Last reviewed: 1 February 2022


How might we (HMW)

Frame problems as questions to help the team agree which questions will help to generate solutions.

  • 1 to 6 people
  • 1 hour

Advice on ‘how might wes' (HMW)

Why create HMW statements

HMW statements can help your team to:

  • summarise problems or insights from research
  • describe problems as questions before thinking about solutions or research
  • agree on the problems you want to solve

Who is involved

People with a range of different perspectives and knowledge which usually includes:

  • a facilitator
  • all team members
  • anyone outside the team who could add a different view
  • the people you're designing for or people who understand their needs. User research helps with this.

When to create HMW

Consider creating a HMW:

  • at the start of the work when you want to discuss the value of solving different problems
  • after research when you want to decide which problems to solve or insights to look into further

Things you’ll need

Any information that will help like:

  • outcomes you’re aiming for
  • business considerations or context
  • user research
  • any other in sights or relevant information

A digital or physical space so that you can see all of the ideas and create the questions.

Digital or physical sticky dots or marker pens.

Tips on running the session

Make sure everyone understands that the team will:

  • take forward the HMW that get the most votes
  • revisit the HMW with less votes later if they need to

Learn more

IDEO video on ‘how might we' statements.

Fast Company blog on whether to use 'how might we' statements.

Glossary definitions that might be helpful:

Insight, Observation, Outcome, Quantitative data and research, Qualitative data and research.

See definitions of these terms in our glossary.

How to create ‘how might wes’ (HMW)

How to use the steps

This is one way of doing this activity based on our experience.

You might want to adapt it or only use part of it.

Teams often find their own way of doing an activity. This is a guide to get you started.

  1. Welcome and introductions

    Welcome everyone to the session. Ask everyone to introduce themselves if the group don’t know each other.

  2. Introduce the aims of the session

    For example:

    “Today we’re going to review the insights from the research and turn them into questions. This will help us to agree which questions will help us to generate solutions.”

  3. Introduce the thing using a visual example

    Review your key insights from research or the information you have so far on the problem you think you want to solve.

    Make sure that everyone can access this information.

  4. Context setting

    Remind everyone about your overall team purpose and current objectives if relevant.

  5. Do the HMW

    Turn each insight or problem into a question using a 'how might we' (HMW) format, for example:

    Insight: Customers are annoyed about the length of time it takes to pay.

    HMW: “How might we make it quick for customers to pay?”

    Write the questions somewhere everyone can access them in a shared space.

    Aim for quantity. Continue to add questions until you run out of thoughts.

  6. Group the HMWs into themes.

    For each theme, make sure you have HMWs that communicate the most important questions.

    Check your main HMWs are not too broad or too specific. The HMWs should focus you on the problem and still give you space to come up with ideas.

    Do a Dot vote or Priority mapping activity to help you decide which HMWs to take forward.

  7. Do a Dot vote or Priority mapping activity to help you decide which HMWs to take forward.

  8. Review the HMW

    Ask if the team are happy to progress the HMWs with the most votes and the process.

    Note why you made HMWs decisions and make sure everyone can access the information.

  9. Close the session

    Agree what’s next and let everyone know you’re going to end the session there.

  10. After the session

    Use the HMWs as starting points for creating ideas. You might do a Mind mapping or Rapid eights activity next.

To decide what you work on next, go to ways of working activities.

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