How Might We... Questions

A “How might we...?” question (HMW question) quickly describes a problem, captures your insights and gets you ready for Ideation.

This sport can be played solo or with a team. You need completed Empathy Maps, markers and sticky notes. Give yourself 60 minutes.

  1. Start solo. Study the Empathy Maps to pull out specific insights into the needs and wants of the stakeholder. For example, an Empathy Map observation “I’m seeing the same commute for 60 minutes a day” might suggest insights like “I need to get home from work sooner” or “I want a productive commute.” Write each need statement on a separate sticky note.
  2. If you’re working solo, choose a few need statements you find most compelling. If you’re working in a team, you can now share your need statements with each other. To narrow in on a few good statements, combine your statements using the Cluster Card, and do some Dot Voting on the Clusters to find the needs that people are most interested in and committed to addressing.
  3. Convert these needs from statements to questions beginning with “How might we...?”
  4. Use your new HMW questions to start Ideation!

The important thing about paraphrasing a needs statement in this way is the unprejudiced optimism of it. HMW assumes there are solutions out there without jumping to conclusions about what they are. HMW stakes out a specific problem space without fretting prematurely about feasibility.

What makes a good “How Might We?” question?

  • Human-centred: It should focus on the needs of the user—this is why we start with identifying need statements. Avoid letting constraints that arise from the way things have always been done find their way into your HMW.
  • Breaking Assumptions: Carefully examine your assumptions to ensure you’re identifying the underlying need...not a surface-level symptom of the problem. The Five Whys Card can help you drill down to the root of the problem. Note that your users may also introduce assumptions—often people say “I need x” when x is one solution they perceive to the problem they’re experiencing.
  • Appropriate scope: It can be broad or specific, but the question should be appropriate to the scale of the problem and your ability to impact the problem.