Solve all the (business) problems!
February 28, 2014 6:12 AM   Subscribe

How do I find and learn about creative ways to solve the complex problems that businesses face these days?

I find myself in a new and exciting role dealing with some very interesting and challenging business problems. For example, trying to figure out why sales of our products have gone down over the past few years and what we can do from a marketing and strategy point of view to fix it.

I am working on a team with consultants from McKinsey & Co and am amazed by their problem solving skills.

I am a fairly recent MBA graduate and hold an engineering degree, but I feel like school didn't prepare me for the challenges of the real world - except maybe the case method in the MBA program.

How do I keep my brain sharp and learn about creative ways to solve interesting and challenging problems like these?

I'd love to be able to download real cases from HBR and read them through and try and solve them, but without any access to the instructors solutions or notes, I'd be scratching my head forever. How do I soak up all that knowledge that's in those case studies?

Also, I realized that some of the tools that the McKinsey team is using in structuring their processes are awesome. I feel like had I not been given this opportunity, I'd have never learnt about them. How do I learn about all the frameworks and the tools that these consulting companies use, without having to work for them (no offense to them, but they just seem to have an endless capacity to work and problem solve).

Once again, I am looking for readily digestable case studies or whitepapers which highlight the problem and solutions. No business books please (I have a long enough reading list as is ;) )
posted by rippersid to Education (3 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You seem to in a state of awe of your big brand consultancy firm you have hired.

This can be a mistake. Consultants can be great but they are just an aid to business decision marking. Just because they are consultants does not mean they make recommendations that are infallible. Many a group of "big brand" consultancy has ruined a firm.

As for case studies, thread with care. Case studies can be great exercising your business brain. But, again they are not perfect. They tend to encourage a "I have a hammer now find me some nails" mindset of thinking. From my experience, the best strategies are often devised from the inside looking out. They are not devised by implementing some tweaked strategic frameworks that might have worked before for some other firm.

That is just my two cents.
posted by jacobean at 6:32 AM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know you don't want book recommendations, but you should really pick up former McKinsey consultant Ethan Reisel's two books, "The McKinsey Way" and "The McKinsey Mind" which were written to answer your question.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:44 AM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

You seem to in a state of awe of your big brand consultancy firm you have hired. This can be a mistake.

Agreed. Remember one part of a consultant's job is to sell you on the idea that they're awesome and indispensable. It's entirely possible that they are awesome, but I think one of the best ways to contribute to a team is to always be suspicious of conclusions. Not to be That Guy who simply questions everything, but to be suspicious of any conclusion (especially your own) until you've looked at it.

Also remember the consultants are enjoying the benefits of experience: they've been in this situation at least a few times before and have learned from that. Trying to stand apart and worry how you should be thinking about things is not a good way to help or learn. Absorb everything you can: experience is the best teacher. Listen. Don't speak unless you absolutely have to.
posted by yerfatma at 10:10 AM on February 28, 2014

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