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6 Brainstorming

Session 6: Brainstorming

This is easily the most important session of the training.

Building off the estimation approach, we now move to brainstorming. You should think of brainstorming as an equation from the estimation cases, but an equation with more than one branch. Like an equation with more than one branch, we also prioritize the areas we want to analyse and ignore others. In this case, you can see why we start with estimation cases. They are a simple format of a decision tree.

To brainstorm, you need to build a decision tree. If you cannot build a decision tree, you cannot brainstorm, and if you cannot identify the drivers of an issue, you cannot build a decision tree. So it all starts with drivers. We teach 4 types of decision trees, and therefore, 4 ways to build out drivers, and 4 important steps to quickly and effectively brainstorm. Sounds easy, but it is not.

The challenge, across all candidates, is to force them to move away from ingrained habits of finding a structure/hypothesis and force fitting it to the brainstorming session. That takes a lot of effort since most people do right-to-left thinking naturally versus left-to-right thinking. Both are important, since one is good for hypotheses, but the other is good for decision trees.

A candidate must do both well and, as we show later, you can build much better hypotheses using left-to-right thinking, a little trick we will teach our candidates.

We use brainstorming to explain the concept of MECE, which is generally well understood in the session, but candidates tend to forget it later and we need to constantly test this concept.

Candidates who can brainstorm well will never need to memorize a case framework for the rest of their lives and can avoid the trap of needing to do >100 cases merely to try and find every type of framework. Moreover, comfort with this technique plays a major role with confidence building since the candidate never needs to worry about facing a case without a bag full of frameworks. They will not need them.

We are unique in this regards. We do not teach frameworks, but teach candidates how to create bespoke frameworks. There is a profound difference.

There is a myth that interviewers do not like frameworks. That is incorrect. Rather, interviewers do not like the manner in which candidates use/introduce a framework. Done correctly, a communication and structuring skill we consistently address, using a framework is a pleasant experience. That said, using a framework developed just for the case is quite different from memorizing frameworks. The latter is not recommended for the reasons above.

The candidate will continue loading scanned copies/photos of their practice attempts as well as podcasts/videos. We encourage candidates to pick practice brainstorming questions influenced by their daily experiences.

In the session descriptions which follow, we are using one description for 4 different candidates. Yet candidates do not perform the same, and while the descriptions are mostly accurate, there will be some differences as a few cases are brought forward, others moved back or candidates fail to prepare adequately. While these differences are minor, they sometimes occur.

Cases questions taught in the session:

Felix’s cases recorded in the session; Estimate Apply iPad and iPod nano sales, Brainstorm how to increase Arizona tourism revenue, Brainstorm how to increase your disposable income, Brainstorm how to set prices for a new consumer electronics device & Brainstorm how to increase Facebook’s revenue.

Rafik’s cases recorded in the session; Estimate the number of cupcakes sold in a single day, Brainstorm how to fix a Yellow Pages business, Brainstorm why Facebook’s valuation is dropping & Brainstorm what drives variable cost at an investment bank.

Samantha’s cases recorded in the session; Estimate iPhone sales per day, Brainstorm how to increase your salary, Brainstorm what a company should do with excess cash & Brainstorm what an entrepreneur should do with excess cash.

Sanjeev’s cases recorded in the session; Estimate the number of photo’s loaded to Facebook per day, Brainstorm how GSK can increase HIV drug sales, Brainstorm how to lose weight & Brainstorm why Prada’s show at New York Fashion week would have been considered a failure.

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