The Better Way to Use the “How Might We” Strategy

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Robyn Bolton challenges an article posted in Fast Company that claimed the most popular design thinking strategy is BS.

How might we ruin a perfectly good and useful tool?”

This might not be the question that innovators, design thinkers, and brainstorm facilitators wanted to answer.  But it seems that it’s the one they did.

“The most popular design thinking strategy is BS,” proclaimed the headline on a June 28 article in Fast Company.  “The ‘How might we’ design prompt is insidious, and it’s time to bury it.”

I’m a sucker for provocative headlines, especially ones that challenge that status quo, so I clicked and read the article.  And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

The reason “How might we” (HMW) is so insidious, the author asserts, is that the “we” in HMW refers to the people in the room, not to the users, customers, or populations for whom teams are designing their products and services. The prompt looks inward instead of outward, encouraging people to build solutions that suit their own needs and experiences. They end up with offerings that don’t serve customer needs and may even hurt the people they’re meant to help.

The problem (and solution) of “We”

  1. Fair.  As I recounted in last week’s episode of “What Matters in Innovation,” I saw this exact worry come to life when I was an Assistant Brand Manager on Swiffer WetJet.  While the brainstorming promotional ideas as a brand team, the most senior member suggested a Valentine’s Day promotion encouraging men to buy a WetJet, then priced at $50, for their wives “because she’s worth it.”  Everyone in the room nodded in silent awe and acceptance, except one person.  Me.  The only woman in the room.

 

Key points include:

  • The solution (and problem) of “How might”
  • The problem (and solution) at the end of “How might we”
  • HMW is not BS.  How we use it is.

Read the full post, “How Might We” is not BS. How We Use It Is, on MileZero.io.