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The most efficient way to prepare for brainstorming of ideas

Anonymous A asked on Aug 07, 2017 - 2 answers

Hi, colleagues!

What do you think the most efficient way to prepare for brainstorming of ideas on different industries? I think I could make up the list of all industries, read McKinsey Quarterly on the trends of each industries, write them down and revise every day. Is it a good way to prepare for 'creativity' questions? For example, i failed the last case on banking I was not able to provide the interviewer with the exhaustive list of creative ideas on making credit cards successful since I am not quite familiar with the banking industry.

Thank you!

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replied on Aug 07, 2017
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Here is how you should answer these questions:

1) Ask an interview for a minute to think

2) Think of several buckets of ideas (e.g. scope / value proposition). Remember to think as big as possible

3) Narrow down to each bucket and generate as much ideas as possible (e.g. scope: vertical growth, horizontal growth, new products. Value proposition: additional services, improved quality, etc.)

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

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

There are several sources of info 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 Sep 01, 2017
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Hi Anonymous,

you do not necessarily need to be able to cover all the industries to improve brainstorming; rather, it could actually be better to learn very well how to do the following three things:

1) Clarify the goal you have to achieve

2) Clarify information on the industry when you are not familiar with it

3) Learn to be structured in a MECE way

This could lead you more easily to the right solution then a deep knowledge of industries.

Taking your example, let’s say that indeed you are not familiar with the banking industry, and you get a question on making credit card successful. You could proceed as follows:

  1. Clarify the goal: What does it mean successful? Do we want to achieve a specific amount of revenues/profits? If so, how much? (Let’s assume the goal is to increase profits by 1 million)
  2. Clarify information on the industry: As I am not familiar with the industry, I can make the hypothesis that source of revenues could be [ELEMENT 1] or [ELEMENT 2], and source of cost [ELEMENT 3] or [ELEMENT 4]; do we have any information if there are additional sources of revenues and costs?
  3. Be structured in a MECE way: In order to maximize revenues we could work on increasing the price or the volume offered. Given what you told me in addition to the elements I listed, I would say that in order to increase the price we could do [OPTION 1] or [OPTION 2]. To increase volume we could do [OPTION 3]. On the other hand, if we want to decrease the cost, we could either decrease the cost per unit or the number of units. From the information you provided, I would say we could do [OPTION 4] or [OPTION 5].

In addition to practising the previous three steps in cases where you are not familiar with the industry, I would suggest to read cases for MBA consulting handbooks (many of them are freely available online – I would suggest to read at least 80 cases) to develop the ability to know better the main industries (in this way, you could feel the ELEMENT and OPTION slots above); that should be done with the goal of making brainstorming easier, not to have a full knowledge of every industry, since that would neither be expected o necessary to successfully land an offer. Carlos, Vlad and Nuno have also discussed the topic at the following link:

Hope this helps,


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