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The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use

| March 12, 2013

by Jim Bruce

In Warren Berger’s Harvard Business Review blogs essay, he writes that his work has led him to conclude that the three words “how might we …” unlock our creative juices.  He notes that too often our language with phrases like “How can we do this?” and “How should we do that?” imply judgment:  Can we really do it?  Should we?  

He notes that “how” assumes that there are solutions, invites exploration, and provides license and confidence.  “Might” says that it’s OK to put an idea forward and it might work and it might not and that to is OK;  there’s no judgment.  And “we” signals that everyone is going to work together and build on each other’s ideas.  Thus, opportunities are opened up as people think of options more freely. 

This simple phrase gives rise to a form of questioning that proponents, from Proctor and Gamble to IDEO, say can be used to explore just about any challenge.  That being the case, why don’t you take a current challenge and use this approach as you and your team explore it.

Berger is creator and editor of the blog “A More Beautiful Question,” which examinees the relationship between questioning and innovation.

. . . jim