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Design Thinking ICM512

From POV’s to How Might We’s

How building on problem-statements in the Ideation phase can spark innovative solutions

In any project, the idea of having to generate new and useful ideas can be overwhelming. If you’re anything like me, you may pressure yourself to immediately come up with the “best” and “right” solutions, then feel discouraged if those “aha” moments don’t arise. This has even led me to believe that I must not be a good designer since great ideas don’t come “naturally” to me. But, let’s face it… creative problem solving is hard work, and telling ourselves otherwise is only sinking us deeper into a pit of self-doubt and torture. 

Let’s face it… creative problem solving is hard work, and telling ourselves otherwise is only sinking us deeper into a pit of self-doubt and torture. 

Fortunately, problem-solving also offers proven strategies to help make the process a success. One of these is How Might We (HMW) statements. HMW’s are commonly used in the Ideation phase of the design thinking process to help kick-start those intimidated brains into creative-thinking gear. As explained by Stanford’s d.school, “The goal (of How Might We) is to create questions that provoke meaningful and relevant ideas; do so by keeping the questions insightful and nuanced.” 

The goal (of How Might We) is to create questions that provoke meaningful and relevant ideas; do so by keeping the questions insightful and nuanced.

Stanford’s d.school

Here’s How to Build Your Own HMW Question

1. Take a look at your POV statement from the Define stage of design thinking. This is a good reminder of what problem you are trying to solve for your users.

2. Develop 5-10 questions that address your problem statement and start with the phrase How Might We. Try to think about your questions from different perspectives. For example, how can you ask a How Might We question that focuses on emotions, is an analogy, or challenges assumptions? The d.school worksheet is super helpful in exploring different ways to formulate HMW questions.

3. Analyze your questions. Are they too broad or too narrow? Just like a good problem statement, HMW questions should encourage creativity while also providing clarity. Ideo explains that “a properly framed How Might We doesn’t suggest a particular solution, but gives you the perfect frame for innovative thinking.”

A properly framed How Might We doesn’t suggest a particular solution, but gives you the perfect frame for innovative thinking.

Ideo

Using your How Might We Statement to
Kick-Start an Ideation Session

Expats in foreign countries have an instinctive desire to explore their surroundings and familiarize themselves with their new territory. We walk around with a high level of alertness, paying attention to every detail on every block. For me, I believe this comes from a combination of excitement, curiosity, and survival. I want to feel safe in my new environment, and familiarizing myself with the area helps. It appears these natural instincts exist in food delivery as well.

In my recent article about Point of View statements, I conducted some user feedback research on Sherpa’s—a popular food delivery app designed for English speakers in China. I noticed a pattern of frustration with between users and the app’s search functionality. Users didn’t feel they were able to examine all possible options before deciding what or where to order from. That’s when I realized ordering food online is like a virtual scouting of one’s territory, and users want to do it thoroughly. Through this insight, I created a POV statement.

Start with a POV Statement
Foreigners ordering food delivery in China need to explore all options in their delivery area, because they like feeling informed about all their options before making a decision on what or where to order.
Transform your POV into a How Might We

From here, I used d.school’s HMW worksheet (mentioned above) to help me develop questions related to my problem.

d.school’s How Might We template (pictured on the left) helped me reconsider my problem from different angles.

Some of the HMW questions that I generated included:

  1. How Might We relieve the stress users face when trying to find a place to order food from?
  2. How Might We help users feel certain they’ve explored all possible options for food delivery?
  3. How Might We help users feel assisted in their search for exploring all options?
  4. How Might We make ordering food online like an archeological excavation?
  5. How Might We help foreigners become more acquainted with all of the restaurants in their food delivery zone?
  6. How Might We find the food for users, versus them having to do the search themselves?
Use an Ideation Method to Start Generating Ideas that Address Your How Might We

Of all the HMW questions, I was especially intrigued by the archeological concept (#4). Using their worksheet to guide me, I conducted an exercise by Ideo called a Mash-Up.

Mash-Ups explore to seemingly unrelated concepts and explore ways to cross-pollinate elements to find new solutions.

This led to some unconventional yet valuable solutions to the problem.

Left: Explore restaurants on a map. Can also filter map by “countries”, “visited” or “not visited” places.

Middle: Map also teaches you the historical or cultural significance of cultures and their cuisine when you click to explore a restaurant.

Right: Make interacting with the app and searching for places to eat fun by allowing users to make their own archaeologist character. Searching isn’t just a functional
feature anymore, it’s an active exploration of your neighborhood.
Left: Have a section for users to review and comment on restaurants—another way to search for places to try, while also engaging with other people’s experiences.

Middle: Get notifications on daily deals, and new or unexplored restaurants that you can try—the app is keeping you in the loop of all your options

Right: Show timeline of your delivery, like a historical record of events, and make suggestions of other places to try to keep the exploration going

To see the full Mash-Up exercise, please download the file below.

This exercise was hard work but also fun and valuable! Instead of staring at blank sheets of paper waiting for the solution to pop into my head, or agonizing over self-doubt, I reached for my design thinking tools and journeyed through the process. In doing so, I produced ideas I would never have conceived of otherwise and gained a higher sense of confidence in my ability to work through problems. I say abandon the longing for those “aha” moments. Instead, roll-up your sleeves, apply those Ideation methods and get to work.

References & Resources

Define and Frame Your Design Challenge by Creating Your Point Of View and Ask “How Might We” by IxDF

How Might We Questions by Stanford d.school

How Might We by Ideo Design Kit

Ideation Method: Mash-Up by IdeoU

What is Ideation – and How to Prepare for Ideation Sessions by IxDF

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