Last night I thankfully caught a few tweets between some awesome K12dters Down Under…

Philippa N Antipas  Steve Mouldy 1st Follower

Reading the tweets and also sharing a couple thoughts with Philippa inspired me to riff & ramble once again about the HMW…question.  I have written previously about the power & possible problems with starting a dt challenge with a How Might We…question in the following posts:  #DEEPdt Challenge Unpack It Don’t Engrave It  and The 4th Word.

In the above posts, I have shared some thoughts about the How Might We… and with Philippa’s storify (posted at bottom of this blog post) conversation with Steve & 1st Follower, I realized another aspect of why I will continue to resist starting DEEP design thinking challenges with a HMW… question.

The framing of the HMW… narrows the field of scope and inserts a guidepost for the designers to keep them in check. And, if this wordsmithed HMW…question is created before contact (which could include observation, experiential, interview, quote, etc) aren’t we already sculpting an outcome? Doesn’t this eliminate the “possibilities” that design thinking is so valued for?

Here is an example of starting with a HMW…question to launch a design thinking challenge.

In the AK12dc challenge, we were asked to create a HMW…question to launch our challenge.  Face to face meetings were held (three of them + a formal gathering of all the schools at First Data as well as three google doc brainstorm sessions.  I would guesstimate we spent about 5+ hours crafting our HMW… question.  This is the HMW…question created by a team of 8 designers.  In my opinion, it is an awesome & well crafted HMW…question and one I would love to create solutions for yet, I know its origins thus it makes me feel inauthentic. 

HMW…Enhance our school environment to nurture innovators because the needs of the future demand it (and the next generation deserves it).

After time with countless users in varying degrees and iterations of our challenge, below are HMW… questions developed after major empathy immersion.

HMW… brainstormed after Empathy work with Users & MoVe statements crafted…

HMW…design flexible spaces with room to move so learners can feel free to be creative and innovative?

HMW…construct ways to utilize space in a more efficient and collaborative learner centered environment?

HMW…ignite sparks of freedom and ownership within the classroom for teachers to create flexible and inspiring spaces.

HMW….encourage coffee talk collaboration among colleagues in a common space to nurture innovators mindsets

HMW…reimagine the culture to lean towards a more nurturing learner centered environment that inspires natural collaboration and flexibility to move.

The current HMW… question that is being pursued in Experiment mode.

HMW…reimagine space(s) to lean towards a more nurturing learner centered environment that inspires a culture of natural collaboration and flexibility to move.  

The moment of aha for the #ak12dc MV d.TEAMS came when it was time to brainstorm solutions. We were asked to jump from our MoVes into brainstorming (Empathize mode into Experiment mode). What was being skipped over in my opinion was “The Bridge”.  In DEEPdt, designers develop POV statements (a description & identification of needs of a User).  As designers, we solve for the User, the User leads us to solutions.   What is the question we are brainstorming?  What is the problem we are solving for? And most importantly, who is our User?

Below is some text I wrote for the DEEPdt Playbook I helped co-author via MVIFI.

I guess it all boils down to the what comes first, the egg or the chicken?  Or another phrase, putting the cart before the horse.  In practicing design thinking, if designers spend time alone crafting and polishing before their field work, isn’t that the same things as the TPTB holed up in a back room making decisions for the school without talking & seeking understanding with their Users first?

Another way to phrase this (which might be a whole other discussion) is a small group of minds creating a solution for the masses all the while leading the masses to believe they are part of the crafting process?

I guess a final thought to this rambled post, a How Might We… question can be inspirational, goal setting, and well awesome to try to answer in a “throw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks” brainstorm session.  It also can be a pretty true question to solve that has been inspired by moments of visible empathy with a User.  Design thinking is all about the User + Empathy.  If the HMW…question has origins of self, can it truly lead to an authentic and empathetic solution?


Here is the Storify of Phillipa’s HMW… development convo.