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Breaking Down How Might We (HMW) Questions

If you’re curious, the “How Might We…” (HMW) framework for creative problem solving originates back to the work of Sidney J. Parnes, Ph.D, in his Creative Behavior Guidebook published in 1967. Dr. Parnes referred to the framework as “Invitation Stems” or “How Mights”. Dr. Parnes’ work also led to the additional questions of “How might I?”, “How might you?”, “How might our team?”, and “How might our customers?”.

Today, HMW remains one of the most powerful tools for kicking off a process of “challenge mapping.”

“How might we…” is the kind of question that lacks hard requirements at first and can feel unanswerable. However, if you get the right people engaged, the answers that surface will lead to progress. 

 

How does AmpXD tackle HMW Questions?

We start by making sure that the whole team understands the question and starts on common footing. Some follow up questions may be necessary.

  • Have we answered an HMW question like this for other clients or internally at AMP? 
  • Can we rely on past experience or will the answer require us to build from scratch? 
  • What perspectives will be required to generate the right answer? Engineering? Design? Content? Business objectives?

Next, we assemble the team. The best HMW teams represent all who stand to benefit from the answer as well as those who could help us get there. They are a cross section of the organization as well as users, customers, and subject matter experts. Whether you use an agency like AMP or decide to go it alone, there are a few key attributes that each team member must have. Each team member needs to be open, have broad and relevant expertise, and be fearless about sharing ideas and opinions in public. 

The last consideration for a successful outcome is access. The team will need access to:

  • One another
  • Leadership 
  • Information
  • Insight into what is possible. 

 

Now that the team is assembled, what can we expect?

Answers! If you’ve done the work to fully understand the question, assemble the right team, and provide access to resources, you can expect progress. Once we have a set of answers to our HMW question, we can start to sift for the right one.  Each answer must be measured against cost and timeline estimates. If you’ve come to the right answer, everyone will know it. If you don’t find the right answer, often you’ll be left with a new, better HMW question to work with. 




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