Posted by Howe Q. Wallace on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Brainstorming is a popular technique used to advance teams along toward their goals.
A creativity consultant Min Basadur initiates such idea exchanges by asking the question “How Might We?”
According to Basadur, it’s a subtle but distinctive way to frame the conversation. Most folks start with “What should we do to solve a problem?” or “What can we do?” Those questions suggest there is a “right” solution. It invites you to a result too quickly.
Each of the three words in “How Might We?” opens up the conversation.
Asking “how” is a request for alternatives. It assumes there is a way to a better result. It expresses confidence in the ability of those assembled to come up with alternatives and that a good one will be reached.
“Might” is different than “should” or “can.” It invites a flurry of alternatives without committing to one. It allows others to make suggestions. Saying “might” invites others to think in terms of “might not.” Saying we “should” or “can” carries a bigger stick. For instance, as CEO, I have learned that when I say we “should” that it takes a great deal of courage for teammates to be willing to debate me. When I say we “could” there is a tendency for others to withhold ideas because when I say we “can” do something, it is more likely that it will be supported with resources. Taken literally, “might” means it is just another idea.
“We” speaks for itself. “We” is inclusive. It is better than “you.” It is better than “I.” All of us are smarter than one of us. “I” gets in the way of full participation.
According to Basadur, many people who hear about this approach are skeptical initially. But, when they use it, they become committed. As a leader, the question “How Might We?” causes me to remember the elements of a good brainstorming process. It encourages creativity, openness to ideas and inclusion among the teammates. That is a good process. I will “focus” on using it.