Mayor Dave writes:
Dear Min:
Greetings! Hope you are well and enjoying our spring / summer.  We are busy in Pelham — just opened the Isaac Riehl Skatepark, for example.
But, I do have a question that came up at Niagara Region.
We always do “How Might we..?”  Can we do “Where might we…?”
For example, it doesn’t make sense to say, “How might we find a location for a new Provincial Offences Courtroom facility?” when we are really interested in “Where might we locate a new Provincial Offences Courtroom facility?”
Do you have any insights on this you can share with me?

Dear Mayor Dave:
First, congratulations on your great work leading the town in creatively tackling problems as a way of life.
Second, thanks for your insightful question. Welcome to the “graduate course”.

Sooner or later every facilitator runs into the situation you describe.
Here is the answer: Whenever a group zeroes in on a specific challenge, you must make sure everyone really, really understands it, even when it sounds like a slam dunk.

And the best way to be sure is to ask the group one more time “ What’s stopping us ?”

In this case, if we ask “what might be stopping us from finding a new location for our facility?” there are going to be two very different answers.

One answer will be “ We do not know how to go about finding the new location ourselves and need help” .

The other answer will be “we could do it ourselves, we have the knowledge, but haven’t taken the time to choose a location ourselves”.

The first answer leads to the challenge “How might we finding a process to help us find new location?” (Solutions might include for example, we could hire a consultant; we could run a contest involving the town residents or high school students to pick one, etc.).

The second answer leads directly to “ where might we locate the new facility?” ( the group would then ideate a list of potential locations to evaluate).

Dave I hope this helps.
Sooner later you will run into similar situations where “What might…?” and “When might..?” evolve as ” what we really mean” challenges.

This week’s Minsight: The creative process hinges heavily on language. Using simple words is a vital key to clarity. Also vital is trusting the process to uncover what we may really have meant. Always ask “What’s stopping ?” and “Why?” repeatedly to be sure. And when people are converging on a final selection, make sure everyone shares exactly what the words mean to them and listens carefully to what the others say as to why they picked it.

P.S. check out Mayor Dave Augustyn at: