Top positive review
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A good book on problem solving
on 20 July 2005
The McKinsey Mind is a description of McKinsey's problem solving process by ex-McKinsey-ites Raisel and Friga. Mr. Raisel is the author of the earlier published McKinsey Way, which has much the same content as McKinsey Mind. Nevertheless, McKinsey Mind includes new interesting content and certainly is a good book on problem solving processes.
I have myself some background in the area of problem solving, which I have researched and taught at my former university as well as applied the knowledge in case competitions and in my day-to-day work. While problem solving is ultimately a fuzzy process where logic, intuition and creativity is combined, in order to be effective with time constraints and in team settings it is essential to have a formal problem solving process. McKinsey Mind teaches that a so-called hypothesis driven approach is the most effective problem solving process and I totally agree with that assessment based on my own experiences. Students that learn to apply proper hypothesis-driven problem solving approaches in business case exercises (where time is limited) produce much better results than students who "just solve it".
The book has a broad view on the problem solving process and includes also chapters on presentation and managing stakeholders: team, client and yourself. The actual problem solving process is divided into framing the problem (understanding it and identifying a hypothesis), designing the analysis, gathering the data, and interpreting the results. In the end of the book are some helpful appendices, including a list of potential data sources on the internet and summaries of the book's main points.
The McKinsey Mind expands on The McKinsey Way chiefly by presenting a survey on McKinsey alumnus' experiences and a number of subsequent interviews. This material provides insights and stories on how the McKinsey skills have been applied in post-McKinsey carriers. Each chapter is divided into a general overview, a description of the "McKinsey way", lessons learned and illustrations (based on the survey), implementation guidance, exercises and a conclusion.
This could have been a five star book, but unfortunately McKinsey Mind is not particularly well written (though I have seen much worse written books as well). I got the impression that the authors have applied their own 80/20-rule: doing the most important 20% of the tasks to get 80% of the result. There is some repetition in the text within the same chapter, the authors' example on Acme Widgets isn't well thought in my opinion, and so forth. The book is also a quick read with its 186 pages (excluding appendices) and quite little text on a single page. A 95/50-effort would have been appreciated.
Yet, the topic is an important one and the content contains best practices from one of the world's foremost practitioner. But one has to remember that it is not enough to read a book to learn how to solve problems effectively: only experience can eventually teach you that. This book is just a good map for the journey.