How might we design…

Howe might An abstract pattern of muted blue and orange squares of different sizes.The “How might we” design prompt is outdated. It might generate innovative ideas, but it leaves some design gaps. And who is the “we” in how might we? It’s the people in the room not the users or customers. Consequently, it risks making biases and assumptions invisible. The prompt tends to look inward instead of outward. This is the view of Tricia Wang in her blog post. 

Wang explains the prompt was originally meant to shift designers to think outside the box. But this open-minded problem-solving approach is no longer suited concepts of diversity and inclusion. This is particularly the case when the design team lacks diversity. 

Wang discusses how designs lack gender balance and how design reflects the needs of those in positions of power. When it comes to user-centred design, “sticking ‘how might we’ in front of a wicked problem is not useful”. The article has several examples that support her argument. 

A replacement for ‘how might we’ is ‘Who should we talk to?’  and ‘Why are we doing this?’ Wang explains:

WSW: Who should we talk to? This prompt explicitly recognizes that there are people outside the room who should be considered and consulted.

WAW: Why are we doing this? This prompt forces some level of introspection for team members. It is still somewhat internally focused, but makes designers examine their true motives.

The title of the FastCompany article is, The most popular design thinking strategy is BS

Cover of the book Inclusive design toolkitA different approach is to check out the statistics on how may people are potentially excluded from a design.