Traditional brainstorming meetings are still one of the most conventional ways of generating ideas and solving problems in companies across the globe. With traditional brainstorming, participants of the sessions simply contribute ideas at random but remain an essential way to bring together diverse ideas and recommendations. Brainstorming sessions can be structured or unstructured. Many believe that unstructured brainstorming is a tremendous waste of creativity and potential. When you brainstorm with structure, you have a goal in mind and you start by asking the appropriate questions.
Understanding Structured Brainstorming
In order for brainstorming to be structured, there are few things that need to be present:
- Clear and concise guidelines for the conversation, this will ensure the input is made in a controlled manner and is constructive.
- Having a diverse group is the best way to collect ideas and follow creativity from many different angles but there must be mutual respect and trust between the participants. Distrust or feeling uncomfortable can limit creativity and free thinking.
- There must be a stated objective or goal. If the participants comprehend what is expected from the session, they are more inclined to think along those specific lines.
- Each participant must get the chance to provide their input.
Brainstorming Methods and Framework
The most important step in a brainstorming session is for the participants to clean up the inputs, discard the duplicates and review each remaining idea. The groups should sort, organize and discuss how to prioritize the remaining ideas in a logical order for further discussion. The end objective is that ideas must be actionable.
Structured Brainstorming in Case Interviews
The candidate will usually brainstorm alone during a case interview. Using brainstorming as part of the analysis will be a little different to traditional brainstorming sessions. Structured brainstorming in case studies will assist the consultant to work through the problem-solving process in an organized, logical and analytical way and keep the consultant focus on moving toward the objective.
Brainstorming using a structured framework like MECE or Logic Tree in case interviews will allow the consultant to quickly move through solving problems through a hypothesis-driven approach.
Customized Framework-Client Driven Structured Thinking
Structuring your thoughts in a logical, organized way is best done adopting a framework that will assist in navigating you through the problem-solving process quickly and efficiently. This is extremely essential during a case interview where you have limited time to identify solutions. There is, however, one critical fact that you must remember. Never adopt the framework just as it is in a case. Solving the case in a structured way is not about how many frameworks you know how to use. It is about how you use the framework as a foundation and develop it considering the context of the case at hand. A structured framework must be client driven.
A number of popular analysis frameworks can be used as a foundation to brainstorm case interviews. Below we have briefly outlined a few of the core frameworks most often used for case interview brainstorming:
This framework can be applied to breaking down the problem to its core. The logic tree represents a graphical method of breaking down a complex problem using a hypothesis-driven approach to focus on the most pressing problems first. The logic tree can equally be applied to achieving a solution for the problems identified.
The MECE principle represents a way of breaking down and grouping information logically. The groupings will be mutually exclusive (ME) and collectively exhaustive (CE). Simply put, the information will be broken down into distinct elements. Each element can only go into one box. The elements cannot be duplicated. If it fits into more than one box, it is NOT mutually exclusive. Once the information has been grouped, each will then be broken down further until all possibilities have been exhausted, leaving no alternatives.
- Familiarize yourself with the basic, most commonly used core frameworks and concepts. These will serve you well as a foundation for developing your case driven structure.
- Be flexible. A few case interviews will require you to utilize a series of concepts/structures in order to identify solutions. For example, if the case interview is for a client launching a new product you need to understand the key customer segments, complete a market size and competitor analysis.
- Practice is key to finding solutions using structured frameworks. Take time to practice case interviews that will enable you to apply the various concepts and frameworks.
- Remember your framework is just as important as the solutions.
How many petrol stations are there in the UK?
To get to this answer, we have to determine the answer to the following 3 steps:
- To start off with and until we have the real numbers, we will start with the number 1 to determine the total number of gas stations.
- Let's accept that the population is 80 million and there is 1 car for every 4 people. This means that we would have a total of 20 million cars.
- Now that we have established the number of cars, we need to reach the estimation for the total demand by day/week/year.
- Step 1-What is the demand for the gas stations? 1.35 million is the total demand.
- Step 2 - This would give us ~650 cars every day. This is the number of cars served by a gas station in one day.
Want to learn more?
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Our case interview method
Our case interview course has been developed by MBB consultants with clear goals in mind - To teach you how to think, act and communicate like a world-class strategy consultant. By going through it you'll become equipped not only to ace the interview process, but also to be a top performer at your firm.
Other methods focus on helping you memorize dozens of frameworks and pre-packed structures. We take a different approach. We believe that distinctive candidates and distinctive consultants don't rely on crutches and that they use their own minds to solve the toughest problems. We're here to help them master the concepts and processes they need to be able to shine. We can support you in:
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