Recently I tried something new with my team in our design strategy sessions. We were running a “How might we…” session and it got me thinking about the phrase. While that statement is very powerful to get creatives thinking, I found if we change that statement slightly we get slightly different results. We had been working on a blue sky concept and I noticed we were not getting far enough out of the box. I decided to change the “How might we…” statement to “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”. I was surprised at how a small adjustment like this would change how the room was thinking. Our energy increased and everyone in the room tried to 1-up the previous ideas with enhancements.

“How might we…” implies that we are trying to solve for a problem. While that is a great tool to start ideation, sometimes we need to step back even more to widen our scope of the problem. When my team used this statement we ended up with more fixes and enhancement type ideas. When we shifted to the “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” statement the room tended to feed off each other’s ideas more. It spread more like wildfire and moved in many directions much quicker.

I did notice that when we used the “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” statement that we glanced over concepts quicker and did not give them the depth of thought they deserve. The main reason for that is because we moved on to many new ideas very quickly.

I believe that this had a great success based on the characters I had on my team. I had some loud voices and some very quiet ones that did not get as much opportunity to be heard. I was truly surprised by how shifting the mood of our design strategy sessions would relax the room to allow everyone to open up. If I had different people on my team this activity may have gone completely different.

I can see how depending on your design strategy session where either one would be more beneficial. Both statements have earned their place in our creative process. When we need a good solution to a problem we use “How might we…”. When we need to think blue sky we start out with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”.