Ask the Experts & HMWs

Ask the Experts & HMWs

Recipe step number
Day 1, Activity 4
Aligning on the problem worth solving
Reading Time
6 mins
  1. Long-Term Goal
  2. Killer Questions
  3. Map
  4. Ask the Experts (here)
  5. Choosing a Target

Check out this simpler version of the How Might We activity


Why do Expert Interviews? Nobody knows everything and talking to experts is fast! Knowledge is often dispersed and learning from more people helps teams gather more information. The team will use this to choose the most important target area/s to focus on. Why use "How Might We" notes? HMW’s are used to concisely frame areas of opportunity that could be solved in many ways. Multiple HMWs are written to help identify (and then narrow down) the most important problems areas.

Here's a video from Relab Studios explaining the purpose and process of the Expert Interview

Key Tips

Tips from the Sprint Book – pages 79-82
  • After the interviews, leave time to update your Map, Killer Questions, or Long-Term Goal with any relevant new information
  • Save organizing the HMW notes for after the interviews – During the interviews just collect.
  • Organization of the HMWs does not need to be perfect!
    • Spending more than a few mins is a waste of time.
    • The only purpose of organizing the HMWs in themes is to make it easier to read through the large number of stickies.

Key learnings and tips from Advance Concepts
  • We believe customers are the most valuable “expert”.
    • You don’t need to wait for a time-slot in the sprint.
    • Consider doing some pre-work interviews, including them all week, inviting them to join this activity... or all 3!
  • We’ve seen value when experts can share clear and concise reports. Those key-learnings are simple to translate into HMWs.
  • HMWs are best captured in a “goldi-locks” state. Not too ambiguous/broad, but also not too specific (limiting ideation). It’s important to show this clearly with the team.

How to do this activity

Allow 45 mins
[20-30 mins] The Expert Interview (and collecting HMWs)
  • Prior to the interview explain How Might We's (HMWs) to the group
    • Show the team how to capture multiple challenges on stickies using the HMW format.
  • Conduct the interview
    • Review the boards created in the Sprint so far with the experts.
    • Ask them to describe what they know in relation to what you’ve started.
    • As the team listens to the "experts" they should capture HMW notes, one per sticky. Save organizing for later – just compile for now.
[5 mins] Organize the HMWs 
Watch this candid video of HMW organization from a Design Sprint room at Google!
  • Give the team a few mins to individually organize their own HMWs and discard unwanted stickies. Less is more.
  • All participants place their HMWs on the board
  • The facilitator/s can begin grouping similar HMWs into theme areas... and all the group members can help.
    • This helps the team make sense of many stickies, and make it easier to digest (this is simplified version of the Design Thinking activity “Affinity Clustering”) .
Example from a real Design Sprint (use  3-6 "themes" to organize the HMWs. Any more is not useful.)
Example from a real Design Sprint (use 3-6 "themes" to organize the HMWs. Any more is not useful.)

[5 mins] Voting
  • Remind the group to think about the Long-Term Goal and Killer Questions as they are voting
  • Set the timer for 5 mins
  • Each person gets 3 votes (you can allocate 1 or 2 more votes p/p if there are many stickies. e.g. over 20)
  • Around 5-10 top-voted HMWs will be carried in to the next activity to help choose the Target (ignore stickies with only 1 vote, and perhaps even those with 2 votes if there are enough stickies)