The “How Might We” Note Taking Method
The “How Might We” or HMW method is common in Design Thinking practice and you may have even done a version of it before. At Google we use it to take notes during Lightning Talks and throughout the Understand phase.
HMW involves team members writing down their thoughts on sticky notes and turning them into statements that begin with the phrase “How might we...”. For example, “How might we use streamlined onboarding to decrease app uninstalls?”
The phrase “How Might We” is useful because each word helps put team members in the right mindset:
- “How” guides people to believe the answer is out there.
- “Might” lets people know that their HMW statement might work or might not, and it’s okay either way.
- “We” reminds people that the sprint is about teamwork and building on each others’ ideas.
The HMW method allows your team to take the insights and pain points they hear during Lightning Talks and reframe them as opportunities. It also prevents people from narrowing in on solutions too early. It’s important to explain to your team how the HMW process works before the Lightning Talks.
During Google Design Sprints, we won’t spend a lot of time crafting or perfecting our HMW statements. Instead, we encourage our teams to come up with as many HMW notes as possible, with little self-editing.
Make sure your team understands that they should look for opportunities versus narrow down to solutions too early.
Time: Throughout the Lightning talks
- Use a thick sharpie to write your HMW notes.
- When you hear pain points, reframe them as opportunities.
- Write only one HMW idea or opportunity per sticky note.
- Aim for a quantity of notes versus perfection. Don’t worry about self-editing right now.