that, I determined which of these areas was the most critical one in order to solve the case and focussed on this area during my analysis. Thus, the mind map only served as a "preliminary structure" which ensured that I saw the "big picture" while being able to determine the "direction" of my analysis. Then I would develop a MECE framework for the critical area and anaylse it. A mind map is not necessarily MECE and not as structured as an issue tree. However, it helps me a lot in not forgetting about other important areas to consider in addition to the "key area" which would not have been captured by applying a MECE framework right away.

My point here is, is it ok to use mind mapping first to get a preliminary overview of the situation, identify the focus of your analysis AND THEN continue with developing a MECE structure of critical area identified?

Sorry for this too long question but I just wanted to make sure that you get my point :)


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updated an answer on Jan 31, 2017
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Laura,

Based on my experience, you should be able to make each issue tree/framework inclusive of all the important areas of the case. If you find that this is not happening and you are forgetting areas, it probably means your issue tree/ framework is not complete, and you should integrate it with additional elements, rather than adding mind mapping.

Let's take the examples that you mentioned:

Customer segmentation in an otherwise profit-equation based problem

Before moving to the profitability equation, you can ask for customer segmentation and then apply the profitability equation to that specific client. To be more clear, something like this:

Analysing growth potential and competitiveness in a market entry case

Given a certain amount of competitiveness (usually found in a qualitative way) you can estimate the growth potential for a company (usually in quantitative way). The same thing holds for the growth potential for a market (which is even less influenced by competitiveness). Therefore, with the appropriate priority in the analysis of the elements, you could make MECE your approach in the analysis.

As a consequence, rather than dividing the process in two steps, you may merge your mind mapping with a "common framework", to create your personalized framework. This will make your initial structure longer, compared to a "common framework", but also more effective than dividing the process in two steps.

It is also important to remember that sometimes your first level of the structure would have to be sequential to be MECE, as we saw in the previous example.

Let’s see a concrete example for an entry in a new market case to be developed in two levels:

Level 1 of the structure (current mind mapping)

Let’s say you have structured as follows:

  1. Industry analysis
  2. Company analysis: are we going to reach our goal in this industry (profitability, revenues, keeping a competitor out…)?
  3. Best way to enter
  4. Risks

(This is indeed an example of a sequential structure, as, for example, you may want to explore the best way to enter the market only if you can find you would meet your goal in that market).

Once presented, potentially going deeper in each of the points, you could then start analysing in details the first point. Here usually the interviewer will conduct to a specific area of the case, in particular in a McKinsey-style interview. In both cases you would then move to

Level 2 of the structure (current “common framework”)

Say the interviewer will ask you to calculate if you would reach your target profitability goal in this market. At this point, you may apply a profitability framework, with the traditional issue tree.

Overall, you could make both the levels as part of your customized framework from the beginning, without the need of considering the first as mental map and the second as “common framework”.

Hope this helps,



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Laura replied on Jan 31, 2017

Thank you for your very informative answer, Francesco!

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Francesco gave the best answer


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