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What is a How Might We (HMW) Statement?

How Might We (HMW) statements are a powerful tool to translate problems, ideas, and insights into actionable innovation opportunities. Its purpose is to clearly define an opportunity area to guide ideation and solution-building processes. By framing problem statements with an HMW statement, we can help ensure that we are solving the right problem and that our solution would be creating value for the end user.

HMW statements are commonly used to answer important questions such as:

  • How might we improve…
  • How might we re-imagine…
  • How might we accomplish…
  • And much more!

Keep in mind that the applications of HMW statements are truly endless: there are unlimited combinations of products, users, goals, and effects that can be inserted into HMW statements.

The History of HMW Statements

The first uses of HMW statements can be traced back to Marino Sidney Basadur’s work at P&G as a creative manager in the early 1970’s. Later, HMW statements were later popularized by the design and consulting firm IDEO, and are now widely used in design thinking processes.

What Makes a Great HMW Statement?

A great HMW statement is generative: This means that the prompt should provide direction while encouraging creative problem-solving.

Here are some tips regarding the scope of a great HMW statement:

  • Focus your HMW statement on the desired outcome and on creating value for your end user
  • Ensure that your HMW statement is open-ended and can be answered in many unique ways
  • Avoid suggesting solutions within your HMW statement
  • Broad enough to give room for exploring creative ideas
  • Narrow enough to provide some boundaries and a clear starting point for brainstorming

How to Write a Great HMW Statement

When constructing HMW statements, asking yourself questions is important to ensure that prompts align with your intended goals and effects. Here are some guiding questions to ask throughout your ideation process:

  • What is my intended goal/effect?
  • What problem am I trying to solve?
  • What does the end user care about?

One of our favourite strategies when writing HMW statements is to write multiple (or as many as possible!) statements for a single problem you are trying to solve. This allows you to see multiple perspectives on a single problem. You can then pick and refine your ideas — crafting a great HMW statement is an iterative process!

Here are some examples of well-constructed HMW statements:

  • How might we make trip planning more collaborative?
  • How might we build an engaged community?
  • How might we use location data to show relevant results?