How to Think More Analytically... Automatically

I was reading an email from a member of my case interview preparation community that had recently gotten offers from Bain and Booz Allen Hamilton.

He made one particular comment that triggered a thought in my mind on how to think in a more structured and analytical way... automatically.

This technique has been sitting underneath my nose the whole time, and while I knew it was there, I did not really appreciate its effectiveness until recently.

I elaborate on this insight following this person's email.

*** Bain & Booz Allen Offers from Mumbai ***


Hope you are doing well.

I just wanted to thank and inform you about my progress with consulting firms.

I am a senior at a top-rated Undergrad Business School, but I still found it really hard to get a job in the consulting field.

By now I have probably sent out applications to all the top firms in India (which is where I am from) and the U.S. I interviewed with BCG, Monitor-Deloitte, ATK, Booz Allen Hamilton and Bain.

Finally after about 8 months of preparation and case interview practice, I received offers from both Booz Allen and Bain in the Mumbai office.

The Booz Allen Interview process consisted of four rounds.

Round 1 was with a consultant which included two case interviews and a brainteaser.

The second round was with two managers, consisting of a casual chat (which lasted for about three hours).

Round 3 was with one partner, which consisted of another casual chat, and Round 4 was with the VP of the India practice, consisting of a case and some more casual conversation.

The process with Bain was much more strenuous.

Round 1 was with a manager, consisting of one case interview.

Round 2 was with another manager, consisting of a case and a brain teaser. Rounds 3 and 4 and 5 consisted of case interviews with partners.

I am extremely grateful for all your materials, including LOMS, which I probably heard over 20 times.

It gave me a great understanding of how important it is to communicate in a clear and structured manner during case interviews.

I have decided to accept the offer with Bain and am very excited.

Again, thank you for all your help and expertise. If you're ever in India, please let me know. I would love to meet with you.

My Reply:

Congratulations on your offers from Bain & Booz Allen Hamilton in Mumbai.

I am glad that Look Over My Shoulder® was so useful to you.

I must admit I am quite impressed that you went through LOMS 20 times... that's 200 hours of case interview practice time.

I hope you did not get too tired of my voice by the end!

I'd like to take this opportunity to make a comment about your remark regarding what you learned and fully appreciated from LOMS.

In particular, you said, "It gave me a great understanding of how important it is to communicate in a clear and structured manner during case interviews."

Most people who send me their success stories usually find one of three things most useful in my case interview training materials, a deeper appreciation for:

1) the mindset and mentality of the interviewer (how they think, why they think that way, and thus what they look for and why),

2) the analytical problem-solving process,

3) the structured, highly disciplined communication process

Of the three categories of comments, I was anticipating comment #2 -- which was my intended goal with LOMS.

But I was somewhat surprised by how many people found #3 (including yourself) to be a major takeaway from LOMS.

I think I find the comments surprising because I speak in a manner that is consistent with how I think.

So, it did not occur to me that the communication aspects of LOMS would be considered unusual or uncommon in any way.

But so many people have commented on how much they learned about how to communicate in a case interview -- and in particular how the communication approach was so different than what they were accustomed to.

I've concluded that I must have missed something important, given my lack of appreciation for this particular aspect of LOMS.

After thinking about this disconnect in my own thinking for several weeks, here is what I've realized or rather appreciate more deeply.

How you speak reflects how you think.... and how you think is reflected by how you speak.

I had intended LOMS to teach aspiring consultants how to think in an analytical way... and I always thought of the speaking part as a natural byproduct of analytical thinking (which it is).

But what I have come to realize is that the process seems to work in reverse too.

If you change how you speak (with sufficient practice and reinforcement), you automatically change how you think.

So many LOMS members seem to gravitate to the how to speak aspects of LOMS first, and as a consequence ended up thinking in a different way.

I knew instinctively that using LOMS in a "say it out loud" kind of way worked, but I didn't really appreciate the mechanism of why it worked until much more recently.

It is the act of saying certain things "out loud" while using LOMS that allows you to pick up the communication style preferred by interviewers in case interviews.

Once you do that, it is almost impossible to not automatically shift your thinking process to be consistent (e.g., highly structured and logical) with how you now speak (e.g., also highly structured and logical).

So whether you gravitate to learning the structured thinking process of a case interview first, and the communication aspects second... or you gravitate to the structured communication process first, and the structured thinking process second, you may find it reassuring that either approach seems to work equally well.

The key takeaway in all of this is that it is important to do both well -- think in a structured/logical way and speak in a logical/structured way.  And with sufficient practice, they eventually become one and the same.

I believe this is the mechanism behind why going through LOMS five, seven, or 20 times tends to result in much better case interview performance than just going through it one time.

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2 comments… add one
  • Ralph Apr 3, 2018, 2:18 am

    Hi Victor,
    I am working in industry and have no future plans to work in consulting but is interested in obtaining the associated skills (analytical thinking, structured & logical writing and speaking & developing insights) of your LOMS Program. LOMS was specifically designed for case interview in consulting so I am wondring if it is necessary for me to get the LOMS or you have alternative program best fit for those in industry like us. Thank you.

    • Victor Cheng Apr 8, 2018, 1:12 am

      Hi Ralph,

      For the analytical thinking skills in industry, LOMS is your best bet. For McKinsey type writing, I would suggest the book the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto and Say it With Charts by Gene Zelazney. Both are ex-McKinsey people. Gene ran internal public speaking training at McKinsey. Pyramid Principle is the de facto writer communication textbook used at McKinsey when I was there.

      My “closing” part of a case is a simplified version of the Pyramid Principle. In practice if you can go the simplified version, that’s more than sufficient for being concise in industry. Nobody I knew did the Pyramid Principle exactly as outlined in the book. We generally strove to get pretty close to the idea of the Pyramid Principle without go so far as to sacrifice client friendliness.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a good recommendation for public speaking resources. I think Toastmaster is helpful to get practice and time “on stage”. This helps with learning to be comfortable in front of an audience. In terms of being insightful or presenting well structured content while in front of an audience, I can’t think of a specific resource. The best I can say is learn the analytical thinking skills that the case interview tests and you’ll have the ability to think in both structured and insightful ways. Once those ideas are in your head, it’s not a huge stretch to be able to articulate them verbally in a presentable way.

      If the analytical, insightful or structured thoughts are in your head at all, no amount of public speaking training will help you in those areas.


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