Master of Health Care Innovation faculty member Sarah Rottenberg, who also is the executive director of Penn’s Master’s program in Integrated Product Design, offers insight into how to use one simple question—how might we?—to focus our thinking about potential innovations.
“How might we,” she says, is a highly intentional question, with a deliberate choice of words:
How — Assumes there is a way to accomplish our goal, even if we do not yet know the answer.
Might — Opens us up to possibility but acknowledges that our ideas might not always work.
We — Acknowledges that innovation is a team effort.
The basic use of this technique is simple—the question can be formed with a Mad Libs-style template.
For example: How might we engage employees to adopt healthier eating habits? Or, how might we help oncology patients get a better read on their symptoms?
An effective “how might we” question also requires nuance, and Prof. Rottenberg offers some tips:
Do not put the solution in the question.
Leave yourself open to solutions you may not have considered yet.
Questions should be generative and inspiring.
Use a positive framing to open up possibilities and encourage creativity.
Include whom you are designing for.
Specificity will help you get a handle on the problem.
Draw on special insights and inspiration.
If you know something about the problem coming into a project, use that knowledge.
Get a better handle on this ideation technique, and use it in your own projects, by downloading this How Might We job aid.