Begin Meetings with “How Might We …”

I attended a tremendous presentation by my friend James Macanufo last night about how to use Gamestorming techniques (from the great book he co-authored) to run better meetings.

One tip James shared was the importance of “opening” a meeting well to get attendees immediately engaged.  He suggested beginning with a technique used by IDEO called “How Might We….”

It is deceptively simple:

  1. Begin your meeting by identifying a general topic (for lawyers, it might be the name of a new client or matter).
  2. Next, ask everyone to write as many questions as they can — one per post-it note  –  that begin with the three words “How might we …”
  3. Post the questions on the wall and give everyone in the room a chance to read them all.
  4. Working together, divide them into logical groups of related questions (this is called affinity mapping).
  5. Summarize each group with a big over-arching “How might we …” question.
  6. Use the “big” questions to drive the agenda of the meeting as you work together to answer them.

The power of the “How might we…” question lies in its openness.  You aren’t asking “How will we …” or even “How should we ….”  Instead, you’re giving your meeting attendees the permission to think about all the possibilities, without constraints.  It is important to understand that this is merely an opening technique.  Once you get to the best answers, you still must focus on executing them.

I know I’ll be utilizing this technique in the next retreat I facilitate.  How might you use this in your next meeting?

2 Responses to Begin Meetings with “How Might We …”
  1. Susan Staley
    April 25, 2012 | 9:11 pm

    Great idea. I like to get in and get out because meetings cost big money. But if we have a topic that is up to discuss, this might be a good approach.

    I will try it out the next meeting we have at Rentapen.

  2. [...] the important thing:  while sitting a a desk (or a park, or a museum) asking open-ended “How might we…” questions might not feel like work, it is one of the few things you can do to make certain [...]

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