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HMW note taking

A HMW (How might we) is a structured note-taking format that helps you take a problem and reframe it as an opportunity. Reframing a problem as an opportunity helps the team think about the problem in a new way and starts to lay the groundwork for thinking about solutions. When notes are taken individually in silence, diverse individual perspectives and insights are captured. The consistent format levels the playing field across the team's ideas by using a common language pattern and begins to generate shared understanding of interesting problems, energy and thinking about solutions.




Prep time

5 mins



Run time

15 mins



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Materials & tools


It's important to have the same supplies for every participant. A sticky note that stands out because of color or size can get all of the attention and take away from other ideas.


Online real-time collaboration tools like Mural, Miro and Google Slides are great for this. You can also use a combination of stickies and software, with each person using their own stack of stickies or notebook for their own note-taking, and then adding their notes to a shared digital tool at the end of the session.


  1. Explain the benefits and process to the team (5 minutes);

    For example: “A HMW is when you hear something interesting, like a problem statement, and reframe it as an opportunity.”

  2. Write “HMW' on the upper left of your Post-it and get ready to listen for interesting problems.
  3. Ask the attendees to write HMWs as a replacement for notes and add these tips:
    • One idea per sticky
    • Make a stack
    • Write in silence -- this allows each person to express their individual perspective
    • Write challenges that are at the right level of abstraction: not too prescriptive (like HMW make the button blue?), and not too abstract (like HMW make people happier?), but just right (like HMW help students showcase their skills development to potential employers?)


Google Design Sprint Kit, How Might We Note Taking


The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use

How might we?

Last updated: Dec 18, 2019