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Weak Creative Brainstorming part

Anonymous A asked on Apr 06, 2018 - 4 answers

Hi Experts ,

I recently got a feedback from one of the MBBs that my structure and quant is great but i lack in creativity in the last section . Any specific ways to improve the same ?

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replied on Apr 07, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

I would recommend the following steps to improve your creativity:

  1. Recap the situation until that moment
  2. Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
  3. 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)
  4. 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:

  1. we may use lower quality material;
  2. we may negotiate with the supplier;
  3. we may look for someone else as supplier.

In order to decrease the number of units, we may do two things:

  1. we may start to use a more efficient technology for our raw material, so that we have to buy fewer units;
  2. we may also substitute some of the units with other type of materials, ideally cheaper.


Hope this helps,


replied on Apr 06, 2018
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Probably you did not answer the question on creativity properly (e.g. could you think of 10 possible ways of increasing the revenue?)

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 judgment 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 information 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 best 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 understand 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!

Anonymous replied on Apr 06, 2018

Hey anonymous,

If it's McKinsey, an easy tip is for you to ask for additional time to think about the problem and brainstorm on your own, which is easier than out loud.

Overall, two ways to improve in creativity questions are:

  • think through a pre-existing framework/approach (e.g., value chain, customer journey, production process, etc)
  • get familiar with additional business materials and cases, so that you can further cultivate your business knowledge and acumen (especially important if you come from a non-business background)



Anonymous A updated her answer on Apr 06, 2018

Adding on to this . Has anyone worked on this specifically and prepared like a doc of key points from all the common industries and would be willing to share it?

Many Thanks