Barbara's Blog

How Might We....? A Simple Question for Better Outcomes

Posted on 7/31/2017 by Barbara Blake in leadership executive coaching collaboration

How might we..? is a question every leader should have in their back pocket. It has the power to unlock ideas and generate creative solutions.

How might we….?. How might we look at the situation from this perspective? How might we simplify the steps in the process? How might we expand this to include…?  How might we…?

As you read the paragraph above, what did you feel? A bit of excitement? A thrill of discovery and challenge? Permission to explore?

Teams that play with this question and build on what is said rather than taking the idea apart function at a higher level in all measures of team effectiveness and outcomes. The original idea may be unrecognizable in the end result. Without that original idea, the better result would not have happened.

I know this to be true based on a recent experience. A colleague was passionate about an idea. Another team member and I saw only the reasons it couldn’t be done – and we were vocal about our objections. Following that conversation, I stepped away, feeling horrible that I had shut down a colleague’s idea. I wasn’t being open and collaborative. As I turned over the idea and my response, a new thought came to me, “How might we expanded the concept”? After an apology, I posed a how might we scenario. The how might we approach sparked a team lively discussion. The collective efforts gave us new insights and focus. My take away from this experience was to take time to step back, consider and ask how might we.  Just saying the words changed my view.

Asking “How might we” has another advantage. It de-emphasizes the binary choices we create for ourselves. It is either A or B. There other choices, we just haven’t thought of them yet. Seeing many options/choices guides us to the better answer.

“How might we” is an essential collaborative question. You challenge others to cast aside their preferences, take another view and engage with others and the problem on a deeper level. We can look with beginner eyes, with possibilities wide open.

So, how might you…….

If your mind is empty, it is ready for anything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few. Shunryu Suzuki