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Constructing how-might-we questions generates creative solutions while keeping teams focused on the right problems to solve.

NNGROUP

Using “How Might We” Questions to Ideate on the Right Problems

Using “How Might We” Questions to Ideate on the Right Problems

nngroup.com

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In our course on discoveries at our UX Conference, we talk about the importance of solving the right problem. Discovery research commonly results in learning about the problem space. This knowledge should be used to generate solutions that solve real user problems.

Ideally, the team should...

A How might we (HMW) question can generate lots of creative ideas. Here are some examples of How might we questions:

  • How might we ensure more people pay their taxes before the deadline?
  • How might we help employees stay productive and healthy when working from home?
  • ...

Some teams generate HMWs that are not specific to what they’ve learned. For example, How might we improve the user experience of the product? is not specific to what you might have uncovered in your discovery research. This question can result in ideas that don’t address the root problems and the...

It can be easy to limit your thinking and embed solutions in your HMW questions. But doing so restricts the pool of possibilities, and fewer ideas are generated. In the example below, the first HMW suggests a particular type of solution, whereas the second is agnostic about any particular solutio...

When writing HMW questions, ask yourself if you could rewrite them in a broader way? The broader the HMW, the more ideas can be generated.

  • Insight: Users often spend a long time checking their submission for mistakes.
  • HMW (good): How might we make it quick and easy for users...

To avoid solving symptoms of the problems rather than the root problems themselves, ask yourself whether your HMW question focuses on the desired outcome. In the example below, the first HMW question loses sight of what we really want to achieve.

  • Problem: Users often call us because ...

Stating your HMW questions positively can generate more ideas and also encourage creativity.

If you find yourself using negative verbs like ‘reduce,’ ‘remove,’ ‘prevent,’ ask yourself if you can frame things more positively by using positive action verbs, like ‘increase,’ ‘create,’ ‘en...

Spend time with your team writing and selecting your HMWs before you begin ideating. You can have everyone contribute an HMW; then go through the following checklist to select or improve the best version:

  • Is it based on an existing problem or insight?
  • Does it track the desir...

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