I would recommend the following steps to improve your creativity:
- Recap the situation until that moment
- Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
- Identify some key MECE areas. Potential division includes: Number of units - Price per unit (eg to identify the components to reduce costs); Current-New (eg to structure product, customers, distribution channels); Financial-Non financial (eg to compare ways to enter a market)
- Brainstorm inside each of the areas. Your creativity in this area is directly correlated with the number of cases you have done. If you feel weak in one specific industry, the most efficient strategy is to go though consulting MBA handbooks (there are many available for free online) and screen the list for the industries interesting for you.
I provided an example below.
Interviewer: So, generally speaking, how would you decrease the cost of raw materials?
Step 1: Recap the situation
Interviewee: So, if I understood correctly, you would like now to move to the elements that could decrease this cost. If it is fine for you, I would like to do a small recap and then move through the key elements that can help to do so. At the beginning you asked me what brought a decline in profits. We have identified the problem lays in Product A, and in particular in the cost area. We then found out that the main increase in cost was related to raw material.
Interviewer: That’s right.
(Notice you may have gained 30 seconds of additional time summing up information)
Step 2: Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
Interviewee: Do you mind if I take 1 minute to think about it?
Interviewer: Please take your time.
Step 3: Identify some key MECE areas
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 in these two components.
(Notice that even if you are brainstorming, you are first presenting a list of the MECE areas. This is fundamental to brainstorm correctly)
Step 4: Brainstorm inside each of the areas
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:
- we may use lower quality material;
- we may negotiate with the supplier;
- we may look for someone else as supplier.
In order to decrease the number of units, we may do two things:
- we may start to use a more efficient technology for our raw material, so that we have to buy fewer units;
- we may also substitute some of the units with other type of materials, ideally cheaper.
Hope this helps,