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Dickie Umgelter




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Why are they called "How Might We's?"

People have been using HMW statements for years to spark innovation, but they can be done incorrectly, just like many other models. How can something so open-ended go wrong?

First, HMW statements can be too broad and vague:

The problem with vague and broad HMWs is that they give minimal direction or inspiration. These statements are meant to spark ideas you can later test with users. Without any focus, where should you start? A good HMW statement helps you focus on solving a problem.

HMW statements can also be too narrow:

When HMW statements are too narrow, we lose all the incredible, innovative ideas that can come from them. With too much focus, we are stuck on one particular solution already. We want several different ideas to test at the end, so focusing too much on one solution will limit creativity and innovation.

So how to do it right? Here are the steps I always take when generative HMW statements:

A point-of-view (POV)/problem statement allows you to focus on your users and their needs. From your research, you should identify the essential needs or pain points of your users. You can create this by combining three elements: user, need, and insight into a fill-in-the-blank.

A model to use for this is: user (fill in user) needs to (fill in need) because (fill in insight)

For example, a person expecting their first child (user) needs to set up an investment savings account (need) because they want to plan for their child's future education but are overwhelmed by choice and how to set up a proper savings account (insight).

Once you have a POV/problem statement, you can begin to brainstorm How Might We statements. Break the larger problem into smaller, actionable pieces.

If our research showed people expecting their first child need to set up an investment savings account but are overwhelmed by choice, we could break this down into a few areas:

After breaking down the problem statement/POV into smaller chunks, you start writing How Might We statements for each of these ideas.

There is a fantastic model you can use to generate HMW statements, and that is: How might we for so that .

Essentially, you put "How might we" in front of these smaller ideas.

Once you brainstorm as many HMW statements as possible, you can decide what to move forward next.

If you are in a group, you can vote on the one to use, or if you are working alone, you can either poll some colleagues or choose the one you think would be best to explore next.

HMW statements may be difficult to come up with sometimes, and you might find it challenging for yourself and others. My best advice is to break the bigger problem down and then start writing HMW in front of every aspect of the problem. It's okay to write some that are too narrow or too broad since you can assess them after. Just write!

If you are still feeling stuck, Stanford's d.school suggests ways to make the most HMW by changing the questions' goal. Here are their suggestions, plus examples for you to follow.

POV/problem statement: People who like to listen to podcasts need to be able to easily bookmark or save interesting parts of podcasts while commuting because having to find these points afterward is time-consuming and difficult.

Not all of these are perfect and even doable, but using these prompts will help if you are stuck in the brainstorming stage of writing statements! Keep it creative and exciting, then cut back on what doesn't make sense after. As in improv, always remember "Yes, and..."


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