In introducing ACFID’s new Innovation Guide, Ross Slater asks ‘How might we… ?’

Ross Slater

31 Oct, 2017

One of my favourite tools in the new ACFID Innovation Guide is a simple question:
 
How might we…?
 
We see this phrase a lot in innovation and design thinking. But nobody actually ever asks it in real life. Not in stream-of-thought, nor over a barbeque. It seems artificial, awkward. Twee even. It’s verbal Comic-sans…
 
So why is this rhetorical concoction so useful? As you’ll find in the ACFID Innovation Guide, or Google’s Design Sprints, the simple ‘How Might We...?’, or HMW, is great for identifying opportunities. The grammar kind of binds you into taking an opportunistic mindset.
 
 
It’s a call to action. You wonder how not why or whenMight is not an imperative, your idea is framed as an epistemic option, hopefully among many. The We isn't royal. While the path of an innovator can be rough and challenging, it is often safer in numbers.
 
How do we use this HMW?
 
It's pretty simple. Check out the Discovery chapter of the Innovation Guide. Collect your problem statements or views on a challenge, pain point, or user need - or a combination of these – and reframe them as a HMW question. Not too narrow like HMW decrease spending 2%, but not too broad either like HMW eliminate poverty. Stanford has some great hints to help too!
 
How might you know if your idea is good? It’s difficult if you’re the only one. HMW is a great team activity, providing a creative, inclusive approach to underpin the design of your innovation. Testing the HMW method at a recent team offsite, Childfund generated over 250 HMWs during six quick lightning talks. From these, the team identified seven key areas of opportunity. Yes, there was duplication, but volume provides greater chance for diversity, and more challenging competition for your ‘first instincts’.
 
How might we take it further?
 
The ACFID innovation guide is about questioning those instincts – and offering practical tools to develop alternatives. It’s about challenging assumptions and providing some easy ways to explore new ways of working or looking at complex problems. With great innovations happening across ACFID’s membership, and building on ACFID’s 2016 Innovation for Impact research, the guide is designed to encourage further adoption of innovative processes.
 
I encourage everybody across the sector – at all levels – to take a look and try out some of the tools in the guide. Share your stories with us! We’d be keen to see how you find the guide, and how you might solve a wicked problem or seize a new opportunity!
 
Pick up your copy of the street-size Zine version of the guide at Conference!
  • Ross Slater
    Ross Slater

    Ross Slater – ACFID’s Learning and Innovation Lead


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