Why ‘How Might We’?


It’s a strange name for a business. Hopefully not so strange when you understand how influential the technique that inspired our name is in creating customer-centric products.

In Design Thinking, we spend a lot of time understanding a problem before trying to solve it. Designers believe there’s value in every problem, so for a product to be relevant, we need to understand the problem it is attempting to solve. It can vary from someone trying to source entertainment to a community needing clean water.

Standard problem statements highlight issues faced by customers but don’t propose any solutions. How Might We (HMW) Questions recognise the design potential in user problems to highlight a plethora of potential opportunities.

The phrasing

It’s critical to consider the framing of HMW Questions. Due to their structure, HMW Questions inspire creative confidence. They suggest that an answer is possible by the sheer fact they’re questions, and they show no bias toward any single solution, encouraging effective brainstorming during the ideation phase.

When questions are phrased “how should we” or “how could we” they point to answers that should be implemented and could be realised. How Might We Questions are more freeing, allowing for a multitude of possible answers.

Popular among innovators, the HMW template has seen evolutions and updates over time. The most famous version, and our favourite, is that of Stanford University’s d.school. When they added the conditional phrase “given that” to the end of their design questions, d.school designers more profoundly grappled with the reason for the user’s problem by contextualising its cause.

A bank focusing on the millennial market, for example, asks ‘how might we help an up-and-coming millennial invest for their retirement given that they want to live for the moment and can’t imagine their future-self?” Understanding the reason makes the ideation session much easier to initiate. And for the majority of HMW statements, if we just focus on answering the reason, the need will be inherently answered.

There are three primary aspects of the question. The customer (persona), the problem or need we are addressing, and the reason for it.

How Might We question template

The HMW workshop

Well articulated problems are a necessity to ensure that the end solutions are desirable, so coming up with good HMW Questions takes time. To arrive at the best questions, How Might We facilitates a half-day to full-day workshop with key stakeholders. Quick proto-personas are created, we explore their needs, and explore the reasons those needs exist. At the end of the session, we have two to five solid HMW statements for each persona, which allows us to kick off a fruitful ideation session.

So back to the name…

We’re called “How Might We” because that question is at the heart of what we do. It frames how and why we move forward with any possible solution. It may be a mouthful, but we hope it’s memorable one.

Would you like to book a HMW workshop?

Contact us