Jumpstart Innovation with this Phrase

In a post on the Harvard Business Review blog, Warren Berger talked about the “secret phrase” that top innovators use to jumpstart innovation: "How Might We." This phrase, he says, “ensures that would-be innovators are asking the right questions and using the best wording. Proponents of this increasingly popular practice say it's surprisingly effective — and that it can be seen as a testament to the power of language in helping to spark creative thinking and freewheeling collaboration." 

We tend to agree. At Ideas To Go, our version of “How Might We” is called Forness® thinking. It employs “I wish…” and “I’m for…” statements (as in: “I’m for the idea of online records keeping, and I wish for an easy way to access my account.”) to immediately move toward creating a solution. This method opens up possibilities and nurtures ideas, rather than killing them on the vine.   

The HBR blog post goes on to say:

“HMW (How Might We) proponents say this form of questioning can be applied to almost any challenge — though it works best with ones that are ambitious, yet also achievable. [IDEO CEO Tim] Brown says it doesn't work as well with problems that are too broad ("How might we solve world hunger?") or too narrow ("How might we increase profits by 5 percent next quarter?"). Figuring out the right HMW questions to ask is a process, Brown says: "You need to find the sweet spot."

Ideas To Go has a solution for finding the sweet spot: look to your customers. So when your question is, “How might we create something that will succeed with our target demographic?” remember that your customers are ready and waiting to share their experience. Then, when companies leverage these insights to create a solution to a true consumer need, everyone wins. 

©2012 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Katie Franke

Katie Franke is a Marketing Communications Specialist and Concept Writer at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.