The Three Words That Make Brainstorming Sessions At Google, Facebook, and IDEO More Productive

Brainstorming can be a tricky business. There’s the awkward silence when your boss asks a far-fetched question and no one knows how to respond. The fear that you’ll toss out an idea only to draw blank stares. The collective sense of disappointment when the whole team wants to help, but can’t come up with anything new.

To avoid these pitfalls, the design firm IDEO has developed a brainstorming strategy that relies on three simple words: the phrase “How might we.”

At a recent creative leadership class at the firm’s office in New York City, nearly every question was framed as a “How might we,” or HMW: How might we make our teams more engaged? How might we foster deeper relationships between employees? How might we inspire more frequent knowledge-sharing? The same approach is popular at Google and Facebook, according to the Harvard Business Review.

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