How Might We Statements: Asking The Right Questions

Whenever I begin a brand new mission, I’ve my thoughts set instantly on the outcomes, to the what I need to obtain. The starting appears to be the toughest half for me. After discussing this with just a few colleagues and buddies, I spotted that I’m not the one one to dread the beginning.

Those first few steps we take earlier than any larger activity are essential: analysis equips us with the information we are going to want later, setting clear targets paves the best way to comply with, and having a transparent imaginative and prescient prevents losing time. I suppose precisely for that reason saying “the good start – half the battle” exists.

This want to discover ways to begin, plan and kick off my initiatives led me to a discovery of a well-liked, cool method known as How Might We questions: easy magic behind the nice design and even larger innovation. It could be simply the trick for you too.

How Might We (HMW) questions is a method for the issue definition section of design considering. It is a method that permits you to sift by means of all of the cussed and inflexible points found through the analysis of the Empathy step and helps to outline solvable issues.

First issues first, let’s break down a few of these huge phrases.

Design Thinking

Essentially, design considering is a people-centered, cyclical strategy to revolutionary problem-solving. It consists of 5 distinct phases: empathy, outline, ideate, prototype, and take a look at. The latter two are considerably self-explanatory – after all of the brainstorming, you make a prototype of a product or a service and also you take a look at your coronary heart away to verify it both makes it or breaks it. And within the case of the latter – you repeat the entire cycle and begin with empathy once more.

Empathy is the very starting of the design considering course of. Just because the phrases trace, at this step you attempt to perceive your target market (TA), their emotions, and wishes. It permits you to perceive to whom you’re innovating and creating.

Only after you identify your TA you may actually begin defining your drawback.

Define is the second step of the design considering course of. At this step you make the most of all of the analysis knowledge, make use of drawback definition strategies and resolve issues – what’s the drawback you are attempting to resolve?

This is an important step for the rest of the cycle. You will succeed along with your design course of not as a result of you’ll simply strive to do one thing, to simply clear up an issue, however provided that you’ll deal with the correct of an issue.

Problem Definition

Problem definition is a crucial step for ideation and for the remainder of the design considering cycle. Without a well-structured and outlined drawback, it’s almost not possible to maneuver to ahead.

And right here we meet the How Might We method but once more. While there are completely different strategies that may help you with the issue definition stage (5 whys, drawback framing, and many others.), HMW is a artistic, playful, and fairly easy option to strategy any problem.

It can unlock your crew’s potential to seek out options to even essentially the most technical, hands-on issues. And that may embody completely something and every thing: cup design, an optimum form of an ice-cream cone, web site design, apps, flying automobiles… you get it – there aren’t any limits to the place you need to use HMW.

And if you’re struggling along with your innovation or design processes, it could be the proper time to strategy it with extra artistic considering.

After all, the larger the problem, the extra creativity you’ll need.


Where It All Came From

The 70s – a decade of change, upheaval, and rock’n’roll. It was additionally a decade of innovation, with the invention of the floppy disk, the primary ever e mail being despatched out, microwaves turning into commercially out there, and two-colored, striped cleaning soap hitting the market.

This revolutionary cleaning soap is the place HMW’s story begins.

Irish Spring

In the Nineteen Seventies, Colgate’s (recognized immediately as Colgate-Palmolive firm) deodorizing, striped, green-colored cleaning soap Irish Spring turned a business success, and it dominated the markets. With the promise of long-lasting freshness and a very new design (striped cleaning soap was remarkable earlier than), it turned a horny commodity. And competing firms have been attempting to give you one thing, something that will be capable of compete with it.

One such firm was Procter & Gamble (P&G). Eight lengthy months of innovating and brainstorming led them nowhere, the corporate was merely unable to give you a aggressive, comparable but authentic product. So, they gave up attempting to make one thing like Colgate and determined to strive a very completely different strategy.

Enter Marino (Min) Basadur.

Researcher and guide, Min Basadur joined P&G to assist the crew discover a option to innovate and keep aggressive.

He acknowledged a typical hurdle that folks confronted within the group – they didn’t know how you can correctly outline the issue they have been meant to resolve. Without a transparent drawback, they have been unable to set targets, and naturally, the innovation course of was merely doomed from the beginning.

The query they have been asking was how P&G can make a higher green-stripe cleaning soap bar. This query led to a number of failed copycat soaps that by no means succeeded available in the market. The sole focus of this query was direct competitors to the cleaning soap, with out stopping to wonder if the market actually wanted the identical actual cleaning soap.

After realizing this, they took a step again and determined to reframe the issue by specializing in what potential prospects have been actually after. This people-centered strategy drastically modified the corporate’s viewpoint and shortly, they began asking a distinct query: how may we create a extra refreshing cleaning soap of our personal?

So, the HMW strategy revolves round individuals. Customers, customers, workers – any group of individuals for whom you’re creating or bettering a product ought to at all times be the main focus of consideration.

This deal with prospects and the hassle to create one thing that they would wish as an alternative of what the firm desires to make helped P&G to create their very own refreshing and striped cleaning soap bar Coast. It was by no means in a position to outperform Irish Spring, however nonetheless, it was a profitable product.

And right here we’re – 50 years later, each design considering and the How Might We strategy have been efficiently tailored by artistic organizations like IDEO, Google, or Facebook to show issues into wonderful alternatives for innovation.

The Magic Behind H, M, And W

HMW is the start of the problem-solving course of because it gives new angles, solution-based considering per se, as an alternative of options. It is, on the similar time, a proof of why – why ought to we do something, why ought to we modify, compete, innovate – and a name to resolve the how. It units the tone and builds the muse for the ideation course of.

How Might We questions can construct the muse for the ideation course of

Declarative statements, similar to “Our task is to create a better product” push individuals to slender and imposing targets. What does higher even imply? Everyone has a singular understanding of what higher is, but when not aligned to sure targets, this higher can hardly generate helpful and possible concepts. Instead, it pushes us to give you options instantly: altering visuals, lowering the variety of phrases, altering colours, and so forth.

However, if we have been to vary that assertion to a quite simple “How Might We create a better product”, as imperfect as that query nonetheless is, it primes us to brainstorm about alternative ways mentioned higher could be reached and is more likely to get individuals to ask what higher really means.

In brief, it helps us to not assume that we’ve an answer from the beginning as it’d restrict our choices, however quite query issues and get to the basis of the issue.

“As soon as you start using words like can and should, you’re implying judgment: Can we really do it? And should we? By substituting them with word might you’re able to defer judgment, which helps people to create options more freely, and opens up more possibilities”, Basadur explains in an HBR article.

The phrase may helps individuals create choices extra freely, and opens up extra prospects

This easy language trick additionally permits everybody, regardless of the function, to contribute because the assertion doesn’t point out a concrete angle and resolution. Graphic designer, advertising and marketing specialist, coder – everybody can equally contribute varied concepts to how the services or products may very well be made higher.

The phrase may opens the best way for all kinds of concepts, each technical and artistic, some which might be sensible, and others which might be wilder however maintain extra potential.

How Might We method depends on the play of phrases and the three easy, but actually highly effective phrases that construct a wholesome query:

  • How: is a starting on the artistic journey indicating that the crew doesn’t have the reply simply but. It is an open query that permits every member to think about completely different paths.
  • Might: sheds judgment and obligation, indicating that the strategy to discovering an answer could be as wild as anybody can give you. It permits artistic considering, open-mindedness, and a real type of brainstorming. It exhibits that logical and believable options come later. Now – it’s all about creativity.
  • We: is about teamwork. Only collectively a crew can attain a typical understanding of the query at hand after which work collectively to discover a artistic resolution.



How Might We questions is a beneficial method to find out what must be finished to realize enterprise targets. Whether you’re engaged on a brand new chair design, saving on electrical energy prices, or creating a brand new app – figuring out the core drawback to be solved makes the subsequent steps a lot simpler.

And whereas HMW strategy to artistic problem-solving sounds fairly simple, as talked about earlier than, simply including these three phrases isn’t sufficient to get an ideal query. It can nonetheless be finished incorrectly.

The battle right here arises from an absence of actual measurements on how you can choose HMW statements. How to essentially inform whether or not your query is simply okay, or an actual prize-winner? A How Might We query could be too broad or too slender.

Not all is misplaced. Your success vastly will depend on the problem assertion from which you can be deriving the HMWs.

The problem assertion is a simplified, clear, and actionable drawback assertion that acts as the bottom for all HMWs questions. It is the constructing block between what you may have and what you need to create or enhance on your target market.

HMW Questions That Are Too Broad

Asking a generic query may create too broad of a scope. Let’s say you’re on a journey of revamping your web site. Asking “how might we make our website better” is kind of a superb crew train and may create a number of new alternatives.

However, asking such a broad query doesn’t deal with any particular drawback and it doesn’t set any path. Better can imply various things to completely different individuals within the crew, from high-resolution visuals, picture loading pace, utilization of white house, and replica… prospects are countless, but which path to go?

HMW Questions That Are Too Narrow

Narrow HMW questions do the precise reverse of what appropriate HMW must be doing: they get us hyper-focused on small issues, limiting our imaginative and prescient and robbing us of a possibility to discover a artistic, revolutionary resolution.

An instance of too slender HMW may very well be “how might we make our webpage better by making visuals more entertaining?”. Perhaps altering pictures on the web site would make guests extra , however that seems like an open-and-shut case, instantly hinting on the resolution – entertaining visuals.

Too broad (2)

While broad HMWs do not give us any path, slender ones get us caught on a fast repair, when the function of the HMW strategy is to have a number of concepts thrown at one larger drawback.

So, how you can keep away from these points, and how you can ask the best questions?

How Might We Ask Better How Might We Questions

Like with most issues in life, equipping oneself with information is the important thing to success. The HMW strategy is not any exception. Before leaping straight into an HMW course of, take into account the next:

1. Target viewers. People are on the core of design considering and of How Might We strategy. Know your buyer (consumer). Here such instruments as interviews, empathy mapping, journey mapping, buyer persona, and Jobs to Be Done will likely be most helpful. This step will make it easier to establish your buyer’s (consumer’s) wants and ache factors. So, at all times remember that the HMW method is supposed to assist create the perfect model of your services or products, and right here the perfect means created for the goal consumer.

2. Point of View (POV) assertion. Once you realize your target market, it’s time to transfer to the Define step and begin shedding some gentle on the challenges your viewers faces and the wants that come up from them. POV is a technique to reshape challenges into actionable steps. It is a mix of your target market (or consumer), their wants, and insights (causes behind their wants) uncovered through the analysis section. Interaction Design Foundation 
gives the next easy but good method for a POV assertion:

Let’s have a look at this from our buyer’s perspective.

Nihon L’Oréal had a communication problem – they’re working in East Asia, a area the place respect for expertise and seniority are extremely valued and are important components of the nationwide tradition. This in return made junior workers extra apprehensive about coming ahead with concepts. Before utilizing Viima, their POV drawback might need regarded a bit bit like this:

Nihon L’Oréal (consumer) must enhance communication inside the group and create a secure house for junior workers to freely voice their concepts and considerations (want) as a result of the corporate operates in a area the place seniority is very valued and youthful colleagues don’t communicate up, which ends up in misplaced concepts and alternatives (perception).

3. Frame the problem. With insights into your target market and their challenges at hand, it’s time to slender down the issue that your crew will deal with. If we have been to take a look at this step by means of the sooner instance of a higher webpage, the problem or drawback could be: poorly defined use of the platform we provide, hard-to-navigate web site, difficulties to seek out the best info, advanced and overwhelming copy. Really, something that our (your) TA addressed as difficult is value bettering and taking a look at as a goal for an HMW session.

These 4 steps will put together you for the HMW session, act as a guiding gentle, and can help you in asking the proper questions, that are:

  • Productive: generates a number of potential approaches or options.
  • Accessible: those who aren’t specialists within the space can provide an answer.
  • Not too broad: offers some path to start out fixing the issue.
  • Not too slender: doesn’t restrict concepts to a selected resolution or strategy.
  • Attainable: hints at reachable targets and even potential profitable outcomes.
  • Outcome-oriented: helps clarify what success would seem like.
  • People-centered: at all times take into account the particular person to whom you’re innovating.

It can take a scorching minute and a number of work simply to grasp what the best query to ask is, however when you do, that query could be an immensely highly effective software.

Running An HMW Process

Once you may have finished your analysis and crystallized your query, the toughest half is over. Still, the query is nugatory with out concepts, and a sensible plan to reply that. Let’s subsequent have a look at what else you should do to reap tangible outcomes.

First and foremost, you want individuals. HMW works greatest whether it is finished in a various group setting. Include crew members from completely different departments. Chances are that your accountant can have a really completely different perspective on the creation of a brand new product than say a developer or advertising and marketing specialist. While all concepts are welcome, you naturally want enter from specialists that perceive the practicalities of what transferring ahead with any of the HMWs would take.

Normally, it takes two to 10 and typically much more individuals to run a fruitful workshop, relying on the size of the mission and the scale of the crew. Also, you will need to have one to 2 (relying on the group measurement) facilitators to information and run the workshop easily.

Running A Digital HMW Process

You can take into account working a digital workshop. This sort of workshop will assist to incorporate even these crew members who work remotely. In addition, it creates a possibility for asynchronous participation in an HMW course of which is very useful for individuals in giant organizations, permitting them to contribute when it most closely fits their schedule.

Asynchronous instruments like Viima additionally mean you can increase the viewers from these 2-10 to even the entire group, which might clearly result in tons of novel and beneficial concepts.

On prime of that, thought administration platforms could make facilitators’ jobs simpler too: it offers a possibility to create teams and subjects earlier than the workshop, and other people can vote simply, and use hashtags and pictures to make their level clearer.

Not to say decreased bodily and time waste, and the way simple it’s to comply with up on every HMW submission.

viima laptop

No matter if you’ll resolve to go along with the old-school post-its technique to run an HMW workshop or a digital thought problem course of, there are a number of steps to think about.

Before the Process

First, clarify what HMWs are, and why you’re utilizing them, and be ready to present examples of appropriate inquiries to be requested. Examples will assist individuals to remain on observe and to keep away from too broad or too slender questions.

So, introduce the analysis outcomes of your target market, and the particular person behind the problem you’re dealing with. Who are they, what do they like, and what do they want?

If we have been to return to an earlier instance of a greater webpage, we must always first decide who’s our splendid buyer on the web site after which we will start thinking about the enhancements to be made.

It signifies that HMW lets you make choices with prospects in thoughts, bettering buyer retention and satisfaction.

In addition, decide and current all of the metrics that will likely be used after the entire course of to guage the concepts.

Starting The Process

Introduce the outcomes of your analysis, your target market, and issues, and your required targets. Start by rephrasing them as questions by including “How might we” initially and “so that” on the finish.

A superb technique to unlock much more questions and to make use of all your analysis is to query every HMW query by asking What is stopping us to…?

For instance, if you’re attempting to resolve the difficulty of hard-to-find info in your web site and somebody comes up with HMW enhance the FAQ web page in your web site? You can ask – What is stopping us from bettering the FAQ web page? If the reply is one thing like lack of knowledge, you may then ask HMW to get workers to share and doc extra of the data they possess? And so on.

As a lot enjoyable as it’s to brainstorm concepts and let your thoughts wander, this a part of the method is the place the magic really occurs. The sole function of the HMW session is to set the best targets and path on your design and innovation processes.

So, don’t waste this chance to undergo all of the submissions, talk about them with individuals current, and ask them to vote on essentially the most possible, financially useful, best to implement, most rewarding, or in every other approach best suited, concepts.

Select and prioritize a handful of HMWs your crew will work on (two to 5) as this may assist them focus, and set a timeline for implementation, however don’t throw the remaining strategies away.

Creative concepts do not need a date of expiration and also you by no means know when one thing may turn into simply the best resolution on your future issues.

Turning these concepts into innovation could be difficult, however we’ve you coated – try this in-depth information on how you can create your individual roadmap for changing extra concepts into actuality, or strive a few of our toolkits to take these concepts to the subsequent degree!

The How Might We method is a artistic, and interactive technique of an issue definition step within the design considering course of. And it makes it a lot extra enjoyable to kick off any of the initiatives that you’ve got been dreading to even beginning.

It does take a while to grasp, but when you attain that time, the good simplicity of simply the best HMW query can depart you with a solvable drawback and an awesome base for the ideation step. After all, an issue is simply one more reason to innovate.

To make it easier to get began with the HMW method, or in the event you merely want a serving to hand, we created this information with templates and actionable ideas which you’ll obtain without cost right here.


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