How Might We (HMW)

How Might We (HMW)

A 30-min activity to narrow multiple challenges
Reading Time
Reading time: 6 mins
Activity time
30 mins


What is the HMW activity used for? This is a short 30-min activity that guides a group of people to bring multiple challenges and perspectives and quickly align on focus area to move forward. Mindset and core principles Define the challenge clearly before jumping into solutions.

Here's a 1-min video that explains the HMW format:

Key tips

The specific wording of the HMW format is the key to why it's so useful!
  • 'How' implies that there are solutions out there, so it provides confidence.
  • 'Might' suggests that the group can propose solutions that might work. or might not - this removes the fear of being wrong.
  • ‘We' suggests the group is going to do it together and build on each other's ideas.
This activity works for either small topics OR large complex challenges
  • You could use this activity spontaneously in a simple meeting to collect multiple inputs
  • OR to kick off an alignment session at the start of a critical business challenge
  • Around 3-7 people is ideal (it can work with more but might be trickier to facilitate)

How to do this activity

Allow 30 mins

Step 1: Think of all the different parts of the challenge

Explain the HMW format to the group
  • Tip: Show an example. Write a sticky starting with "HMW..." to show the group how it's done
  • Set a timer for 5 mins
Ask the group members to individually write as many different parts of the challenge as they can think of from their own perspective (using the HMW format)
  • Alternative method: A key sponsor describes the challenge and the group listens and takes notes (using the HMW format).
Some examples of HMW notes from a real session
Some examples of HMW notes from a real session

Step 2: Organize the HMWs into themes

Watch this candid video of HMW organization from a Design Sprint room at Google!
All participants place their HMWs on the board
  • Tip: Give the team a few mins to individually organize their own HMWs and discard unwanted stickies. Less is more!
The facilitator/s begins grouping similar HMWs into theme areas... and all the group members can help move the stickies into the themes
  • Tip: This helps the team read many stickies at once without too much context switching (this step is a simplified version of the Design Thinking activity Affinity Clustering)
Here's an example of "themes" (use 3-6 "themes" - any more is too complicated)
Here's an example of "themes" (use 3-6 "themes" - any more is too complicated)

Step 3: Voting

  • Set the timer for 5 mins
  • Each person gets 3 votes
  • The top-voted stickies help to show which parts of the challenge are most important to focus on

Additional Resources

Recommended reading

Additional Resources

Related workshop activities